The Mother of All Ceviches!
By Dennis Linden
Hold on to your taste buds! This month’s Associate Recipe was submitted by Jose Flood, the company’s Special Projects Manager. The dish is actually one Jose’s mother has always prepared with a main ingredient being his own cherished family memories.
“My father, brother and I are big boxing fans. Back in the day before Pay-Per-View, when big fights were televised on HBO or Showtime, we would gather around the TV,’ Jose recalled. “My mom would make a large batch of this ceviche that we would all share while watching. It’s an addicting formula that even when the fight ended in the fifth round, we would munch on through as if there were twelve! Nowadays, the dish is still a family tradition made for birthdays and picnic get-togethers. Still, my fondest memories go back to when we were all circled around the TV with individual bowls in our hands. There is a good amount of flexibility with the proteins in this dish. Sometimes I’ll swap out langoustine for the shrimp or a white fish for the abalone, but I’ll go through the recipe as my mom would typically prepare it.”
For those unaware of what “ceviche” is, here’s the Webster definition: "A dish made of raw fish marinated in lime or lemon juice often with oil, onions, peppers, and seasonings; served as a snack or appetizer. The acid in the citrus denatures the proteins in the fish, causing it to become opaque and producing a firm texture." The process of “cooking” with citrus acid instead of a flame has always fascinated this writer. Ceviche is a very simple dish to prepare, using very basic fresh ingredients, though the results produce a multitude of flavors. I used the same measures Jose’s mom uses to make the same large batch, which provided for several tastings. This one is a real keeper – especially on a hot July afternoon paired with a very cold cerveza, or two!
There are two ways to acquire the abalone for this dish. Because of the drastic depletion of the species by recreational scuba divers for decades in the last century, the fishing regulation now require that fresh abalone can only be harvested in depths deeper than 100 feet and only by free-diving (no auxiliary tanks)! However the canned version can be found at grocers specializing in Asian ingredients or order online; most all canned abalone is imported from Japan. I opted for Door #3!
Use only high quality fresh shrimp for this dish that were caught sustainably by referring to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s SEAFOOD WATCH SHRIMP LIST. The most important information to pay attention to on this list is origin. Since the preparation of the shrimp can get a bit tedious, be equipped with the essentials before starting the repetitive process of peeling and cleaning out the dark vein running down the belly of each shrimp. In my book those essentials include a sharp paring knife, patience, some good background music and a favorite libation. Embrace the world of the sous chef!
The rest of Jose’s ingredients are common fresh staples. My only regret in my first batch was being too frugal with the hot peppers as my palate is easily overwhelmed with spicy heat and I really wanted to experience the rest of the ingredients. In hindsight, the lime juice not only “cooked” the seafood but also seemed to tamp down the heat in both the jalapeño and serrano that I chose to use. Next time I will double up on the peppers as well as not do such a good job scraping the interior walls of the peppers where most of the heat-producing capsaicans reside. And there definitely will be a next time! Of course, always wear gloves when working with hot peppers or you will learn the hard way just how many times we all touch our mouths and rub our eyes!
Jose Flood has been a member of the Melissa’s team for about 4½ years. His core role involves first understanding the day-to-day workings of the company in the context of a business that deals with perishable goods and then effecting technological or procedural changes that both enable and/or respond to the company’s growth. A major portion of his job includes developing BI (Business Intelligence) reports and visualizations. A handy phrase, but what does it mean?
“A good example of BI is my current project of implementing a more efficient system in our warehouse,” Jose explained. “Like using mobile technologies to track product from the moment it enters our warehouse until it leaves and introducing an app for our delivery drivers to improve inventory accuracy in real time in fulfilling orders for our customers. This project includes examining delivery times and labor hours as an organization. Down the road we plan on examining pick rates and accuracy, for instance, in order to reward those individuals who excel in the work they perform for the company. While our business is fresh produce, our biggest asset is our people.”
When not analyzing Melissa’s operational systems, Jose has many interests outside the office. He and wife Emily of fifteen years, are about to celebrate son Cody’s one-year birthday. The couple also share their home with a dog, cat and strong-but-silent type desert tortoise. For indoor sports, Jose enjoys poker and cooking; though he says he uses cookbooks for inspiration rather than step-by-step preparation guides. For cardio, Jose recently took up Pickleball, a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. And, no, it does not involve batting around a fresh pickle but rather a whiffle-type of a ball; the game was named after the inventor’s dog, Pickles, who liked to steal the ball during games. Jose also enjoys the outdoors and nature, which he says he likes to combine in an annual trek to Jalama Beach in Santa Barbara, home to the famous Jalama Burger. It’s located in a small county park right on the beach; the attraction for him besides the burger is that there is no cell phone reception.
When asked what famous personality, living or passed, would he invite to his own table to enjoy his mom’s ceviche, Jose could not decide between two choices:
“Either Pedro Pascal, who played the unnamed hero in the Star Wars series The Mandalorian, because I need to know if that little green baby is Yoda or not! Or maybe Shaq, he just seems like a fun guy to be around.”
Though that second choice would mean sharing this tasty dish with the General too. Either way, no one will be disappointed—don’t forget to include lots of chips!
1 lb. raw shrimp peeled/cleaned
1 can abalone, drained, retain liquid
1 Red Onion, sliced into thin strands.
5 Roma Tomatoes, seeded, chopped small
3 ripe avocadoes – chopped small
1 or 2 Jalapeños – fine diced (to taste)
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, fine diced (option: any hot pepper of choice)
5 Limes, juiced
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Chop shrimp into ½-inch bite-sized pieces and place in large bowl. Drain and reserve the liquid from the can of abalone, then also chop into bite-sized pieces and add to shrimp.
Add in the red onion, tomatoes, both peppers, and half the cilantro to the abalone and shrimp bowl. Then pour in the abalone and lime juices, a generous drizzle of olive, S &P. Mix thoroughly.
Taste the mixture, if too salty or tangy add in additional lime juice or water until well balanced. Once satisfied, carefully fold the avocadoes into the mixture. The avocadoes are added last to maintain the color of the ceviche. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. Top with remaining cilantro and serve with tortilla chips.