WHO: Leah Purcell, 23, of Tampa, warehouse manager and customer service representative at merchline.com.
ABOUT THE RECIPE: Leah Purcell is a child of two cultures. Although she was born in America, she spent most of her childhood in Guatemala with her missionary parents. "Growing up in two different cultures, it's difficult because it's like you're making your own culture," she said. "It is very cool to have that background, though."
Now back in the states, she still aches for Guatemala — especially the food. She craves the flavors from her childhood. "(Guatemalans) put lime, salt, cilantro on everything," she said. One way she re-creates those flavors is by making ceviche, a meal she associates with beach excursions. On hot days, many Guatemalans enjoy the seafood dish while lounging on the dark, lava-enriched sand.
"It's a nice snack to take because it's pretty healthy and it doesn't really spoil," she said, although she adds that you have to keep it cool.
Ever since she left Guatemala, Purcell has been tweaking the recipe, which she got from her mother. She added Guatemalan hot sauce and mango to make it her own. Purcell's version uses uncooked shrimp or imitation crab. Traditional ceviche incorporates raw seafood that is "cooked" with citrus juice.
For Purcell, cooking is a creative art. She enjoys experimenting with spices and says she often likes to "throw things in and see how it comes out."
TIPS: "The key is to put in a lot of cilantro to give it taste," she said. The Worcestershire sauce is "essential" to give it an extra kick, along with the Picamas sauce. Picamas is a traditional Guatemalan hot sauce that can be purchased online at Amazon or found at some local Latin-American stores. It comes in green and red, but Purcell recommends the green.
ON THE SIDE: In Guatemala, ceviche is often served with saltine crackers. Purcell suggests that you could also serve the dish over a bed of fresh spinach, or with sliced avocado on the side.
Emily Young, special to the Times
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