Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bill the Wine Guy

I've written about my friend Bill before--he's my Personal Wine Guy.  Bill works at my local Spec's and consistently gives me great wine advice.  He loves to cook, he's a fairly adventurous eater and he enjoys putting great-tasting meals together on the fly for his family.  He's also a frequent guest at my table and I've become friends with him and his family, first through our love of good food and wine and then because Bill and his family are just plain good folks.

Last month, I was at Bill's house for a family meal and to plan a future wine tasting.  Bill had knocked himself out making a great seviche with homemade tortilla chips, some quinoa patties with fresh roasted corn, and among other things, a fabulous sponge cake that he served with fresh berries.  It was a delicious spring meal and full of great flavors.  We sampled several wines, but I thought the star of the show was Bill's seviche.  So I asked his permission to pass on the recipe.

But before I do that, look at the picture below.  It's a picture of seviche.  It's gorgeous.  The colors and textures draw you toward it and if you don't want to taste it after seeing this picture, then you are at least curious about what it tastes like. 

I realize that some of you may either not know what seviche is, or you might be squeamish once you do know.  I'll give you a hint: it involves raw seafood.  So for you non-sushi eaters and those haters of raw anything, it might be difficult for you to keep reading.

I am not, fortunately or unfortunately, in the squeamish camp.  Well, perhaps after realizing how head cheese and Jello are made, just a teensy bit.  But I'm not a bit squeamish about seviche, which I've been enjoying for years in various incarnations, depending on the recipe.  My first experience with seviche--almost 30 years ago--was enlightening.  A friend brought a ceramic dish full of what looked like glistening jewels: thin strips of sweet red pepper, green pepper, red onion and thin rings of squid, all marinated in a citrusy dressing.  I couldn't stop eating it.  Incidentally, it was also my first experience with squid.  Wish I'd gotten that recipe from my friend because it beats the pants off of fried calamari.

Marinating raw seafood in an acidic liquid and adding other ingredients for color and crunch produces one of the best warm-weather salads you can find on the planet.  Seviche is beautiful to look at and refreshingly crisp and tart.  If you read up on the technique, then you'll know that the acid "cooks" the seafood and gives you great-tasting results.  You can find any number of recipes that use any number of kinds of seafood and other ingredients, but the technique is the same.  Let the seafood sit in the acidic dressing for at least an hour to fully transform the raw seafood.  If you're using softer vegetables and fruits (such as avocado, kiwi or watermelon), consider adding these to your seviche last since they tend to break down and become mushy in reaction to the acid.

Here's how my friend Bill basically does it:

Bill the Wine Guy's Seviche

2 1/2 lbs. raw, peeled deveined small or medium shrimp, white fish cut into bite-size pieces, scallops or squid cut into thin rings (or a combination of whatever seafood you'd like to use)
1/2 large red onion, in medium dice
2 or 3 jalapeno or serrano peppers cut into thin rings (Bill uses one with seed and two without)
1/2 small jicama, peeled and cut into small dice
2 medium tomatoes, seeded (allow juices to run into bowl with fish) and cut into medium dice
1 1/2  to 2 cups fresh lime, lemon or Mexican lime juice (you can take a shortcut and use bottled juices, but I think freshly squeezed makes a big difference)
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. oregano
a generous pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
4 kiwis, peeled and cut into medium dice (or substitute 1 to 2 cups diced, seeded watermelon)
1 avocado, peeled and cut into medium dice, for garnish
1/4 to 1/2 cup good quality olive oil for drizzing (my addition)

Combine all the ingredients up to and including the salt and pepper.  Cover and chill for about 1 hour.  Just before serving, stir in cilantro and kiwi (or watermelon).  Garnish with avocado and drizzle with olive oil.  Serve with tortilla chips or on a bed of shredded lettuce.  Serves 6 to 8.

Enjoy your seviche!  And don't forget to stop by Spec's and ask your wine guy what wine he'd recommend for this dish.

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