Pasta with Swordfish and Cherry-Tomato Sauce


When I saw this recipe in last month’s Bon Appetit magazine, I knew it wouldn’t be long until I’d make it. What most attracted me to it were the golden raisins and pine nuts, ingredients that, when paired with swordfish, whispered my mother’s native Sicily.

Finding a great piece of swordfish and some beautiful hot-house cherry tomatoes at the market yesterday reminded me of the recipe and so here it is. I followed all of the instructions but toasted the pine nuts ahead of time. I also decided to add some of the raisins and pine nuts to the sauce rather than sprinkling all of them on at the end. My only cautionary note would be to hold off on adding the 1/2 cup of pasta water at the end. Wait until you’ve almost finished tossing the pasta with the sauce. A tablespoon or two might be enough.

Pasta with Swordfish and Cherry Tomato Sauce from Bon Appetit August 2015

The ingredients
The ingredients

Ingredients (Serves 4)

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided (2 for the sauce; 1 for the swordfish)
4 oil-packed anchovy fillets
4 garlic cloves, sliced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound 1-inch-thick swordfish steaks
2 tablespoons pine nuts
12 ounces casarecce or other short pasta (I used strozzapreti)
½ cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
2 tablespoons golden raisins


Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook anchovies, garlic, and red
pepper flakes, stirring occasionally, until anchovies disintegrate, about 3 minutes.

The garlic and anchovies
The garlic and anchovies

Add half of tomatoes; season with salt and pepper.

Cooking the tomatoes
Cooking the tomatoes

Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 12–15 minutes. Add remaining tomatoes; remove from heat.

Thickening the sauce
Thickening the sauce

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Season fish
with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown and just cooked through, about 4
minutes per side. Let cool slightly. Coarsely flake flesh; discard skin. (You may also want to remove the dark blood lines.)

Browning the swordfish
Browning the swordfish

Toast nuts in a dry small skillet over medium-low heat, tossing often, until golden
brown, about 4 minutes. Let cool.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente.
Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Add pasta and ½ cup pasta cooking liquid to tomato sauce and cook over low heat,
tossing often and adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce is thickened
and coats pasta. Add fish to pasta along with half of parsley and toss once to

Tossing the pasta
Tossing the pasta

Serve pasta topped with raisins, pine nuts, and remaining parsley.

Here’s a link to the recipe on Bon Appetit.

Wine Pairing: Grillo, Sauvignon Blanc, Torrontes

Salt Seared Swordfish with Garlic and Mint


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.)

The raw sauce
The raw 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.)

The layer of salt
The layer of salt

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.)

The fish turned
The fish turned

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.

Serve immediately.

Wine Pairing: Grillo, Falanghina, Sauvignon Blanc

Swordfish Breaded Palermo Style


For me, one of the most attractive characteristics of Italian cooking has always been its simplicity–its recipes with minimal ingredients and simple preparation. As I child, I used to watch my mother and aunt in the kitchen turn out multi-course dinners for us, night after night, without breaking a sweat. They cooked from memory the simple dishes with which they themselves grew up. One such dish was baked fish coated with breadcrumbs, which hailed from my mother’s Sicilian family.

Yesterday, when I came home from the fish market with some beautifully fresh swordfish, I thought I would try to recreate my mother’s dish and started looking for a recipe.

My search led me to one from Arthur Schwartz’s The Southern Italian Table: “Pesce Spada Impanata,” or Swordfish Breaded Palermo Style. Thin cutlets of swordfish are coated with seasoned bread crumbs and quickly baked. The savory, garlicky coating perfectly complements the subtly sweet, meaty flavors of the swordfish.

I served the fish accompanied by another of my mother’s favorites, string beans sautéed with garlic and oil.

Swordfish Breaded Palermo Style from The Southern Italian Table

1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon roughly ground fennel seed
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound swordfish, cut into 1/4 inch thick cutlets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Lemon wedges

Place a rack on the highest rung of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450° F. (The position of the rack is important as it allows for a faster baking of the fish and the browning of the crumbs. RM)

Combine the breadcrumbs, salt, fennel seed, garlic, parsley, and 1 tablespoon of the oil on a large plate. Mix until all the bread crumbs are moistened with oil. (My breadcrumbs were quite dry and I needed to add a little more than the called-for tablespoon. RM)

Brush the fish slices lightly with the remaining tablespoon of oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Dredge each slice in the seasoned bread crumbs, pressing the crumbs into the fish so that each side is well coated. Arrange the fish slices on a baking sheet.

Bake the fish for 5 to 6 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature with lemon wedges.

My Note: Be sure to have your rack on the highest rung possible of your oven and to use a baking sheet without sides as opposed to a sheet pan with sides. Doing so will help the breading get more color. I did not have a baking sheet and had to put the fish under the broiler for the final minute or so to lightly brown the crumbs.

Wine Pairing: Grillo, un-oaked Chardonnay