One day about 7 years ago I was reading the food section in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and saw this:
Who are the best cooks? We're looking for Georgia home cooks who deserve recognition for their talents and who have interesting recipes to share. Give us your name and phone number, as well as the name and number of the cook you'd like us to consider. And tell us a little about what makes this cook special.
So I did, and a few weeks later Ernesto was featured in the paper. This was back in 2002. The interview really made me smile. A few things are outdated, but the Ceviche recipe he chose to share the is still the best i have ever tasted. If you have ever tried it, you know what Im talking about. If you look at the original article you will see that they advised cooking the shrimp because they did not want to recommend uncooked shrimp to the public. I took that part out below and want to clarify that by NO MEANS should you cook the shrimp for this recipe. There was a great picture that the newspaper took of Ernesto in our tiny tiny kitchen, but unfortunately it's not posted online. So I added this one.
[ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 10/10/02 ]
IN THE KITCHEN WITH...
ERNESTO ESPINOZA, 30, ATLANTA
How cooking becomes 'great source of pleasure'
Nominated by Cindy Espinoza:
"My husband, Ernesto, grew up in a Mexican household and, fortunately for me, brought with him a delicious style of cooking. I grew up with meat and potatoes, and my idea of Mexican food was Ortega taco shells and salsa from a jar. Ernesto has introduced me to the great variety of Mexican foods and the wonderful signature of fresh ingredients.
"He does all the cooking and makes unique recipes that are now my favorite dishes. Some are passed on from his mother; others he creates himself. He doesn't limit himself to just Mexican cuisine, either. He loves to experiment and try new things. I love it when our friends come over and try something they have never had before and then tell me that [it] is now their favorite thing to eat."
What happens when a young lady from the Midwest meets a young man who grew up in a Mexican household? After they fall in love and marry, the young man, Ernesto Espinoza of Atlanta, begins to enjoy cooking for his wife and friends and experimenting with varied cuisines. The young lady learns that there is a whole lot more to Mexican food than Taco Bell.
Family/background: "I was born in Mexico, but my family moved to San Diego when I was a baby. That's where I grew up. My family is still in San Diego. I moved to Ohio to go to school, and then moved to Atlanta. I met my wife at the airport in Columbus, Ohio."
Career: "I work for Corwin Robison State Farm agency."
What are your hobbies? "Cooking, of course; travel; dining; Rollerblading; jogging; biking; movies. Would like to get my master's."
Who taught you to cook? "I had to learn how to cook while I was away for college. I'd call my mom a lot for recipes and advice."
How did your love of cooking develop: "I didn't care for it at first; it was just something that I had to do. But after a while, and lots of practice, I actually began enjoying my food. Then I started to experiment, and cooking has since become a great source of pleasure."
Culinary roots: "I mainly grew up on Mexican food. We had a lot of salsas, guacamole; there was a lot of grilling, and a lot of fresh ingredients. My mother got her cuisine from her mother, who was from Guadalajara. After we came to San Diego, my mother started experimenting and started introducing us to other things."
Cooking style: Spicy south-of-the-border.
Early food memory: "It was on one of our family trips in Michoac‡n, Mexico -- the western central highlands. We took a small dugout boat to an island on Lake P‡tzcuaro, where we had an enormous feast. I remember sitting outside on homemade benches under a large homemade shade with food coming at us nonstop. The fish was served and prepared in a variety of ways, shrimp skewers were being passed around with lime wedges and hot sauce, and huge trays of shellfish were also served. The best meal was the sea turtle soup. It's not legal to hunt anymore, but . . . it has to be the best meat I've ever tasted. Delicious!
For whom do you cook? "I like to cook for my wife and friends. When I'm home visiting my parents, I'll help out and keep my ears open to pick up new ideas and tips."
Most enjoyable aspect of cooking: "Waiting for the final product."
Specialties: "Seviche, fish tacos, salsa and posole, which is a staple Mexican dish. It's a stew that varies from region to region. The name refers to the hominy that is soaked in lime to remove the outer skin and to puff them up. It is slow-cooked and can be made with beef, pork or fish."
Culinary ambitions: "Lately I've been experimenting with Thai and Asian food. I love the smell of it."
What is your favorite thing to eat? "Anything spicy."
Culinary pet peeve: "If someone asks for a recipe and I give it to them and then they modify it."
Most memorable meal you've ever prepared: "My in-laws were coming to visit, so I decided to make something new: beer-battered amberjack tacos. It was the first time I had ever made them, and it was a difficult project. I wasn't sure they were going to turn out, but to my surprise they were a hit. Not one was left over. I must admit they were pretty good."
Do you favor a particular ingredient? "Dried peppers and cilantro."
What's the magic ingredient that makes some cooks turn out great food? "Using the freshest possible ingredients makes all the difference."
Do you have a tip for today's cooks? "Try to expand your horizons. Try different things and use new ingredients."
Favorite cookbook: "The recipes passed down from my grandmother are the ones I treasure the most."
When I eat out, I like to order: "There's nothing better than a tender, juicy filet with a side of grilled asparagus."
If you could prepare a fantasy meal for anybody, who would it be and what would you cook? "There is this Mexican singer named Pedro Infante. He was very popular in the '40s and '50s. He had the most beautiful voice. I would love to have him for a big Mexican feast and then afterward have him play the guitar and sing."
Ernesto's Shrimp Ceviche|
Preparation time: 20 minutes of chopping , plus 1 hour to marinate
Ceviche is raw fish marinated in citrus juice. Though the fish is not technically cooked, the acid in the marinade turns the fish opaque and firms it up so that it does not appear raw. Serve with tortilla chips or as topping for tostadas.
1 pound large raw tiger shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 roma tomatoes, diced
1 small white onion, chopped
3 serrano peppers, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon Clamato juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Peel, devein and cut shrimp into 1/4-inch pieces. In a bowl, combine shrimp, tomatoes, onion, peppers, cilantro, Clamato juice and olive oil. Season with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze lime over combined ingredients and mix well in large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Drain excess lime juice before serving.