Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Veggie Ceviche Norteño

I love Peruvian food - I love the flavors, the colors, the vegetables. We've discovered a few wonderful restaurants here owned by Peruvians who work hard to create authentic tasting dishes from the motherland. And let me tell you this is a rarity, most international restaurants in Brasil serve food that caters to the Brasilian palette rather than celebrating authenticity. It's kind of depressing. 

Ever since our lovely meal in São Paulo, we've been planning a Peruvian night at home. Our favorite dish is ceviche and we agreed it had to be on the menu; however the only challenge is I'm not eating fish. I know you all think I'm crazy, but I'm feeling really good about it. I had a beautiful purple cauliflower head in my fridge and I thought the color and texture would be a great substitute for fish. I modified a recipe that I found in this great Latin cookbook, which my sister gave to me.

My veggie ceviche Norteño turned out amazing! It had lots of flavor and a lovely balance between tart and spicy, just like traditional Peruvian ceviche. Serves 2 hungry people or 4 as a light appetizer

1 head of purple cauliflower, chopped into florets
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 red chilies minced
1 cup of lime juice, about 4 limes
1 small sweet potato
1/2 cup canned sweet yellow corn
*optional, serve with large banana chips or tortillas chips

Leche de Tigre sauce
200ml coconut milk
200ml water
1 1/2 vegetable bouillon cubes
3 whole garlic gloves
4 sprigs of cilantro
1/4 dried ancho chili with seeds or 1 chili pepper of choice
salt to taste

Leche de tigre is a milky marinade that is used in some Peruvian ceviches and it's made from fish bones. I always thought it was made with coconut milk and reminded me a little of Thai coconut soup, so I substituted fish bones with coconut milk and it worked. First prepare a small pot of boiling water and cook your sweet potato until tender. Remove the sweet potato, carefully peel and chop it into small cubes and set aside. Meanwhile in a separate sauce pan, throw in all the leche de tigre ingredients and bring to a boil. Then reduce it to a simmer and let it cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the dried chili has soften. I used a dried ancho chili that I had in my fridge which is mild and sweet, but any chili would work. I think it depends on the flavor and heat you prefer, so play around!

Remove your leche from the heat and transfer into a blender and blitz until smooth. Let it cool down completely then place in the fridge.

Now we want to prepare the cauliflower for the ceviche. Purple cauliflower adds wonderful hues to this dish, but you can easily use white cauliflower. Fill a large pot with about 1/3 of water and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile prepare an ice-water bath. As you can tell from the picture, I actually failed to do this and boiled away some of the beautiful purple color. So don't boil, steam the cauliflower florets in a basket insert set over the simmering water until tender about 7-15 minutes. Keep a close eye on the florets because you don't want them to overcook and turn mushy. Remove and immediately place the cauliflower into the ice-water bath. This stops the cooking process and helps retain its color.

In a large bowl or serving bowl (less dishes) mix the red onions, chilies, cilantro and lime juice. When the cauliflower florets have completely cooled, remove and drain them from the ice-water bath and add them to the mix. Evenly coat the florets in the lime juice and then pop into the fridge for at least 30 minutes. I loved how the colors popped after mixing, the red chilies gave the purple cauliflower a hot pink tint.

When you are ready to serve, pour 3/4 of the leche de tigre sauce over the cauliflower. Decorate the edges with the sweet corn and cubes of sweet potato. Serve with large banana or tortilla chips and voila!

I can't begin to tell you how good this was! I'm so proud of myself because I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out and it turned out superb. 
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