Award-winning Chef Iliana de la Vega of El Naranjo reveals the recipe for her refreshing springtime ceviche.
By Chantal Rice, Photos courtesy of El Naranjo
Chef Iliana de la Vega is no stranger to accolades. In the Mexico-born chef’s many years as a restaurateur, cooking consultant and Mexican-cuisine specialist, she has amassed myriad awards and honors, establishing herself as an international culinary authority, first with her El Naranjo restaurant and cooking school in Oaxaca, Mexico, and later in Austin after re-establishing the restaurant brand on what was then an up-and-coming Rainey Street.
Among Chef de la Vega’s most notable recognitions is the esteemed Ohtli Award, which the Mexican government granted her in 2014 in recognition of her work furthering the art of Mexican gastronomy. The same year, the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce named her Hispanic Female Entrepreneur of the Year. To top it all off, the James Beard Foundation recently named her a semifinalist for Best Chef in the Southwest region as part of the prestigious 2019 James Beard Awards. While such acclaim is noteworthy, Austinites judge a chef’s mastery of cuisine on one essential criterion: flavor. And anyone who’s visited El Naranjo knows Chef de la Vega’s dishes, rich in the traditions of Mexican cooking, pack a flavorful punch and are worthy of all the praise. Here, Chef de la Vega shares her recipe for her seasonal ceviche de atún con pepino y naranja.
CEVICHE DE ATÚN CON PEPINOY NARANJA
- 1/4 pound fresh tuna, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 English cucumber, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
- 1 serrano chile (or to taste), chopped
- 1 navel orange, cut into supremes (Reserve any juice and mix it with the lime juice.)
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- Salt to taste
- 3 cups tortilla chips
- Place the cubed fish in a glass bowl and mix in 2 teaspoons of salt. Let it rest for one minute, then add the lime juice, orange and the olive oil. Marinate for three minutes.
- Add the cucumber, onion, chile and cilantro. Mix well and taste for salt.
- Serve the ceviche in a cold bowl alongside tortilla chips.
“I recommend that you marinate the fish in the lime juice right before serving. This way, you will enjoy the fish’s freshness, flavor and texture to the fullest. … To prepare, place the fish cubes in a nonreactive dish, like stainless steel, glass or ceramic. Add some sea salt to break the protein and mix well. Next, add your citrus juice and let it sit for a few seconds, or more if you prefer it more ‘cooked.’ I like to use oranges a lot in my recipes to reflect the name of our restaurant, El Naranjo (the orange tree). Adding cucumber and cilantro makes a very refreshing dish.”
– Chef Iliana de la Vega