Hot Town, Summer in the City & Cool Shrimp Ceviche

August 2, 2010

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.
~ Mark Twain

It is brutally hot here…again. At noon, the car’s thermometer registered a paltry 103 and tomorrow will be even warmer with a hefty dose of humidity. A scorcher. Seems a good time for a chilled cup of ceviche and a crisp glass of cold white. These heat spells are also a sad reminder of climate change. So, before we move on to blithe culinary noise, please allow me a brief harangue about our precious oceans.

Over recent decades, numerous studies have documented the deterioration of ocean systems and predicted not a gradual, but a potentially catastrophic, decline in significant fish species. Simply put, we are facing fish population collapses. The vanishing of sea life. As one scientist voiced, “our children will see a world without seafood if we don’t change things.” One of the culprits is global warming, now more accurately, yet euphemistically referred to as climate change.

Please be patient with my digressive diatribe, but this subject is as serious as psychotic depression or a newly discovered melanoma. To some, a food site is no place to discuss climate change. To me, it seems ever so apposite to deliberate here about global warming’s effects on oceans.

Climate change results from an increase in the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and surfaces, especially a sustained increase causing significant variations in global climate conditions. Despite misconceptions, climate is not weather. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere behaves over relatively long periods of time.

An overwhelming consensus of the scientific community has firmly concluded that climate change is a clear and present danger that, if left unchecked, will likely produce dire consequences for Mother Earth for this and generations to follow. Global warming poses extraordinary challenges—the kind that are difficult to put our heads around. Leading atmospheric experts have warned that a gradual heating of our climate is underway and will continue apace. This warming trend poses even greater risks to poorer regions that are far less able to cope with a changing climate…communities that largely rely upon fish for food or are already strained from water shortages.

The mechanisms of climate change follow some from the phenomenon known as the “greenhouse effect.” First proposed in 1824 by Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier, a French mathematician and physicist, the greenhouse effect is a process by which the atmosphere warms the planet’s surface. Inside an artificial greenhouse filled with plants, the surrounding glass traps the sun’s energy, making it warm inside, even while outside it may be frigid. This modus operandi allows the plants to flourish. The same effect occurs every day on the earth when gases within the atmosphere act like that glass, trapping the sun’s heat. Solar radiation passes through the earth’s atmosphere, most of which is absorbed by the earth’s surface and some of which reflects off the surface back towards space.

The atmosphere is partly composed of several greenhouse gases (including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) which regulate the planet’s climate by absorbing and trapping some of the sun’s outgoing energy, retaining heat somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse. Without this natural “greenhouse effect,” temperatures would be much lower; indeed, the earth’s average temperature is 60 F higher than it would be without the greenhouse effect.

Particularly in the recent past, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have been steadily and remarkably elevating. Notably, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide concentrations all have increased dramatically. These additional accumulations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing marked warming of land and water surfaces resulting in climatic changes across the world. A group of leading climate researchers, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), saw a greater than 90% likelihood that most warming over the last 50 years has occurred due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This study synthesized the life’s work of hundreds of climatologists from around the world, and called evidence for global warming “unequivocal.” High scientific agreement exists that global greenhouse gases will continue to grow over the next few decades through this century. This continued warming has and will transform how societies currently function, as coastal cities, water, agricultural and food supplies are threatened.

Projections of future warming suggest a global surface temperature increase of by 2100 of 3.2—7.2 F, with warming in certain regions of the United States expected to be even higher. Global mean surface temperatures have increased 0.5-1.0°F since the late 19th century. Our last century’s final two decades were the hottest in 400 years and perhaps the warmest in several millennia. In a recent report published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), scientists concluded that global warming is “undeniable.” Climate change indicators pointing to global warming included:

–Declining Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover
–Rising air temperatures over land and sea
–Increased ocean surface temperatures, sea levels, ocean heat, humidity and troposphere temperatures
–Reduced numbers of record low nighttime temperatures

According to the report, each of the past three decades has been hotter than the decade before. At one time the 80’s was the hottest decade on record, but in the 90’s temperatures increased every year and the pattern continued into 2000. The NOAA found that temperatures were the hottest between 2000 and 2009, and the first six months of 2010 were the warmest on record.

This warming has grave implications for the environment: increased sea levels and temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, more frequent floods and droughts, water shortages and more frequent heat extremes. Ecosystem disruption, human migration, species reduction and loss are givens.

A word to the less than wise…Mme. Palin and your fellow global warming deniers, who decry climate change as a hoax and are proudly bigoted non-believers (as if it were some evangelical sect), please read and heed the word of true scientists. You know, those erudite ones that gather global data from satellites, weather balloons, weather stations, ships, buoys and field surveys. But why listen to experts in the field? You do have your own self-annointed PhD in Palin political theater…aka a buffoon’s conspicuous bullshit. If only your absurd, cerebrally bankrupt face-tweets were benign. But, our children and children’s children cannot abide by your drearily predictable and unreasoned hubris, Sarah. Your prattle harms humanity. Refugnant.

SHRIMP CEVICHE

2 lbs. small (41-50 count/lb.) fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 shallots, peeled and finely minced
3 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
1/3 C fresh lime juice
1/3 C fresh lemon juice
1/3 C fresh orange juice
1/2 T fresh oregano, stemmed and chopped
Zest from 2 fresh limes

2 ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped

1 avocado, peeled and diced
Sea salt
Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Parboil the shrimp—In a heavy, deep pot, bring cold water to a vigorous boil. Scoop the shrimp in, allow to cook for a moment or two and then promptly dump into a colander to strain. Immediately plunge the seafood into a large bowl filled with ice water to cease the cooking process, and then spread them on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Allow to cool completely.

In a medium large glass dish, toss the cooled shrimp, shallot, lime juice, lemon juice, orange juice, oregano and zest together. Cover well and refrigerate for at least four hours. Mix well from time to time.

During the last hour of chilling before serving, add the chopped tomatoes and toss. Remove from refrigerator and pour into a large bowl. Then, just before serving, add in the avocado, toss and season to taste with sea salt. Serve in chilled glasses or cups/bowls, garnished with cilantro.

Pourboire: If you are confident that your shrimp are decidedly fresh, you can skip the parboiling step.

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3 Responses to “Hot Town, Summer in the City & Cool Shrimp Ceviche”


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