Our dinner last night was based on a recipe from The Southern Italian Table by Arthur Schwartz. He’s an authority on the cooking of this region and writes with an informed passion for it that makes one, or at least me, want to rush to the market, get the ingredients for a particular recipe, and come home and cook.
The recipe that caught my eye yesterday was for Salt Seared Swordfish with Garlic and Mint. A minimum of ingredients are combined to create an unctuous raw sauce of olive oil, garlic, and dried mint, which is used to dress swordfish steaks that are quickly seared over a layer of coarse sea salt in a blazing hot skillet.
This is not a recipe for those averse to indulging in garlic or salt but, although used liberally, their flavors along with those of fine extra-virgin olive oil and dried mint seem to heighten the already rich taste of the swordfish.
Make this dish on a weekday night, and you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to a seaside trattoria in Sicily.
Salt Seared Swordfish with Garlic and Mint Adapted from The Southern Italian Table by Arthur Schwartz
1 tablespoon dried mint (You may need more than a tablespoon of dried leaves to make a tablespoon of sieved.)
6 to 8 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (I used a microplane grater for the garlic.)
At least 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (Use the finest you have for the most flavor.)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (I added a little more than a tablespoon.)
2 tablespoons large-crystal sea salt (You may need more depending on the size of your skillet.)
2 (1/2-inch thick) swordfish steaks, skin removed (My steaks were about an inch thick. I also chose to leave the skins on. I think doing so makes it easier to turn the fish.)
With your fingertips, push the mint through a fine sieve onto a large platter. (To end up with 1 tablespoon of dried mint powder, I used a little more than the 1 tablespoon of dried mint leaves.)
Add the garlic, olive oil and vinegar. Blend with a fork. (Using a microplane for the garlic makes it easier to blend the garlic into the sauce.)
Sprinkle the bottom of a heavy 9- to 10-inch skillet (black cast iron works best) evenly with salt. Place over high heat. When the pan is so hot that you can’t leave your palm 3 inches over it for more than 5 seconds, place the swordfish on top of the salt and cook for 3 minutes. (I’m not an expert on non-stick cookware, but since you’ll be getting the pan very hot, a non-stick skillet may not withstand such a high temperature.)
Turn the fish and cook another 2 to 3 minutes for medium-well, without a trace of pink in the center. (For my 1-inch thick steaks, I went for a full 3 minutes on each side.)
Lift the fish from the pan with tongs or a fork and brush off any large pieces of salt clinging to it. (Since we really like salt, I left a few crystals on our steaks.)
Place the fish on the platter and turn it to coat with the raw sauce, finally spooning some of the sauce on top.
Wine Pairing: Grillo, Falanghina, Sauvignon Blanc