Chill Out: Red Snapper Ceviche

I've just woken up from a heat-induced coma, and I'm primed to sing the praises of ceviche, fish "cooked" in a heatless citrus bath. It may be the season for burgers and apple pies, but I'm avoiding lighting a fire anywhere within my immediate vicinity. It's enough that my portable computer heats up my personal space.

Did I mention it's been hot? Thank heavens for my CSA box with its greens and shelled peas and strawberries, foodstuffs which can do very well, thank you, with little to no help from the kitchen stove. But, we had friends coming, and I thought they deserved more than the variations on a simple spinach salad that has sustained us in recent weeks.

A disappointing, but ultimately inspiring visit to Pittsburgh's latest happening bar scene at Seviche got me thinking about tossing together my own special blend of fish and citrus juice. I had a fillet of red snapper and a red bell pepper handy. I improvised the rest of the recipe, with an eye to color and a quick tutorial from Williams and Sonoma. Sweetened with diced mango, freshened up with cilantro, and served in a crunchy tortilla bowl, this ceviche proved a true "appetizer." It gave my mouth a little refreshing jolt. If your kitchen transforms into a hellish sauna come mid-June, let me suggest this recipe. Make the tortilla bowls in the early morning and relish the heatless evening hours. Turns out oranges and limes are perfectly willing to cook for you if you give them the chance.

Red Snapper Ceviche in Spinach Tortilla Cups
Serves 6 as a first course. These would also make great hors d'oeuvres. Just cut the tortilla bowls down to mini tortilla cups by using a mini-muffin tin: see note below.

6 spinach flour tortillas (or any other flavor you like)
canola or vegetable oil for brushing tortillas

3/4 pound skinned and boned red snapper
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 red bell pepper
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 large, or two medium mangoes, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed if you want less heat, finely chopped
1 seedless (English) cucumber, diced
4 basil leaves, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped; divided in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
2 limes, cut into quarters for serving

For tortilla bowls:

To make these bowls, I used some aluminum 4-inch wide tart tins I found at my local thrift store. Muffins pans will work just as well, and if you want to make tiny tortilla cups, you could use a mini-muffin pan. Cut your tortillas into rounds according to the size of your baking tins. For tiny ones, you can use a biscuit or cookie cutter. For these larger ones, I used scissors.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Brush 6 individual tart tins (or a jumbo muffin pan) with canola oil.

3. Cut tortilla shells to fit tins. I cut mine into circles large enough so that when I arranged one in a tart tin, it bunched up around the sides and stuck out above the top edge by an inch. [I realize that probably sounds confusing...the important thing to remember is that these shells are free form, so all you have to worry about is getting them to stick inside their baking tins.]

4. Lay tortillas on a work surface, and brush both sides of each one with canola oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt and place in tins. Place tins on a baking sheet, and bake, rotating once, until shells are crispy and golden around the edges, about 8 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. These shells will keep for a day or two in an airtight container.

For ceviche:

1. In a non-reactive (i.e. not aluminum) bowl, combine orange and lime juices. Add 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt.

2. Cut fish into 1/2 inch cubes, add to bowl, and refrigerate for 1 hour. The fish should be emerged in the juice.

3. In a bowl, combine the red pepper, mango, onion, jalapeno pepper, cucumber, basil, and half (1/4 cup) the cilantro. Stir gently.

4. Right before serving, pour fish into a colander to drain. Then, add fish to fruit mixture, add oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Divide ceviche among tortilla bowls, garnish with remaining cilantro, and serve with lime wedges.


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