The salty ocean air wafts a mile inland through the misty hemlocks, cedars, and douglas firs to where I’m making ceviche in the back of a Kia Sorento. The Oregon coast is one of the few places where it doesn’t matter what the weather happens to be that day; it remains beautiful. This particular foggy March weekend is no exception.
I meet up with my photographer for this trip, Megan Hawley, at Local Ocean, which as you can probably guess is a local seafood market and restaurant. The lady behind the counter is very friendly and even gives us free ice! Can you believe it? In this economy! It is by far one of the cleanest fish shops I’ve ever been in. They also have a full restaurant that I plan on trying someday when ceviche isn’t on the menu.
We purchase a pound of black cod that will soon become delightfully spicy ceviche. The fish is fresh and firm. Ladies, here is where I invite you to make a joke at the expense of your boyfriends.
Instead of heading to an overcrowded state park to make the ceviche and hike, Megan takes us to a plot of forest that’s planned to become condos once the housing marketing recovers. The locals aren’t holding their breath to fully utilize this land. Being just a stone’s throw from a dog park and the new community college, this forestland is already littered with hiking trails. Some feature dangerous drops and others that look more like creeks thanks to the recent surge of rain in the area.
Without a proper picnic bench to work on I set up my cutting board in the back of Megan’s car and get to work on the ceviche. I begin to slice the vegetables and Megan snaps photos of the process. In the distance a lone dog plays in the park with its owner while a car filled with teenagers pulls up to the dog park and starts blasting rap music. The muffled beats supply the background music while I dice the onion and think to myself that this is by far the weirdest place I’ve ever prepared a meal.
After prepping the food in an area the health department wouldn’t approve of and letting the ceviche marinate in the cooler, I figure a hike through the misty woods is the only thing to do while we wait. Towering evergreens provide cover to the forest floor’s mossy carpeting. While hiking around this rainforest, something dawns on me. I’m 10 minutes away from the pacific ocean but I wouldn’t swap this greenery for the crashing waves and sandy shores. This is what’s great about Oregon; you’re never more than a short drive away from an entirely different natural backdrop.
After trudging through the underbrush on creek-like trails littered with salamanders and steep paths that seem more like cliff faces, we have only killed about 30 minutes. So, we head off to a second trail maintained by the state. It’s easier walking, but only features views that are hidden in fog.
We return to the car with a hunger that can only be filled with ceviche and promptly drive over to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, which was only actively used for three years after it was built in 1871 due to the construction of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. We set up on the picnic benches and I pull paper plates out of my grocery bag because I like to keep things classy. As I’m plating I notice that Megan is taking pictures with her Canon DSLR and a group of teenage boys is taking pictures with their iPhones. Though I enjoy the juxtaposition, the only thing going through my mind is that I really hope this project gets more likes on Facebook than their selfies.
A long day of hiking and dicing is rewarded with a spicy and tangy fish dish. The freshness of fish is key to a good ceviche and the black cod from Local Ocean doesn’t disappoint. While enjoying the ceviche on tortilla chips made in Oregon and gazing upon the lighthouse that’s only current function is to attract tourists to the beach shore, I can’t help but think that today was great, but that Oregon has so much more to offer. This state has an abundance of great food and stunning natural features and I plan on taking it all in. Except Gresham.
- 1 lbs. Black Cod
- 2 Jalapenos
- 1 Tomato
- ½ Medium Onion
- 2 cloves of Garlic
- ¼ cup Cilantro
- 4 Limes
- 1 dash Tabasco Sauce
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Dice and deseed the tomato and jalapenos. Place in a small bowl. Dice the onion and cilantro. Mince the garlic. Add to the bowl and mix with the tomato and jalapenos.
- Cut the cod into 2cm by 2cm cubes. Place the cod in a separate bowl. Add the Tabasco sauce and cayenne.
- Slice each lime in half and squeeze the juices over the cod. Toss the cod with lime juices to evenly distribute the spices over the fish cubes.
- Combine the vegetables with the fish, lime juice, salt and pepper in a large tupperware container. Seal the container and toss to mix all the ingredients.
- Place in the fridge or iced cooler for at least 2 hours. Be sure to mix at least once to ensure the lime juice cooks all the pieces of fish.
- Serve on tortilla chips or on a tostada.
Photos by Megan Hawley