Spring break is a tradition that, in my opinion, should extend way beyond the college years. After all, everyone could use a little sun-soaked revelry at the end of a long winter (especially those of us over the age of 22 with full-time jobs and other adult responsibilities).
But if there are no Mexican beaches in your near future, take heart: Sometimes food can be almost as transporting as a plane ticket—with this dreamy ceviche concocted by Los Angeles-based chef Octavio Olivas being one such example.
“Scraping the flesh of the coconut adds a creaminess and flavor element that elevates the dish to the next level”
As founder of Ceviche Project, a roving dining concept, Olivas is known for his ultra-fresh, ultra-creative takes on the south-of-the-border staple. His dishes have, until now, only been available on a pop-up basis, but through May 2016 he’s running the kitchen at Silver Lake’s legendary El Chavo restaurant, along with chef Freddy Vargas (Scarpetta) and Cocktail Academy founder Brandyn Tepper.
Olivas’ yellowtail ceviche has already emerged as a guest favorite at El Chavo, and it’s easy to see why. “I love this recipe because it reminds me of summer,” says the Mexico City-born chef. “It is fresh, spicy, and has great textures and bold flavors.” The raw, marinated fish is served inside a coconut half, which doubles as an ingredient. “Scraping the flesh of the coconut adds a creaminess and flavor element that elevates the dish to the next level,” he says. (It’s also a healthy fat, particularly potent when combined with protein-packed yellowtail, digestion-enhancing pineapple and ginger, and fresh veggies).
Though you may have to visit some specialty markets to gather the raw ingredients, it’ll be a way faster trip than getting on a plane. And you may want to pick up a bottle of tequila, while you’re at it: After-dinner shots are optional, but completely appropriate.
Nervous about making ceviche? Chef Olivas shares the surprisingly easy recipe for how to make El Chavo’s superfood-packed ceviche at home.
Yellowtail Ceviche by Ceviche Project at El Chavo Restaurant
1 lb sushi grade yellowtail (Olivas recommends shopping at LA Fish Co. in Los Angeles and The Lobster Place at Chelsea Market in New York).
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh pineapple juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 inch fresh ginger
2 young coconuts, halved
1 cup of jicama
1/4 cup red onion
3 heirloom carrots
8 sprigs micro cilantro
1/4 cup cancha (crispy Peruvian corn)
4 borage flowers (gorgeous but optional)
Fried plantain chips
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 tsp salt
Blend chiles with oil and salt. Pass through cheesecloth into a container sitting over ice, so as not to dull the bright green color.
Cut fish into long, thin strips and set aside.
Blend fresh pineapple juice with chopped ginger, jalapeño, lime, and 1/2 tsp salt. Emulsify with extra virgin olive oil.
Dice jicama and onion and combine in large bowl with shaved carrot and fish. Add pineapple juice mixture to fish and vegetables. Flash marinate for 2 minutes. Salt to taste.
Plate and serve in 4 coconut halves and add crispy cancha, cilantro, borage flowers, and jalapeño oil to garnish. Serve with fried plantain chips.
El Chavo, 4441 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90027, 323-664-0871, elchavorestaurant.com