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Making Ceviche with Alma's Chef Johnny Alamilla

A combination of classical training and Latin upbringing are what led Chef Johnny Alamilla to feature ceviche so prominently on his menu at Alma, the popular Nuevo Latino restaurant in the Mission district. His training taught him that a meal should be structured, and begin with a light, fresh palate cleanser. His heritage provided memories of summers in his grandmother's kitchen in Miami. The two come together in the logical conclusion that his menu should lead with ceviche.

Ceviche is fresh fish that is "cooked" in citrus juice. Often mixed with chilies, herbs, and spices, the fish is left to marinate for a few hours till the flesh turns white. There are many variations of the dish from culture to culture and the origins of ceviche is a bit vague, but it's a solid guess that the version we see in the states today came by way of Ecuador and Peru through Mexico.

In this recipe striped bass is paired with grapefruit to add a sweetness to the basic lime; the addition of Cava, a sparkling Spanish wine, adds an unexpected fullness and a slight yeasty flavor. Served with crispy potatoes, it's the perfect way to prepare your palate for whatever follows. Create a larger portion with a side salad, and you'll be hard put to find a better summer meal.

ALMA'S WILD STRIPED BASS CEVICHE

1lb striped bass filleted and trimmed of blood line
1 medium size red onion
2 Anaheim chilies
2 1/2 C fresh grapefruit juice
1 C fresh lime juice
1/3 C fresh lemon juice
1/2 C dry Cava (Spanish sparkling wine)
1T ground coriander
1tsp. toasted ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Julienne the red onions. Remove seeds from chilies and julienne fine. Mix all liquids in a non-reactive bowl; add onions, chilies, coriander, and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper. With a very sharp knife thinly slice bass and place in a non-reactive pan (a glass or stainless steel cake pan works well). Pour the liquid mixture over the slices of fish, cover and refrigerate. Ceviche is done when the fish is firm in texture and the color changes from opaque to white, no longer than two hours.