I’ve never tried making ceviche at home — in fact, I’ve only ever eaten it a couple of times. If you’re not familiar, it’s a Latin American dish in which diced raw fish, or shrimp, is marinated in citrus juice, which “cooks” the fish without heat, causing it to become firm and opaque. The fish is served as part of something that resembles a fresh salsa. In fact, it’s often served with tortilla chips for dipping. It’s a light, refreshing dish, often served as an appetizer.
Today was payday, and I was trying to think of something summery that I could make for dinner tonight without heating up my already stuffy apartment. On a whim, I looked up a ceviche recipe online, but it called for four hours of marinating time. I basically skipped lunch today, and I didn’t really want to wait four hours after getting home before eating dinner.
I began thinking of something I could do as an alternative. I began to think of the product sold in grocery stores as “imitation crab.” This is actually a great, product, which I buy and use quite often, but you shouldn’t think of it as imitation crab. It will always be a disappointment as imitation crab. Just think of it as its own thing. The real culinary name for it is “surimi,” a paste made from fish. I began to think of building a ceviche-like salsa around flake-style surimi (I could also have bought the crab-leg-style surimi and just diced it up, which might, in retrospect, have been a better idea.)
Anyway, it turned out quite tasty.
I have an approximate recipe below — approximate because I was not measuring or making notes.
The one ingredient on this list that won’t be at the grocery store is the Salsa & Pico seasoning from Penzey’s Spices. This is a seasoning of dehydrated veggies meant to be stirred into diced or chopped tomatoes, either canned or fresh, turning them into a quick fresh salsa. You can probably find some sort of shortcut salsa seasoning at the supermarket, maybe in pouches in the produce department, next to that instant guacamole seasoning, or near where the canning jars and lids are sold. Or just substitute a little chili powder and oregano.
1 package flake-style “imitation crab” (surimi)
1 can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes (I used the hot style, with habanero, but wished later I had gone with the normal)
1/2 onion, diced
Cilantro leaves to taste (I only needed a little, so I bought one of those way-overpriced plastic clamshell packages. I would have been better off buying a bundle and then throwing the rest in my dehydrator — which is what I did with the other half of my onion. But I didn’t think of that.)
2 limes, zest and juice
Small handful chopped salad olives with pimiento (if you have whole pimento-stuffed olives, just chop some of them up finely)
Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients, breaking up the larger pieces of surimi. Chill in refrigerator to allow flavors to mingle before serving with tortilla chips or scoops. If using flat chips, it may need to be spooned on rather than dipped.