The Science of Ceviche – A Summer Seafood Favorite

Written by Ashley Zalta, HMNS Special Events Manager

ceviche 1Nothing is more refreshing than the cool delight of eating ceviche on a hot summer’s eve. Here at HMNS, one of our exclusive caterersMélange—are experts on this summertime staple and have a few tips (and recipes!) to share.

Why can we eat ceviche raw?
The fish is actually cooked by whatever acid (lime juice, lemon juice) you use to marinate! In a process called denaturation the structure of the protein unfolds and ceases to function as normal. With food, this is typically achieved through the application of heat, but acids, bases, and salts can also have the effect. Using an acid gives the fish its “cooked” look and feel but moist texture that we desire in food. It is important to cut the pieces in such a way that the acid can thoroughly denature the protein before it is “overcooked”.

How long does it have to sit before we can eat it?
Ideally it should sit between 10-30 minutes depending on your taste. This gives the acid time to start developing the “cooked” look and feel but isn’t so long that the fish begins to get a chalky dry texture.

How long does it stay good for? (ie should a person save left overs)
Ceviche really should be eaten right then and there for the best taste and texture. But I would say if properly cared and stored (on ice the whole time) it should be edible the next day.

What are your (Mélange) ‘must have’ ingredients in a ceviche?
Lime, cilantro, olive oil, thinly sliced red onion, and of course fish! This is ceviche in it’s simplest form, the addition of tomato, jalapeno, green onion, and avocado add a nice vegetable sweetness and balance to the acidic marinade. Corn and green olives(these two ingredients go very well together) are also common additions, of course the star of the show is the fish so be sure that is the focus and that you get a nice cut of fish to use!

If different, what is your one creative specialty touch ingredient?
A good quality Spanish smoked paprika lends a nice aroma and smokiness. Habanero with mango also makes a fine shrimp ceviche, just be sure to de-seed the habanero or you won’t soon forget that experience!

Snapper Ceviche
8 oz Fresh Snapper Filet
2 tbsp Rough Chopped Cilantro Leaves
1 tbsp Small Dice Red Onion (as small as possible)
1/2 cup Lime Juice (plus zest from 1 lime)
1/4 cup Orange Juice (plus zest from 1/2 and orange)
1 each Diced Roma Tomato
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Spanish Smoked Paprika
1 Seeded and Diced Jalapeno
Salt and Pepper to taste
Yucca Chips

Directions:

  • Slice Snapper into 1/8 inch planks. Cut those by 1 inch intervals.
  • Marinate snapper in the lime juice in the fridge for 14 minutes.
  • Drain snapper and toss with the rest of the ingredients, Serve in an ice cold glass bowl.
  • Prepare yucca chips by removing the tough brown outer layer of yucca. Using a mandolin slice yucca into 1/16 of an inch slices.
  • Fry at 350 F until golden brown and crispy, drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Serve next to the ceviche for scooping.

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Shrimp Ceviche (with Corn, Olives, and Avocado)
8 oz. Shrimp Peeled and Deveined
1/4 cup Roasted Corn Kernels
1/4 cup Sliced Green Olives
1 tbsp Fine Diced Red Onion
2 tbsp Rough Chopped Cilantro
1/4 cup Diced Avocado
1/8 cup Lime Juice (plus 1 tsp lime zest)
1/8 cup Orange Juice (plus 1 tsp orange zest)
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Jalapeno Fine Diced (only half seeded)
tortilla chips

Directions:

  • Poach shrimp in boiling water for 60 seconds and cool in an ice bath. The shrimp should have cooked almost all the way through.
  • Toss the shrimp with the remaining ingredients and let marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes tossing every 10 minutes or so.
  • Serve in an ice cold glass bowl with your favorite tortilla or yucca chips

 

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Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 6/27-7/3

Last week’s featured #HMNSBlockParty creation is by Britknee (age: 16): 

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Want to get your engineering handwork featured? Drop by our Block Party interactive play area and try your own hand building a gravity-defying masterpiece. Tag your photos with #HMNSBlockParty.

Behind-the-Scenes Tour – La Virgen de Guadalupe
Tuesday, June 28

6 p.m.
Going back to the 8th century in a struggle between Muslim and Spanish naval forces and on to the appearance in the Aztec capital in the 15th century, Virgin of Guadalupe was adopted as a symbol in Europe and the New World during times of friction. Through the artwork and artifacts on display, your guide will trace the increasing role the Virgin of Guadalupe played in society.

Lecture – Asteroid Day 2016 – Threat of Impact Update by David Kring
Thursday, June 30
6:30 p.m.
In 2013 the world was riveted by the impact of an asteroid near the Russian town of Chelyabinsk, where over 1,000 people were injured. It was an eerie reminder of another, bigger, impact event that flattened a forest near the Tunguska River in Siberia on June 30, 1908-and a modern-day example of the immense dinosaur-killing Chicxulub impact event in the Yucatán. As an update to his 2015 Asteroid Day presentation, Dr. David Kring will describe the magnitude of their persisting threat today, and the steps we might take to mitigate these types of calamitous events in the future.
This event is sponsored by The Lunar and Planetary Institute.

 

Summer Cockrell Butterfly Center Events 
Summer Cockrell Butterfly Center events continue through Aug. 19.

  • Wing It | Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m.
    Come fly away into the world of butterflies at the Cockrell Butterfly Center with Wing it! Introduce yourself to your favorite winged wonders and watch the release of hundreds of new butterflies into the rainforest.
  • Small Talk | Wednesdays at 11 a.m.
    Join our Cockrell Butterfly Center team as they take their live collection of insects out “for a walk” during Small Talk. Our experts will entertain and educate with all types of insects and arachnids.
  • Friday Feeding Frenzy | Fridays at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. & 11:30 a.m.
    Join us this morning in the Cockrell Butterfly Center for our Friday Feeding Frenzy! See science in action as snakes, spiders and centipedes enjoy a meal right in front of you!
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Curious Late Nights at HMNS – The Mystery of Imperato’s Lost Tablet

Disclaimer: This fictional story was written by Julia Russell in Youth Education Programs.

Hello everyone,

My name is Julia, and it’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since I started my research as a graduate student at HMNS. It really seems like it was just yesterday…

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I’ve loved museums since I was a child. I was always fascinated by the huge and impressive collections museums were able to acquire. It’s a curiosity of mine that has never fully disappeared. Being a mini-museum connoisseur growing up, I had many of my own collections. I had the traditional stamp collection. I had the cumbersome rock collection. (Gathering new specimens for my collection probably wasn’t the highlight of our family vacations for my parents.) I eventually moved on to collecting books about my two favorite topics: sharks and dinosaurs. This also led to a lot of “excavations” in my backyard. I was fairly unsympathetic about destroying the landscape of our backyard when I was on a search to uncover the greatest dinosaur fossil ever found. I never actually found it, but I did triumphantly reassure my dad that the numerous holes in the backyard were in the name of science and discovery!

Eventually, I decided to study history and biology at the University of Fibonacci. Throughout my time as an undergraduate student, I tried to find career paths that would let me combine my dual interests in the humanities and the hard sciences. The one place I could bring these two passions together? A museum! In keeping with my childhood, I continued to marvel at the world’s museums and their Impressionist paintings, ancient Greek pottery, dazzling gems and minerals, mummies, fossils, and so much more. The one question that began to echo through my mind as I visited these institutions: why do we collect? What drives people to create collections? Is it human nature to collect? Since four years of undergraduate work wasn’t nearly enough time to satisfy these questions, I decided to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Noneya to explore the art of collecting a little further.

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To better understand why, I had to start with when. At what point in our history did we start collecting? If I could find a starting point, I had a better chance of understanding the why. As it turns out, the practice of collecting is as old as humans themselves. The concept of collecting in an effort to better understand the natural world around us seems to be an inherent part of our human nature. In all of my studies, there was one particular collection that struck me: the collection of Ferrante Imperato.

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Like most people, I’m intrigued by the unknown. I think that’s what draws me to Imperato and his collection. We don’t know much about this…apothecary? Or was he an alchemist? I decided to make Imperato and his cabinet of curiosities, a kind of precursor to the natural history museums of today, the focus of my graduate thesis. Enter HMNS.

I came to HMNS after hearing that they were bringing Ferrante Imperato’s collection over from Naples, Italy. They were going to have his actual collection. It was a researcher’s dream. I reached out to HMNS and began studying the numerous objects and texts left behind by Ferrante and his son, Francesco.  

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I combed through original texts and flexed my semi-fluent Italian language muscles. I was particularly entranced by Imperato’s Dell’Historia Naturale from 1599. This engraved text outlines Imperato’s natural history collection, making it one of the first texts to do so. While I was interested in the extensive catalog of his collection and his reasons for collecting, I couldn’t help but notice some strange references throughout his texts. The word tesoro appears several times in Imperato’s writings. Tesoro is the Italian word for “treasure.” Of course, since Ferrante Imperato was an enthusiastic collector, I assumed he was referring to his collection as a treasure. As an 8-year-old, I frequently boasted about my collections of “treasures” though my treasures mostly consisted of dirt clods from my backyard excavations that I had yet to “prep out” as I explained to my parents. However, as I continued to read Imperato’s texts, I came to realize he wasn’t referring to his entire collection as a “treasure.” He was referring to a single object, a tablet.

I’m a firm believer that Ferrante Imperato was an alchemist as well as an apothecary. In my quest to understand what drives people to collect, it seems that Imperato was determined to use his collection to find natural remedies for a variety of ailments. He also frequently discussed the transformation of matter, a concept near and dear to alchemists’ hearts. Could this tablet be part of Imperato’s work as an alchemist? And more importantly, could this object be in the very Cabinet of Curiosities I’m studying right now?

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While I love talking about my research and the topic of my thesis, as any graduate student does (seriously, I’ll talk about it for hours), I really wanted to write this guest blog to ask for help. I need to solve the mystery of this tablet. I don’t have much longer to work with the collection before my thesis is due and my time at HMNS is up! So here I am, reaching out to the HMNS community for help. Can you unlock the secrets and solve the riddles of Ferrante Imperato’s Cabinet of Curiosities before it’s too late?

If your group is interested in helping Julia solve the mystery of Imperato’s lost tablet, email education@hmns.org for more information on this special Curious Late Night program.

 

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Kids Can Learn About Physics at This Block Party, Too!

by Kavita Self

The Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land’s summer special exhibit, Block Party, Too! opened Friday, June 3. At the End of School Festival the day before, patrons got an exclusive sneak peek at the summer fun, and it was a big hit!

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Similar to Block Party at HMNS, but with a Sugar Land twist, kids of all ages had a wonderful time exploring and building in the five Build Zones. Each zone highlights principles of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) in a family-friendly, hands-on environment. With connecting building blocks, magnetic tiles, foam blocks, oversized bricks and more, we had creative inventions — a bridge, a chair, a life sized person — in every zone!

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The Game Zone, featuring classic games like Giant Tic-Tac-Toe, Giant Snakes and Ladders, Twister and more, saw kids (and adults) competing fiercely for the win! We hope to see these families return again and again as the popularity of our newest hands-on exhibit continues to grow. Take a look at the rest of these preview shots, then come on down and build using your own imagination!

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Editor’s Note: Kavita is the Director of Programming for HMNS – Sugar Land.

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