Monday, May 16, 2011

Swordfish over Linguine with Wine, Tomatoes, Chile and Capers

        Before making this dish, I checked on the status of one of my most favorite of all seafoods, Swordfish. By 1999,  the North Atlantic swordfish was on its way to oblivion.  Years of overfishing had led to dire predictions.  Undaunted by high mercury levels, the popularity of the fish was rapidly bringing about its demise.   Fortunately, the Natural Resources Defense Council and SeaWeb, an international non-profit dedicated to ocean issues launched a highly successful campaign to save the Swordfish. 
(Xiphias gladius; from Greek ξίφος: sword, and Latin gladius: sword)
With a campaign called “Give Swordfish a Break”, the NRDC and SeaWeb got new fishing restrictions in place, and after just a few years under the new regime, North Atlantic swordfish populations recovered to near-healthy levels.  International quota restrictions were put in place and Swordfish nusery areas in US waters were closed to fishing.  In a truly remarkable feat, the campaign mobilized the food community. Endorsed by  27 prominent chefs, they quickly enlisted the support of an additional 700 chefs at restaurants around the country. They all agreed to support the "Give Swordfish a Break Pledge," by not to serving the fish in their restaurants. Two years later, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas determined that swordfish had reached 94 percent of full recovery.  This is great news to those of us who love the fish but there still is that lingering mercury issue.   Swordfish is notoriously high in mercury content and it’s to be avoided by pregnant women and young children altogether.  Even men are cautioned to keep their intake to once a week.  That being said, my indulgence is less than that.  And this dish is certainly worth enjoying. 
Its author is a woman named Aglaia Kremezi.  I found the recipe in “Best of the Best Cookbooks” from Food and Wine.  It owes its place there to a cookbook Ms. Kremezi created called “Mediterranean Hot and Spicy” (Broadway Books 2009).  Ms. Kremezi is Greek and a resident of the island of Kea in the Cyclades.  She knows her way around the Mediterranean and gives credit for her Swordfish recipe to Calabria, which is the ‘toe’ on the boot of Italy.
This recipe is very easy to make and packs a wonderfully fresh taste. The sauce has a definite kick to it but don’t be put off by the “Hot and Spicy” label.  It is a sweet-tangy tomato-chile sauce that gives the swordfish a lift.  In fact, it’s one of those dishes which you will want to serve with some crusty bread – a baguette, peasant loaf or ciabbata—to sop up the juices.  I also loved putting the fish and sauce atop a bed of linguine.  It was a magical combination.   Here is the recipe:
Recipe for Swordfish with Wine, Tomatoes, Chile and Capers
Olive Oil
2 Cups of Red and Yellow Onions, sliced
Sea Salt
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar, or more to taste
1 - 3 peperoncini thinly sliced.
2 Cup Fresh Tomatoes, chopped or 14 oz of good quality canned Plum tomatoes w/juice
1/4 Cup Capers, salt-packed, rinsed well & drained
1/2 - 1 tsp Honey or Sugar, to taste
6 - 7 ounce Swordfish Steaks, 1 per person. (Sauce Recipe is for 4)
1/2 teas Freshly Ground Black Pepper mixed with
1 tsp Ground Coriander Seeds
2 Tbsp. Fresh Flat-Leaf Parsley, chopped for garnish

Heat 3 - 4 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the onion, sprinkle with salt, and saute, stirring often until soft and light golden, about 10 minutes. Add wine, vinegar, and peperoncini and toss for 30 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the capers and 1/2 tsp. honey and cook for another 8 - 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Taste and adjust the flavor with more chile, vinegar, or honey. It should be quite intense.

Transfer to a bowl and wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel. Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the fish steaks with salt and rub with the pepper-coriander mixture. Add to the hot skillet and saute for 2 - 3 minutes per side, until firm but still almost raw in the center.

Add the sauce, bring to a boil, and cook for about 5 minutes until just cooked through. Let the fish and sauce cool while you make the linguine according to package instructions. Drain and then combine pasta and some of the sauce.  Place swordfish and remaining sauce on top of the pasta.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve warm or at room temperature.