Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Pisco's Peruvian Ceviches

Chef Emmanuel Piqueras has spent his life in kitchens--first under the tutelage of his grandfather's cook, Jesus, who he says taught him to touch ingredients and make rice. "She was my mentor," said the Peruvian chef now in San Diego to run Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria in Liberty Station. "I always watched her."

His other grandfather, an ex-Marine, took Piqueras fishing as a child and by age eight he was making ceviche. A career cooking, however, was not what his successful parents had in mind for him. (His mom was the first female mayor of Lima.) Trying to live up to their high expectations, he went to university and studied marketing, but his heart wasn't in it. At age 22, he went to work as an apprentice to chef Don Cucho La Rosa at his Lima restaurant, Pantagruel before attending Le Cordon Bleu and moving to Spain to train with Chef Juan Mari Arzak in San Sebastian. Piqueras returned to Lima but the bad economy sent him off to the U.S., where he opened Andina in Portland, Mixtura in Seattle, Limon in San Francisco, and Panca in New York City's West Village. In that time, he also became the host and co-producer of Sabor y Fusion, a popular Peruvian cooking show.

Piqueras met Sami Ladeki, of Sammy's Pizza fame in San Diego, in Peru last year and they developed the concept for this new restaurant, Pisco. With the recent opening, they are now working on opening more restaurants in San Diego and expanding to Las Vegas. Piqueras still lives in New York with his wife and young son, but expects to move with them to San Diego by the end of the year, he said. It's the perfect fit for a lifelong surfer.

Peruvian ceviches are a dominant feature of Pisco's menu. But don't expect the flavors and ingredients to be like the Mexican ceviche we're used to in San Diego. Piqueras explained that Peru is a true melting pot of cultures--from Chinese to Japanese to Italian. And the ceviches certainly reflect that, as do many other dishes, like the stir fry "Lomo Saltado," a stir fried tenderloin with tomatoes, green onions, and red onions, melded in a sauce made with soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, and garlic, reflecting Peru's Cantonese influence. When the weather cools, I'll feature this dish for you.

For Piqueras, cooking Peruvian food is actually a way of sharing the country's history--as well as his own family history. "Peru," he said, "is a melting pot of food. It's fresh cuisine.

"I consider myself a teacher, teaching Americans Peruvian cuisine."

I spent some time in the kitchen with Piqueras, who taught me to make three of his dishes, including these two refreshing ceviches. They're very simple to make, with basic prep of the seafood and vegetables taking up the time in the kitchen, followed by mixing the sauces and then tossing the prepped ingredients together and plating. These are wonderful dishes to enjoy year-round, but as summer comes to an end and cooking over heat can be a drag, enjoy them now.

Ceviche Nikkei
Serves 4 to 6
(printable recipe)

1.5 pounds of ahi tuna yellow fin, cut into 1/2 inch squares
1/2 cup of fresh squeeze lime juice
4 ounces of Nikkei sauce*
1 ounce of Persian cucumber sliced
1 avocado cut into squares
4 ounces shredded Daikon root for garnish
Kosher salt

In a cold bowl mix the ahi tuna squares, the Persian cucumber, pinch of salt, the Nikkei sauce and the lime juice. Mix carefully.

In a white china bowl serve the ceviche mix, garnish with avocado squares and topped with the shredded daikon root.

*Nikkei sauce: In a blender mix 6 ounces of tamarind purée, 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger, 1 clove of garlic, 1 table spoon of organic brown sugar, 2 ounces of low sodium soy sauce and 2 teaspoons of Rocoto purée (available online or locally at Tropical Star Restaurant & Specialty Market on Balboa Ave. in Clairemont)

Martini De Tigre Ceviche
Serves 4 to 6
(printable recipe)

12 ounces of California Halibut, diced
6 ounces of Portuguese octopus, cooked and diced
4 ounces of calamari rings, cooked
12 each shrimp, cooked and peeled
12 half sea scallops
1/2 cup of Ají amarillo sauce*
3/4 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons of cilantro, chiffonade
1 small chopped onion
1 habanero, seeded and chopped
Cilantro micro greens for garnish
Kosher salt

In a cold bowl mix the fresh fish, the octopus, the calamari, the half scallops and the shrimp.

Add the salt to taste, the Ají Amarillo sauce, the chopped onion, habanero to taste and the cilantro. Mix well.

To finish the Ceviche add the lime juice, mix well and add the ice cubes, mix well again and serve in a cold Martini Glass, garnish with cilantro micro greens.

*Ají Amarillo Sauce: In a blender mix 6 ounces of ají amarillo paste with 1 stick of celery and  1 clove of garlic with 2 ounces of canola oil for salad.

Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria is located in Liberty Station at 2401 Truxton Road., Suite 102.

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