I’m jetting off to Prague. For a conference. Suspicious about the food; I’ll just come right out and say it. I did discover a strawberry “festival” at the Hilton, with hopes that other, less formal strawberry festivals will be happening around the city. But I still have vivid memories of the Czech dish I ordered way back in my student travels in the dark ages: lumps of flour and water dough swimming in bacon grease, topped with pork cracklings and cheese curds. Somewhere, deep in my ancestral blood, a Québécois was crying. But generally I love Eastern European food, so I’m trying to be hopeful. Let me put it this way: I’ve already located a Hungarian restaurant. And supermarkets.
I’ll keep you posted.
I also discovered that Czech lagers go quite well with ceviche. My husband got tenure last month, and we’ve been celebrating. The fanciest to-do was the official party that the university threw. I’ve never had such excellent catering. Seriously, give an engraved gold magnetic name tag to whomever was in charge of that spread. Of all the delicious things, the shrimp ceviche, albeit served mysteriously on Asian ceramic spoons, rocked my world.
But isn’t ceviche raw fish, you ask. In this case, no. It was Oregon pink shrimp marinated with lemon, onion, tomato, and cilantro. Kind of like a seafood salsa. And the best part is that you don’t have any worries at all about uncooked shellfish. Usually, ceviche is a mix of fish and shellfish that is cured by citrus juice and salt, similar to gravlax. But with a shorter marinade, pre-cooked shrimp work very well.
It got me thinking about the utter destruction of the shrimp industry on the Gulf coast, and where we source so much of our shellfish as a nation. Luckily for Oregonians, we have a particular catch of tiny “salad” shrimp each year. Last year’s season was particularly good. The season runs from April to October, so you should buy now and buy often. Best of all, it’s rated sustainable by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
And no added oil!
Here’s my reconstruction of the recipe we had at the tenure party:
Oregon Pink Shrimp Ceviche
- 1 lb. pre-cooked, shelled Oregon pink shrimp (or other tiny shrimp, if you must)
- 1/4 medium red onion, finely diced
- 1 plum tomato (for color/texture, really; replace with red pepper if you can’t bear out of season tomatoes), chopped
- 1 jalapeño, optional
- handful of cilantro, chopped (I used ‘Delfino,’ which has fern-like leaves, from my garden)
- (psst…if you’re lazy, just use a 1/2 pint container of prepared pico de gallo salsa, plus a little extra onion, instead of the above)
- 3-4 limes (essential)
- salt to taste
Boil water and soak the shrimp in it for a few minutes. Drain off most of the water (leave a cup or so). Add lime juice and other ingredients. The marinade should be sour but not mouth-puckeringly so, and only a bit salty, and it should submerge most of the shrimp. Add a bit more water if you need it.
Marinate for at least two hours in the refrigerator. Keeps overnight well, but after a day it won’t be quite as nice, so eat up with tortilla chips or in little glass bowls as a cocktail appetizer.