The mahi mahi are biting; bite them back with this recipe
No one can deny this has been an unusual year. Our personal, professional and piscatorial lives have been jammed up and reshaped as we come to grips with the COVID-19 virus and adapt to living with it.
Personally and professionally, many things are still in a mess. Thankfully, fishing has only been interrupted in a couple of ways and has generally been considered a good activity.
Most nutritionists agree that eating a diet containing a lot of fresh fish is good for us. Mahi mahi is a fish most folks welcome to their table, and this is a way to prepare it as fresh as possible. This is good anytime, but is at its absolute best when prepared the evening after the Mahi is caught. Ceviche isn’t cooked over a fire but relies on the acids in lime juice to prepare it for eating. It isn’t sashimi but is only “cooked” a little more.
Mahi usually arrive off the coast of the Carolinas in mid- to late April, with numbers growing through May. Many of these are larger fish, with some smaller ones following through the summer. By July, the water inshore of the Gulf Stream has warmed to almost match it, and many Mahi have left those waters to follow baitfish closer to shore.
Mahi produce big fillets
Mahi mahi are the fastest-growing offshore pelagic species. In the wild, they don’t have an unlimited food supply. But they are almost always feeding and that makes them a favorite of fishermen. Mahi often get wrapped up in feeding on schools of baitfish and occasionally even follow them to within sight of shore. A couple have even wandered close enough to be caught by pier fishermen and that gives them another check in the column of why fishermen like them.
The third positive check for mahi is they have big fillets of mild flavored meat that appeal to all but the most picky eater. Mahi fillets are delicious grilled, baked, broiled, fried and this recipe kicks that good flavor up a notch or two without adding heat.
It’s summer and Mahi are here, so put on your sun screen, wear a buff, put a mask under that if you feel the need, but find some time to get out and catch a cooler full.. Their highly acrobatic antics when hooked will keep even the most attention deficit fisherman busy and laughing. They’ll provide many delicious meals over the coming weeks. Try this ceviché recipe early on, because you’ll want to use it again — probably several times.
Mahi good ceviche
- 1 pound fresh, skinless Mahi mahi fillet
- 1 medium sweet onion
- 2 medium-large tomatoes (about 1 pound)
- 1 large or 2 small ripe avocados
- 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice (approximately 15 limes)
- 3 tbsp fresh orange juice
- 1 or 2 fresh jalapenos (to personal taste)
- 1/3 cup chopped, pitted green olives
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro and a few leaves for garnish
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chips and crackers
Squeeze approximately 15 limes to get the 11/2 cups of fresh lime juice. Chop the onion into approximately 1/2-inch pieces. Slice the mahi fillet into approximately 1/2-inch pieces. Mix the mahi, onions and lime juice in a stainless steel or glass bowl. You must use enough juice to completely cover the fish.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for approximately 4 hours. The mahi should no longer look raw, but allowing it to “cook” too long will make it taste tart. After “cooking,” drain the mahi and onions in a colander, shaking lightly. The fish can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated up to a day.
Preparing the veggies
Chop the tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces. Remove the seeds and finely chop the jalapenos: one for mild palates and two for more robust palates. Chop the cilantro and save a few full leaves for garnish. Squeeze oranges for juice. Use a large bowl and mix the tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, olives and olive oil. Salt and pepper the mahi (to taste) and combine the fish into the bowl.Stir in the orange juice. Peel, pit and dice the avocados into approximate 1/2-inch pieces. Do not chop the avocado until ready to mix it in shortly before serving. Stir in the avocado last, taking care to not crush it. Allow to chill for 30 minutes to an hour if time allows. Garnish with a few cilantro leaves before serving.
The ideal serving for ceviché is in a glass or stainless steel bowl that is resting inside another larger bowl filled with ice. This keeps it cool and fresh.
According to Wikipedia, ceviché, aka cebiché, seviché, or sebiché, is a Latin American seafood dish thought to have originated in Peru. It is made from fresh, raw fish cured in fresh citrus juices, commonly lemon or lime, and spiced with ají, chili peppers or other seasonings, including chopped onions, salt, and coriander. Because ceviché is eaten only with the curing of the citric acids and not cooked with heat, it must be prepared and served fresh.
Kick it up a notch with more spice if you prefer
There isn’t an exact date, but the international dish of ceviché is believed to have reached the United States in the 1980s and quickly become popular. There are many varieties of ceviché that range from mild to wild depending on the country of origin. This is a middle-of-the-road version that has a little spice but is mild enough to be enjoyed by all but those with the mildest palate. As with many recipes featured here, it can easily be warmed up a notch or three by adding more chilies.
Mahi mahi, aka dolphin, is the fish featured in this recipe, but it works well with almost any fish. I chose Mahi, as it is a favorite with many fishermen and diners, and with the fish moving closer to shore in summer, they are within the range of many fishermen. Mahi is also readily available at the fish market should you not have the boat, time or equipment to catch your own.
Any fish destined to become ceviché or sashimi should be buried in ice immediately when caught so it cools quickly and has no opportunity to deteriorate. Absolutely, the quicker a fish is cooled makes it better. The difference is remarkable.
Go with fresh limes for the juice
Fillets should be skinned, and most diners will appreciate trimming out any remaining red meat. Don’t let the fillet warm while making the ceviché marinade. Either make the marinade first or cover the fillet in ice. Finished ceviché should be kept cold until ready to serve. I prefer surrounding the bowl in ice and serving it with the bowl placed in a larger, ice-filled bowl to keep it coolest.
The most-tedious part of preparing ceviche is squeezing the limes for fresh juice, but it’s the only way to do it. Prepared lime juices lose something in the bottling process and don’t do the job as well.
I was recently introduced to a new way to get juice from limes and lemons, and it works. Instead of cutting the lime into halves and squeezing, I cut the edges off the lime in four sections, which gives those sections and a rectangular core. The pieces are squeezed, and the core is twisted. I find this easier on my fingers, especially when squeezing the approximately 15 limes it requires to get the 11/2 cup of juice. It yields more juice per lime and requires fewer limes than the conventional method.
The orange juice is used to cancel a little of the tart from the limes and sweetens the final mixture. If you find it too tart, add a little more orange juice. I have friends who add a touch of sugar, but I don’t think that’s necessary.
While it’s a simple process, some prep time is involved. Get the fish “cooking” first and take your time getting the other ingredients ready. Most folks enjoy it and hopefully, you will too.
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