Two of my passions are travel and food. I’m always intrigued by the cuisine of the country or region I’m visiting and love to discover those spots that the locals frequent.
Spence discovered Costa Rica twenty years ago. Retired, he decided to escape Michigan, spending winters there instead. Still working, I’d take two weeks of vacation to visit him. That first year, he’d gotten the lay of the land and sought out a local haunt and a dish we’d never heard of….ceviche. Knowing me as well as he does, he didn’t need to run it by me – I love all food. Knowing him as well as I do, I trusted I was in for a treat.
From the house he’d rented in a little barrio near Quepos, we walked a mile into town. Inside a small, congested bus station, we wound our way through the locals and vendor stands until Spence motioned me towards the tiny Ceviche stand where we deftly snagged two of the five stools.
“Dos Ceviche con Camarones, por favor” Spence expertly articulated to the woman behind the counter. I perused the short menu on the wall, still unaware what ceviche was but with my limited Spanish, knew shrimp were involved while other varieties featured fish, calamari or octopus.
As we waited, the husband handed us tiny napkins, forks and a couple of 8 packs of saltine crackers, setting a bottle of hot sauce between us. The ceviche arrived, in an oval, pyrex-type vessel, vibrant and appealing. Served very cold, it was not only refreshing but incredibly delicious – the tang of citrus, the crunch of the veggies, the sweetness of the tender shrimp. I was over the moon. Spence simply smiled, having anticipated my enthusiastic reaction.
In the years that followed, we made many trips to this area and specifically to that bus station. Having sampled ceviche in countless places, all with more ambiance (and higher prices), I can say without question, none were better than what we found at the bus station.
After much research, here is my recipe which tastes as close to my memory of that Ceviche.
serves 8-12 Weight Watchers Smart Points 1 point per 1 cup serving
- 1 lb fresh, uncooked shrimp
- 1 c lime juice
- 1 c medium red onion – finely diced
- 2 c medium tomatoes-diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper – seeded and finely diced
- 1/2 c green bell pepper -diced
- 2-3 T chopped cilantro (more or less to taste)
- 3 T fresh orange juice
- 1 t salt
Peel and clean the shrimp, removing the tails. Chop the raw shrimp into small pieces. Add the finely minced jalapeño, remove the seeds and ribs if you wish to keep the heat in check.
Add the green pepper and red onion next.
Juice your limes and pour over these ingredients.
Now add the tomatoes, orange juice, cilantro and salt. Stir and refrigerate for four hours (stirring periodically to insure that the citrus “cooks” the shrimp evenly.
Serve and enjoy!
Chef’s Notes: You can substitute the shrimp with grouper or sea bass, just cut it into uniform small pieces. Substitute a sweet white onion for the red. I’ve seen recipes that add cucumber and/or celery diced as well as avocado and if fresh tomatoes are in season, you could add more. While I’ve served this as an appetizer to guests, Spence and I find it a refreshing, chilled entree on a hot night.