It just so happened that the Lowcountry’s first sweltering heat wave of the year coincided with my resolute mission to paint our screened-in porch. The color was perfect – the original Charleston White. I was on the homestretch when I ran out of paint. So, on my way to tennis that evening, I swung by Sherwin Williams and asked for a gallon of the formula I had taken a photo of with my phone; I still had the rest of the house’s trim and the front porch to do. The sweet guy behind the register gently informed me that the small can I had been using was merely a sample and was not exterior paint. It definitely did not have the brass to handle hurricane season or the humidity-causing-mildew in South Carolina. I was crestfallen. I didn’t weep, but I wanted to. Talk about a shower of utter, humidity-infused humiliation. Thankfully, I was on my way to tennis. I don’t know if I have ever hit the ball that hard. It was cathartic, to say the least. So, yesterday, I started painting over everything I had already painted. It was 102 degrees outside with a humidity level that stirred the hot air into a gardenia-scented soup. Thank the Lord for gardenias! Needless to say, I am parched, hot and in desperate need of a cool down. My plan – classic Mexican ceviche – the kind you scarf down at a beachside shack with a thatched roof in Mexico and a bottle of Dos Equis lager with extra salt and lime in hand! Nothing quite revitalizes you and takes the edge off the heat like fresh, cold ceviche.
This morning, I went to my local seafood monger, Beaufort’s incomparable Sea Eagle Market, for some local shrimp and scallops. As luck would have it, these beauties had just come off their boat this very morning. So, I will not be blanching my scallops and shrimp beforehand; I’ll merely let them marinate in the lime juice for two hours instead. If the absolute freshness of your shrimp and scallops is in question, just blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes prior to popping them into the lime marinade in the recipe.
This particular ceviche recipe harkens back to carefree days on the beach in Mexico, a sense memory that will live inside me always. This inimitable combination of sea-kissed salinity, spice, bright lime acidity and tomatoes bursting with juiciness is invigorating enough to stand up to the heat and refresh your soul. It’s simple, straightforward, spicy and delicious. My biggest recommendation – buy the freshest shrimp and scallops you can find. If they’ve been frozen, their texture will not achieve the sheer nirvana that this dish is capable of, and they will definitely require blanching ahead of time.
- 1 lb. of fresh shrimp, diced
- ½ lb. of fresh scallops, diced
- 1 cup of lime juice
- ¾ lb. of fresh tomatoes
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 baby bell peppers (or Anaheim pepper, if you can find them), diced
- 2 jalapeno pepper, minced
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, destemmed and chopped
- 4 Tb extra virgin olive oil
- 1 avocado, save for later then dice before serving
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a mixing bowl, combine the raw shrimp, scallops and lime juice, unless you’re blanching ahead. Salt and pepper to taste. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for 2 hours. The acid in the limes will “cook” the shellfish.
Combine tomatoes, shallot, peppers, cilantro and olive oil in a separate bowl. Salt and pepper to taste then set aside.
When the shrimp and scallops are ready, pour the mixture in with the tomatoes, peppers and shallots. Stir well. Dice and add the avocados at the very end to retain their color. Serve with tortilla chips or tostadas.
For pairing partners, Dos Equis Lager with salt and lime or Margaritas are always an excellent bet. If you’re in the mood for wine though, I would recommend a Muscadet from France’s Loire Valley. Nothing pairs with shellfish quite like this underrated, inexpensive beauty! Stay cool, my friends!