I tell ya, it's good to have food-crazy friends. Kristina, of Girl Gone Grits, lives just a hop, skip, and a jump from me. That would be a nice thing no matter what, since she's a lot of fun to hang out with, but it just so happens that Kristina's house is also home to a very prolific meyer lemon tree. Straight from her lips I heard a figure of 500+ lemons coming from that crazy tree this year. Can you imagine that? What's a gal to do with so many dang lemons? There's only so much Limoncello one can make, so Kristina decided to share her bounty.
I took a trip over to pick up my order of From Maggies Farm Tamales and Kristina treated me to a giant bag of lemons from her tree. They smelled amazing, filling my car with lemony happiness on my short ride home. The tamales, by the by, were stupendous. Kristina helped Maggie with her massive holiday order this year. Scott and I ordered two dozen, which were devoured last night by my hungry family.
Between my parents visiting from Switzerland, holiday cooking, and cookie baking, my bag full of lemons went quick. I still have a few beauties in my fruit bowl, but otherwise, they have been devoured. Meyer lemons have a sweet, floral taste that makes them extra special to begin with, but Kristina's were even better than usual. They were slightly soft and bursting with juice. They went into my morning juices, my Mom's Christmas cookies, and pots of hot lemon water all week.
Christmas Eve was celebrated this year with a feast of seven fishes. I took the opportunity to use these lemons as a main ingredient in my contribution to the feast. This tilapia ceviche could be made with plain lemons, and regular garlic, but if you have the chance to use meyer lemons and elephant garlic, I suggest you go for it. Meyer lemons give this recipe a beautiful aroma, and elephant garlic is sweeter and milder than usual varieties, which meshes better with the other flavors in this recipe.
As I was writing the directions for this I realized how complicated it all sounds. Don't be intimidated. Basically, you are soaking the fish in lemon juice, roasting the garlic and fennel, chopping everything up, then tossing it together. It's just a salad, really. I elaborated on some of the steps to try and be helpful. It's really not that bad. I promise. Plus, this is one that is really worth the trouble. Not only is it really delicious, it's bright, colorful, and very different, making it a star at potlucks or dinner parties.
There is a lot of slicing though – so if you aren't into slicing, this might be your own personal nightmare. I used a mandolin to slice almost everything in this recipe. That really takes the edge off. Without a mandolin, I might have a very different opinion on the difficulty level of this recipe. With a mandolin, it's a breeze.
Meyer Lemon and Pomegranate Ceviche
Serves 8 – 10
- 3 tilapia filets, cut into strips
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup meyer lemon juice
- 2 cloves of elephant garlic, unpeeled
- 1 bulb fennel, sliced thinly
- 1 large green apple, thinly sliced, and soaked in water with sugar and lemon
- 1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
- 1 bunch fresh dill
- 2 golden baby beets (or 1 large), thinly sliced
- 1 spring onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup meyer lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Start out by slicing the tilapia into bite-sized strips. Cut the filet down the middle, then slice 1/2 inch strips from each side of the filet.
- Toss the fish with salt and pepper, then place in a covered container with 1/2 cup lemon juice. Try to make sure the fish is totally covered in lemon juice. Add more lemon juice if you need to.
- The fish should be soaked for 15 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, you can prep the other ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Chop the stems and fronds off of the fennel, and set them aside. Slice the bulb as thinly as you can. I use a mandolin for this, but you can use a sharp knife instead.
- Place the fennel slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spritz or brush with oil.
- Place the cloves of garlic on the sheet as well, and brush with oil.
- Bake the garlic and fennel for five to ten minutes, then flip the slices over and bake for an additional five to ten minutes. The fennel should be baked until it is tender and glossy. The timing will depend on how thick the slices are.
- Allow the fennel and garlic to cool, then cut the fennel slices into strips. Mince the garlic.
- Fill a small bowl with cold water, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and the juice from half a lemon. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Slice the apples, placing them in this liquid immediately.
- Next, you can seed the pomegranate. Here's how: Cut the fruit into four quarters. Submerge one quarter in a bowl of cold water, and use your fingers to separate the seeds from the rind. Discard the rind, then repeate with the rest of the fruit. Strain the seeds from the water, measure 1 cup of seeds for the recipe, and set the rest aside. They can be eaten as a snack, or used as a garnish for cheese or salads.
- Pick the thinnest fronds from the fennel stalks that you set aside earlier. Mince them finely, and measure out two tablespoons, discard or reserve the rest for another purpose.
- Mince 2 tablespoons of fresh dill, and slice the spring onions.
- Peel and slice the beets.
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients.
- Strain the sliced apples, then combine them with the fennel, garlic, pomegranate seeds, herbs, and spring onions.
- Strain the tilapia from its marinade, and combine with other ingredients.
- Toss all of the ingredients together with the dressing.
- Serve immediately, or chill for up to one hour.