Sam Talbot, you are a genius.
I love finding new cookbooks and chefs, but for some reason I always find myself coming back to Sam Talbot and his book, The Sweet Life. Maybe it is because the recipes are so easy and practical, maybe it is because he is a diabetic like my mother, or maybe it is simply because his recipes are amazing. No matter what the reason, there should be no kitchen in America that is without the cookbook - whether you have diabetes or not! The more I make Sam's recipes, the more I want to move out to NYC again and become his assistant/protégé/apprentice!
I've been hearing a lot about Sam's infamous Crab Ceviche with Blueberries and Popcorn from The Surf Lodge in Montauk, NY so I was very excited to finally get this recipe under my belt. I was going to make the ceviche for dinner but was not sure if it would be enough, so I decided to make a ceviche duo, both of which are Sam's recipes...
Tuna Ceviche with Grapefruit and Mustard Crab Ceviche with Blueberries and Popcorn
A good friend of mine from high school came over to be my guinea pig for these recipes (as well as my parents). I love trying out new recipes with family and friends - food is so much more than just something to eat. It is an experience, something to bond over and discuss. That's the great part about food. It can bring people together. It can evoke emotion or a response from the people enjoying it.
These recipes were a little complex - not in that they had a lot of ingredients or that they were difficult to put together. More in the fact that some of the ingredients were more exotic and difficult to find. The tuna ceviche calls for mustard oil, something that I had never heard of before. I called my local grocery stores and no one carried it or had even heard of it. I did not know what to do. So I went online and did a little research. Some websites said that I could get the oil at an Indian grocery (none close to me) and others said that mustard oil isn't even meant for consumption. Call me confused. How could Sam Talbot be using an ingredient that isn't even edible?!
In the end, I substituted the mustard oil with sesame oil. Not the same thing, but it worked great! Last night I was talking with Sam via Twitter and he said that I did exactly the right thing - use his recipes as a template and don't be afraid to make it my own. He also proved me with a link to the Livestrong website detailing the health benefits of mustard oil. I guess it is in fact edible - internet research, you fail.
This next recipe, the crab ceviche, was the one that I was really looking forward to! What was difficult about this one was one ingredient, that was it.
I had never heard of it before and neither had any store that I went to. Again, I went to the internet. Every site that I went to said to buy it online or at a Japanese grocery store. Considering it was too late to order online, I googled the nearest Japanese grocery store which ended up being Mitsuwa Marketplace, about an hour away from my hometown. Hello, field trip! I recruited my brother to take the trip with me and off we went! The instant that we pulled into the parking lot I knew that this place was legit. There were only Asians! We walked into the store and I looked to my brother,
"I feel like I'm in Japan!"
Everything was Japanese - the music playing, the employees, all the signs! I felt like I had walked out of the United States and into a supermarket in Tokyo. I loved it! The one problem, I had no idea what anything said! The only reason I knew what to get was because while researching online, I had found a picture of Yuzu juice.
Perhaps the greatest find of the day were these suckers though...
I hadn't had these since I was a kid! Definitely made my day - especially considering they were only 99¢!
The flavors of this ceviche were out. of. this. world! Even better was the experience of the flavors - the initial flavor was the strong taste of the citrus and yuzu juice. My mouth immediately puckered up and then all of the sudden, the flavor changed! Gone was the citrus, which was in turn replaced with the spices of the cinnamon, cumin, garlic, and ginger. The sensation was unlike anything I had every experienced!
When I brought out the crab ceviche with blueberries and popcorn my parents, as well as Natalie, were skeptical of the combination of ingredients.
Blueberries? And popcorn? With crab?!
Trust me, I had the same sentiments. But holy cow! Touché Sam, touché. The gentle crunch of the popcorn added a slight texture to the dish. Instead of eating the ceviche with bread or crackers, you top it off with some plain popcorn! So genius.
A very special thank you to Natalie (and my parents) for being so willing to try the crazy things that I do for my blog! It has made having this blog so much easier! We all know that I will eat anything under the sun, but not everyone is like that! So thank you, thank you!
And an even bigger thank you to Sam Talbot, the person who has been my greatest source of inspiration since I began SMAK!
Tuna Ceviche with Grapefruit and Mustard Servings: 4
8 fresh chives, finely chopped 1 red or white grapefruit, peeled and segmented juice of 1 orange 1 tablespoon sesame oil (or mustard oil) 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon orange blossom honey 8 ounces fresh tuna, cut into 1/2-inch cubes salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, combine the chives, grapefruit, orange juice, sesame oil, Dijon mustard, and honey. Add the tuna and toss gently to combine, making sure the tuna is well coated and the grapefruit segments stay whole. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Crab Ceviche with Blueberries and Popcorn Servings: 6-8
1 teaspoon fine sea salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon 2 tablespoons ground cumin 2 tablespoons agave nectar 3/4 cup yuzu juice grated zest and juice of 4 lemons 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 pound fresh jumbo lump crabmeat 1 pint blueberries 1 cup plain popcorn
In a medium bowl, whisk together the salt, pepper, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, agave nectar, yuzu juice, lemon zest and juice, and the oil. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the crab and blueberries.
To serve, spoon the ceviche into bowls and garnish with a handful of popcorn per serving.