WASHINGTON, May 25, 2014 – Summer is here, and nothing says summer like grilling and citrus.
Mexican drug cartels threw a monkey-wrench into the supply of limes last year. Combined with a disease of lime trees, they sent lime prices to unheard of levels and forced bar tenders to find creative substitutes for lime juice in their margaritas. It wasn’t a happy Cinco de Mayo for San Diego bar owners.
But limes are coming back and prices are coming down. Here are three recipes that feature lime juice – and tuna, grapefruit, avocado and chiles. The ceviche and avocado dressing are both make-ahead dishes. Cool, refreshing, easy, and two of them don’t even require heat. In the summer, who could ask for anything more?
Ceviche is a classic Mexican cold fish dish with only two essential ingredients: fish and lime juice. Enzymes in the lime juice work some magic on the fish, “cooking” it even though it never comes anywhere close to a flame.
Ceviches often contain tomatoes, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce, but they’re optional. Hungry for a more citrusy version, I left them out and tried something different:
½ cup fresh lime juice
½ cup fresh grapefruit juice
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup oil
1 to 2 pounds very fresh tuna steaks, cut into half-inch cubes
Whisk the juices together with the oil in a non-reactive bowl, add the fish, and refrigerate while you prepare the other ingredients:
1 chopped jalapeño
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
¼ cup thinly sliced fresh ginger
one small orange or yellow bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
one ripe mango, chopped
Add everything but the avocado and lime slices to the tuna and citrus, stir, and leave in the refrigerator for an hour or so to let the flavors blend. Garnish with lime and avocado slices. Serve in small bowls, or on crackers or tortilla chips. This recipe can be made a day ahead. Refrigerate in a tightly-covered, non-reactive bowl.
Ceviche is like a salad. You can add things (chopped tomatoes, Serrano chiles, white or green onions, cilantro and Worcestershire sauce are all good) or leave them out (if you don’t like ginger, don’t add it, and if you’re on cholesterol medication, leave out the grapefruit juice). If tuna is too expensive, use snapper or any other firm, very fresh fish. It’s a matter of personal taste. Just make sure to include fresh fish and lime juice.
Avocado and citrus salad is refreshing, easy, and make-ahead. The element that holds it together is a fresh avocado dressing:
1 peeled and pitted avocado
3-5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 small Serrano or jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
¼ white onion, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. cilantro leaves
½ tsp. dried thyme
3 tbsp. mayonnaise
sea salt to taste
black pepper to taste
½ cup water
Puree ingredients together in a food processor until mostly smooth. With food processor running, add
1 cup vegetable oil
in a fine stream (most food processors have a drip tube). Process until it’s nice and creamy. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, then refrigerate the dressing.
This dressing is delicious served on a bowl of fresh grapefruit slices, on a mix of grapefruit and avocado slices, on salad greens, or on tomatoes. It is really just a pourable, emulsified guacamole, and you can adjust the seasoning to be more like your favorite guacamole recipe. If the dressing separates in the refrigerator, you can fix it with an immersion blender, or just toss it back in the food processor.
Lime grilled tuna is a fast and easy dish that takes almost no preparation. Just season and grill. It’s excellent as a last-minute summer dinner with the avocado and citrus salad.
Beat a tablespoon of lime juice into a half-cup of softened, unsalted butter. Add seasoned sea salt and ground white pepper. Oil the grill rack to keep the tuna from sticking. Grill tuna steaks over direct high heat for about 4 minutes per half-inch thickness. Brush on the lime butter carefully while grilling. It will burst into flames when it hits the hot coals. Brush on more after the fish comes off the grill. Serve with lime slices and chopped jalapeños.
See the recipe for jalapeño lemonade for a nice beverage to go with it. If you like, the jalapeño lemonade also makes a good margarita.