I watched – with envy – my travelling companions in Peru, as they devoured ceviche in a local Lima restaurant. I don’t eat seafood – and I’ll admit that the thought of fish or seafood eaten raw (in Lima) makes me more than a little bit nervous. But I love lime and cilantro – just the mention of it conjures up thoughts of warm Latin beach-side bistros – so why should vegetarians miss out on all the fun?
I also love avocado. When I was younger, I never ate it. My dad used to make fun of his mother’s waspy, jiggly little green mould of something containing avocado and shudder (I, too, shudder at the thought). I think that’s how I came to believe that I disliked avocado. As with other good things – like olives, goat cheese and red wine – I learned as a young adult how deluded I had been. How do waspy people manage to destroy good things in the kitchen? Anyway, I’ve maintained the belief that everything tastes good with avocado – except for maybe that jiggly avocado mould thing from Happy Homemakers 1955.
It’s warm and sunny today, and the hope of summer is on the breeze. What better way to celebrate than to post a recipe for vegetarian ceviche. It’s one of those things that purists might argue is impossible: vegetarian…ceviche? Is that an oxymoron? (Just like vegetarian…burger? What?) So call it what you want – a “salad” if you must. But don’t rule it out just because it contains no fish. It’s easy, delicious and oh-so-summery.
I stole the hearts of palm idea from another recipe for vegetarian ceviche – it makes it look real (like octopus) – but the rest just comes from a good, straight forward ceviche recipe in my authentic Mexican cookbook. Serving it in big martini or margarita glasses makes it even more authentic looking.
Ingredients: (serves 4 as a side)
1 large avocado, diced
1/2 hearts of palm, sliced into rings
1 cup grape tomatoes, slices lengthwise
2 tbsp finely chopped red onion OR 3 minced scallions
1 garlic clove, minced
2-4 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 jalapeno, finely minced (optional)
sea salt to taste
juice of two limes
1 tbsp olive oil
generous pinch of cumin (optional)
Mix together tomatoes, hearts of palm, onion, garlic and jalapeno (if using). Squeeze limes liberally over top, and drizzle the olive oil. Add the cilantro and cumin (if using) and toss gently. Right before serving, chop the avocado into small cubes and toss them gently with the salad. Add salt to taste. Serve salad portions in margarita cups and garnish with a sprig of cilantro or a green onion slice – and you could even add a wedge of lime on the lip of the glass.