Salmon Ceviche with Avocado, Orange, Fennel and Black Olive
Well folks, I did it. I ran a 5 kilometer race without cheating, throwing up, or pretending to have a broken ankle so I could be wheeled around by attractive EMS workers rather than heave my way through to the finish line. Don’t ask me what my time was, because I’m not going to tell you. I will say that the (completely demotivating) corral that I was starting in was labelled “Strollers and Walkers”. I say, screw them all. Because yes, ‘Strollers’ did refer to that fit breed of new parent who think that exercise is even more fun when it involves a baby-mobile (note: I disagree based on principle alone), and yes, some of them crossed the finish line before me. But at least I finished, right? For a dame who gets most of her exercise stumbling upstairs for another beer, that’s pretty darn impressive. So, for the sake of my dignity, I won’t elaborate beyond telling you that Mike ran the 5K with me….because he was still so refreshed after completing his 10K just minutes before. Huh. Bloody marathon runners. They make me feel like I’m lazy and slothlike, which is absolutely true but still rather rude to point out.
“Running” (and yes, when I do it the word deserves quotation marks) always makes me crave something enormously greasy and cholesterol laden….which promptly makes me feel like harfing all over the floor. After the race Mike brought me out to Fulton Market Burger Company for a caramelized onion, bacon and blue cheese burger with super fat-fried onion rings on the side. It seemed like a good idea at the time. If nothing else, however, at least I’m now in the mood for apples and salad, which was a good reminder that I still hadn’t posted the salmon ceviche that we had a couple of weeks ago.
I love fish when it’s raw in a tartare, salt cured, sugar cured, or ‘cooked’ in citrus like a ceviche. This ceviche found it’s inspiration in one of my favorite salads, the classic Sevillian salad from Spain. A simple combination of shaved fennel, briny black olives and juicy supremed orange slices, the Seville salad is truly more than the sum of it’s parts. It’s a balance in contrast with the sweet vs. salty, herbal vs. bright, and juicy vs. crisp. The avocado isn’t traditional, but far from being a last minute interjection it’s actually the sweet and creamy lushness that binds the dish together. And, more importantly, it’s like elegance in a bowl.
Salmon Ceviche with Avocado, Orange, Fennel and Black Olive
Serves 4-6 as a tapas or small plate, 8-10 as a cocktail snack
- 2 filet of the freshest wild Alaskan salmon*
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1 orange (1.5 tbsp zest + juice of whole)
- 1.5 lemons
- 1 tsp dried tarragon **
- 1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
- 1/2 small bulb fresh fennel
- 2 green onions
- 1/3 cup oil cured black olives (about 12)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 ripe Haas avocado
- salt and finely ground white pepper to taste
* I started paying more attention to the seafood that I bought about a year ago, after splurging on some decadent Chilean seabass. I was barely done the dishes when my television set snapped on and David Suzuki looked me straight in the eye and told me I was an arse-wipe. True story. Okay, mostly true. Like I ever do the dishes! Ha!
** If you’re using fresh tarragon you don’t want to add too much more because the flavor is still fairly potent. Somewhere between one heaping teaspoon and 1.5 will do you fine.
Using a thin, sharp knife cut the salmon into 1/2 – 3/4″ cubes. Put the salmon in a bowl and zest over top about 1.5 tbsp from the rind of an orange. Use a rasp or garlic press to add in the solitary clove of garlic.
Squeeze in the juice of the half-naked orange as well as the juice of one and a half lemons, being mindful to catch the pips. Measure in the dried tarragon and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle lightly with salt and finely ground white pepper. Don’t worry, this is just “pre-seasoning”. Have a light hand now and you can adjust the seasoning again at the end.
Toss the salmon in the citrus juices until the herbage is well dispersed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for an hour.
In the mean time, slice your fennel bulb in half and core it. Tuck one half into the fridge and cut the other half up into a small 1/4″ dice. Finely slice the green onions while you’re at it. Stir the fennel and onion into the salmon mixture and tuck it back in the fridge for another 45 minutes to 1 hour. The flavor of the fennel and onions will soften but still keep their natural integrity which otherwise that brash and busty citrus would try to strip away.
At this point the salmon should be opaque pretty much throughout but the texture will still be tender and not too firm. Drain off the excess citrus juice and discard it, leaving just enough that the ceviche is moist but not wet with orange pools near the bottom of the bowl. Drizzle the ceviche with the olive oil.
Pit the olives and give the meat a rough chop. I find that the easiest way to pit olives is just to line a few up and press down firmly with the flat side of a large, heavy chef’s knife. The olive normally just splits right open and you can coax the pit out rather easily. Stir the olives into the ceviche before tasting the mixture and adding more salt and pepper if it’s needed. Oil cured or sundried olives tend to be on the salty side, which is why you want to keep a light hand with the seasoning at the start.
No more than 10 minutes before you’re ready to serve the ceviche, cut the flesh of your avocado up into a 1/2-3/4″ dice (roughly the same size as the salmon) and stir it into the bowl.
Serve the ceviche garnished with some fresh tarragon if you feel the yen and serve with some nice scoopy tortilla or corn chips on the side.
I admit: I like things that can be scooped. I don’t know if it’s the act of scooping that I enjoy so much, or the compulsion to cram what is essentially a small handful of food into my mouth in one good go. Either way, if it fits on a tortilla chip it’s a-ok in my books.
Salmon is a fabulous choice for ceviche because it stays so buttery tender even after it’s been cured. The avocado echoes that silky fat softness but not enough to be overwhelming thanks to the sweet orange, salty black olives and licorice scented fennel.
This ceviche is kind of like a love story where a young Seville leaves home to find himself and gets a little bit lost along the way. After weeks of wandering, it’s starting to seem like loneliness is the name of the little black angel on his shoulder. With a heavy heart and a tired step he wanders into an abandoned looking saloon one night, worn through and hungry. Tijuana, the barmaid, quickly spins around with a long rope of shimmering black hair carving through the air just a half second behind her. They both stop. Time stops. Their eyes are locked in a palpable current, while the rest of the room goes still and the air gets heavy. She doesn’t say a word, she just turns and he follows her. Behind the saloon his feet scuff through the dust and a lazy burro blinks lazy at him behind heavy lidded eyes. She carefully lifts a wooden hatch from the dirt floor and out zips what first seems like a saucer but smells curiously of wet dog. She climbs on top of this magic corn chip carpet and he wraps himself around her, warm stomach in the small of her back. Together they lift, taking flight, and sailing off into the sunset with naught but a trail of salty crumbs left in their wake. Now that is actually a love story that I would watch, and possibly enjoy more than Twilight. Take note, Hollywood. This one’s a winner.