Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ceviche!

I promised ceviche and here it is. Now before you start arguing with me about my recipe, let me preface it by saying that ceviche, otherwise known as the art of "cooking" fresh fish or seafood in lime juice mixed with other ingredients, is a popular dish across the length and breadth of Latin America. For that reason, there are as many versions of ceviche, each using local ingredients and methods, as there are countries in the Americas (probably more once we start counting different regions and districts).

This ceviche recipe is a Yucatec style dish, modelled after the ceviche that I have had the pleasure to eat at home in Belize. While in Belize Conch Ceviche, made from the tender and sweet foot of the queen conch snail, is a particular delicacy, I have not seen conch for sale in the fish-markets and shops of DC, so I am using another good choice: red snapper.

It is essential that your fish be as fresh as possible. You CAN NOT use frozen fish for this, it will turn out mushy and disgusting. Be warned, this recipe is spicy. If you don't like spicy, replace the habanero pepper with a dash of mild hot sauce, but the taste wont be the same.

Lyra's Red Snapper Ceviche
This is easily multiplied but makes enough for 3-4 as an appetizer, or dinner for 1 very hungry ceviche lover!

4-5 ounces of skinless red snapper fillet, as fresh as possible and not frozen
one small handful of cilantro (the close, but stronger flavoured relative culantro is usually used in Belize)
2-3 large ripe limes
1 small habanero pepper, seeds removed and minced. (Jalapenos are a milder alternative)
1 small or 1/2 medium onion, finely minced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Procedure:

1. Cut the snapper into bite sized pieces and place in a container that you can cover (I recommend glass over plastic, which absorbs the heat of the habanero).

2. Add the minced habanero and onion, salt and black pepper. Squeeze over enough fresh lime juice to cover the raw fish. Chop and mix in the cilantro.

3. Let the ceviche sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours so the lime juice can do its work, chemically "cooking" the fish flesh and making it white and firm. When the fish is no longer translucent, enjoy with some good quality tortilla chips (or make your own).

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Eating Bloomington: A Belated Report

The main campus gates, looking out on Kirkwood Avenue, the main drag and where most of the restaurants and bars are located.

Some imposing campus architecture.

It has been over a month since my trip to Bloomington Indiana and I know I owe you all a report. In fact, I promised you one not once, but twice, and then proceeded to post about cabbage and chowder and turnips. And sadly about Bri's passing. I promised that I would post a recipe for ceviche, and I will but first I want to give you my short report on my trip to Bloomington, taken oh so long ago in September.

First off, the school visit went well. Indiana University is huge! I had no idea that it was so enormous. Their campus is 1800 acres, stuck smack dab in the middle of Bloomington, which, compared to the university, is pretty small. There are about 71,000 people in Bloomington, and 40,000 of them are students. That, combined with the fact that IU is apparently one of the top five "party schools" in the USA, meant that there were a lot of bars lining the streets outside the main university gates. Thanks to IU's famous sports teams, most of those are well provisioned with loud tvs turned to the game for the benefit of fans.

Ivy covered university buildings.

But luckily for me, some of them also serve pretty darn good food, and there were even some real restaurants tucked away here and there too! In fact, Indiana natives are pretty proud of Bloomington's restaurant diversity. Its like a little DC: instead of hundreds of Thai and Indian restaurants, there are just a couple, but for a small city in the middle of southern Indiana, that's doing pretty good. Bloomington even does DC one better by having two Tibetan restaurants, one of which we had lunch at shortly after our arrival in the city. This surprise is by virtue of the fact that his Holiness the Dalai Lama's elder brother lives in Bloomington, where the country's only Tibetan Cultural Center is located. As you can see, despite the sports and beer vibe, this place is not quite your normal mid-western college town.

Over the course of the weekend we ate out at the following places (listed in the order in which we ate at them, for your viewing pleasure):

Anyetsang's Little Tibet (Get the momos, but be warned that the "level 5 spice", the hottest they offer, is a far cry from what is considered spicy in DC, not to mention Belize...)

Soma Cafe (a great little independent coffee house with yummy no nonsense fruit smoothies: nothing but frozen fruit and apple juice. No powdery mystery mixes, no added sugar, nothing but pure fruit flavour). Also has vegan baked goods that looked mighty tempting, but we didn't try any.

The Irish Lion (The whisky pie is no joke, the walnut cake is decadent and don't forget the tasty fish and chips, Irish soda bread, and stew served in a bread bowl!)

The Uptown Cafe (awesome oatmeal raisin pancakes on the specials list!)

Nicks English Hut (it seems almost dangerous to put this next to the Irish Lion, doesn't it?) (get the juicy and satisfying elk burger, and the house salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette!)

Farm (should have had Jose's bacon and egg pizza...that thing looked tasty. Got a too small yogurt and granola parfait instead.)

The host stand at Farm. See chef and owner David Orr's book on the display stand.

A service counter at Farm with a nice herb collection.

Some heirloom tomatoes and peppers in the deli case.

The Scholar's Inn Bakehouse on the town square. A pretty mild chicken and habanero combo, "the spicy kickin' chicken wrap" didn't quite live up to its name, although the flavour was tasty. It came with a generous serving of hard pretzels that made a nice snack for later, and the pickle was fresh and crispy. I think I just ordered the wrong thing for Bloomington, which seems to be pretty timid when it comes to the spices. The baked goods looked excellent.

Here is the famous fountain gazebo at Indiana University. Pretty isn't it?

There are a bunch of other places that I wanted to eat at while in Bloomington: the famous Restauant Tallent, Roots, Laughing Planet Cafe, Janko's Little Zagreb, Casablanca Cafe and the Blu Boy Bakery among others, but I will have to save those for next time.