Ceviche recipe using char-roasted cauliflower florets (or caramelized eggplant), including a plant-based Leche de Tigre, or Tiger Milk.

This all plant-based Leche de Tigre loves to cling to roasted cauliflower florets and no less likes it very well with caramelized dice of eggplant. Try it with other vegetables, like roasted winter squash when it is cold; or summer squash when heat is on.

I first developed a recipe for eggplant ceviche for the summer 2019 issue of Edible Houston, as part of the travel feature P is for Peru, Pachamanca and Potatoes. Traveling around Peru in the summer of 2017 exposed my palate to the most exquisite (and varied) ceviche creations. One thing they all had in common: Leche de Tigre.

Leche de Tigre, or Tiger Milk, is a staple marinade in Peruvian ceviche. It is typically citrus-based, can be mild with a touch of Aji Amarillo (yellow chili) or pack a punch when made with Rocoto, a colorful chili hiding a heat that can make your eyes water. Chili aside, the fresh herbs you use also make a difference in the final tiger milk taste, be that mint, cilantro, or an Andean native herb: Huacatay. About the latter: Translated as black Peruvian mint, this very distinct, highly aromatic herb will boggle your mind trying to figure out if it reminds you of Mexican marigold, or maybe cilantro, or is it mint?

How ever intriguing huacatay is, I haven’t found it outside of Peru—yet. We will have to resort to herbs more readily available.

Plant-based Leche de Tigre (Tiger Milk)

½ cup ground almonds

½ cup (packed) cilantro, or combination of cilantro, mint and tarragon

Juice of 3 limes

1 serrano pepper, seeds removed and chopped (or other chili to taste)

1 small red onion, chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

Put ground almonds, cilantro, serrano, lime juice, celery rib, onion and ginger. Pulse and add a little water as needed until you have a runny sauce.

Note: I like my ceviche marinade with all solids left in. Alternatively, if you want just the liquid: put all ingredients together in a bowl and let stand for at least one hour. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and catch the liquid. Use the solids for something else, like a marinade for chicken or fish, for instance.

Charred Cauliflower Ceviche

1/2 cup (or to taste) Plant-Based Leche de Tigre (see above)

2 cups small cauliflower florets

1 tablespoon avocado oil

For garnish:

fresh herbs like cilantro and/or mint

thinly sliced red onion

thinly sliced jalapeño and/or serrano pepper

roasted corn (to taste)

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss the cauliflower florets with the avocado oil and salt. Spread out on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or silicon mat. Roast until charred and soft, about 10 minutes depending on your oven. Cool.

To finish: Toss cooled florets in a mixing bowl with 4-5 tablespoons Leche de Tigre and let infuse for about 30 minutes.

Pour enough sauce into a serving bowl to build a shallow layer. Pile the cauliflower in the middle of the bowl and garnish with sliced onion, jalapeño, roasted corn and fresh herbs and serve immediately.

To make with eggplant: Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut one medium-large eggplant into 1-inch dice. Toss with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I use avocado oil) and coarse sea salt to taste, and spread out on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or silicon mat. Roast until soft and well caramelized (this brings out the natural sweetness in eggplant), about 10 minutes (depending on your oven). Toss mid-way cooking time to get caramelization on all sides. Cool. To finish, proceed as with Roasted Cauliflower Ceviche.