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Swordfish: Meatiest of all seafood is a treat on nutrition, prep

| Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

I'm just as susceptible as the next guy to the onslaught of media hype scolding us to replace bad fats, sweets and red meat with whole grains, good carbs and fish.

So, I'm cutting down on beef steaks and ramping up on fish steaks.

They're fancy enough for a Valentine dinner and versatile enough for a Lenten meal.

I figured I'd start with swordfish, among the meatiest of all seafood. Its nutritional profile isn't all that different from that of sirloin, except it has something beef doesn't: more than a gram per serving of treasured, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. And thanks to smart fishery management, the stock of Atlantic swordfish that was so decimated in the 1990s has been rebuilt, to the point where it is considered an environmentally friendly dining choice.

But it's not cheap, so you'll want to be sure to use every bit of it.

Swordfish's meaty texture and its mild, lightly sweet qualities lend themselves to basic preparations, such as simply grilling steaks and dressing them with olive oil, lemon, herbs and perhaps a touch of garlic. To that end, I found myself drawn to regional styles of cooking that lack affectation: Basque, Japanese, Italian and Provencal. Those styles were born where seafood is a staple, and the quality of the catch is so superlative, cooks understand not to muck about with it.

At first glance, cooking a dense fish such as swordfish is not as tricky a process as it is for more delicate fish, but it still requires attention.

Overcooking is deadly for any fish, but for swordfish it's particularly heinous. With the leached moisture goes any hint of flavor, and the texture becomes pasty. Undercooked, it is rubbery. Unlike, say, salmon, which doesn't dry out as much as it cooks, swordfish needs to be served medium well, to the point where it is just cooked through but still juicy.

To guard against overcooking, you have to cut steaks 34 to 1 inch thick; any thinner and they would be past the point of no return in the blink of an eye. Insert a remote thermometer into a steak and set it at 120 to 125 degrees. That takes out the guesswork. Poking a piece of swordfish to test for doneness doesn't work; it feels just as hard at medium and medium well as at well done. A thick piece of swordfish is also hard to finish on the stove: It gets too hard on the outside before it is done on the inside. Searing on one side only, then turning the fish over and finishing in the oven avoids the risk of overcooking.

As much as I love it, swordfish does come with caveats. Like mackerel, shark and tilefish, it contains relatively high levels of mercury, so the FDA recommends consumption in moderation for most eaters and warns pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children to skip it.

David Hagedorn is a contributing writer to The Washington Post.

Glazed Swordfish ‘Chops' With Shiso-Ginger Dressing and Tamago

Shiso leaves have a fresh, bright, herbal taste — like a combination of cilantro, basil and lemon — that makes them a perfect complement to meaty swordfish.

Tamago is a thin Japanese omelet, usually flavored with mirin and soy sauce and often rolled, pressed into a brick and cut into spiral slices. In this recipe, seared swordfish steaks fashioned into “chops” rest on lightly salted omelet strips.

Make ahead: The fish needs to marinate in the fridge for 1 hour. The dressing needs to sit for 1 hour. The marinade and dressing can be refrigerated a day in advance.

Note: Trim the swordfish steaks to look like rib chops by first removing the skin. Use a sharp knife to separate a 1-inch-wide strip of flesh from the eye of the steak, which will be clearly visible, but leave it still attached. Bend back the strip to resemble the rib of a pork chop.

14 cup mirin

4 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari

12-inch piece peeled gingerroot, grated (2 teaspoons)

4 teaspoons Chinese chili oil

Two 6-ounce skin-on swordfish steaks, with all traces of bloodline removed, cut into 34-inch-thick “chops” (see note)

1 green onion, white and light-green parts, chopped

2 teaspoons pickled ginger, chopped

13 small serrano pepper, cut crosswise into very thin slices

1 green shiso leaf, plus 2 for garnish (see headnote)

2 large eggs

Pinch salt

Sugar, for sprinkling the fish

1 teaspoon canola oil

Combine the mirin, soy sauce and grated ginger in a small bowl. Transfer half of the mixture to a quart-size resealable plastic food storage bag.

Add the chili oil to the bag, then add the swordfish. Seal, pressing out as much air as possible, and massage to coat evenly. Make sure the steaks are flat; refrigerate for a total of 1 hour, turning them over after 30 minutes.

Add the green onion, pickled ginger and serrano pepper to the mirin mixture in the bowl. Roll up the shiso leaf and cut it into thin strips. Stir them into the mixture. Cover and let sit for 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 220 degrees. Lightly beat the eggs with the salt in a medium bowl.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When it is quite hot, grease it with nonstick cooking oil spray.

Pour in the egg mixture and swirl the skillet so the mixture evenly coats the bottom, as if you were making a crepe. Use a flexible spatula to push some of the set edges toward the center, turning the skillet so that any uncooked egg mixture fills any empty space. Once the tamago omelet has set, remove from the heat. Use the spatula to dislodge one side of the tamago from one side of the skillet. Use your fingers to quickly lift and flip the tamago. Let it sit in the skillet for 30 seconds, then invert it onto a cutting board.

Remove the steaks from the marinade (discarding the marinade) and blot them dry on paper towels. Sprinkle them lightly on one side with sugar.

Heat the canola oil in a medium nonstick, ovenproof saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the fish, sugared sides down; sear for about 3 minutes or until nicely caramelized.

Turn the steaks over. Transfer to the oven; bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each steak registers 125 degrees. Let the fish rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, roll up the tamago omelet and cut it crosswise into 12-inch-wide strips.

To serve, form a decorative pile of the tamago strips in the center of each plate. Place a swordfish chop on top of each portion, then spoon the dressing over each chop. Garnish each with a whole shiso leaf. Serve right away.

Makes 2 servings.

Nutrition: Ingredients are too varied for a meaningful analysis.

Swordfish Salad Tonnato With Cara Cara-Parsley Dressing

Tonnato (from “tonno,” Italian for tuna) is a creamy sauce often served with thin slices of cold roast veal. Here, the sauce gives a boost of flavor to mild, meaty swordfish. We call for Italian canned tuna here because it imparts nice flavor.

The Cara Cara oranges in this salad lend beautiful color and a bright floral note.

Make ahead: The dressing and tonnato can be refrigerated (separately) a day in advance.

For the tonnato, fish and salad:

2 Cara Cara oranges

5 ounces canned, oil-packed Italian tuna, such as Cento brand (reserve the oil)

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 pound skinless swordfish steak, cut into 1-inch cubes


Freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces red leaf lettuce leaves or salad mix of your choice

For the dressing

1 or 2 Cara Cara oranges

1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 teaspoons capers, drained and chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar

12 teaspoon salt

12 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the tonnato, fish and salad: Use a serrated knife to slice off the ends of the fruit. Place the oranges on a cutting board and remove their peels and white pith, leaving as much of the fruit intact as possible. Holding the fruit in your hands, carefully cut between the membranes to separate the segments; place them in a bowl.

Squeeze any juice from the fruit membranes and trimmed bits into a liquid measuring cup, to be reserved for the dressing.

Combine the tuna fish and its oil with the lemon juice in a food processor. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a squeeze bottle.

Heat the canola oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.

Season the cubes of fish well with salt and pepper. Add to the pan and cook, stirring, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the fish cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

For the dressing: Use a Microplane grater to zest the oranges. If you have less than 12 cup reserved juice from cutting the salad oranges into segments, squeeze the juice from 1 or 2 oranges to yield 12 cup total. Reserve any leftover juice for another use.

Combine the parsley, capers, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, the orange zest and 12 cup of orange juice in a blender. Puree until smooth.

When ready to assemble, add any juices that have accumulated in the pan of cooked swordfish to the parsley dressing.

Place the greens in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with 34 cup of the dressing, tossing to coat evenly, then divide the dressed greens among individual plates. Arrange equal portions of the swordfish cubes on each salad.

Squeeze 2 tablespoons of the tonnato over each portion, then arrange the orange segments on top. Use the remaining 14 cup of dressing to finish/garnish each serving.

Makes 4 main-course servings.

Nutrition per serving: 350 calories, 32 grams protein, 13 grams carbohydrates, 19 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 65 milligrams cholesterol, 610 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 6 grams sugar

Pan-Seared Swordfish With Orange Piperade

Piperade is a Basque tomato and pepper stew. A mix of red, yellow and orange bell peppers makes a nice presentation. The stew is flavored with piment d'espelette, a spice made from dried, ground mild red peppers indigenous to the Basque region in France.

You'll have a bit of leftover piperade, which can be used as a side dish, stirred into a quick soup or pasta sauce or served with toast and poached eggs for breakfast.

To guard against overcooking, use a digital thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the fish, which should be 125 degrees.

Make ahead: The piperade can be made and refrigerated a day in advance. Reheat it in a microwave on high for several minutes before baking with the swordfish. From David Hagedorn.

For the piperade:

12 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped (1 cup)

1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch squares

1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch squares

1 medium orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch squares

1 teaspoon kosher salt

28 ounces canned whole peeled plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed with your hands, plus their juices

8 cloves garlic, cut crosswise into thin slices

12 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon ground piment d'espelette (see headnote)

1 teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus a few picked leaves for garnish

For the fish:

Four 6-ounce skinless swordfish steaks, cut 34-inch thick

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons canola oil

Excellent-quality extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

Heat the oven to 220 degrees. Have at hand a baking dish large enough to hold all of the swordfish steaks in a single layer.

For the piperade: Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high until the oil shimmers. Add the onion, bell peppers and salt, stirring to coat evenly. Reduce the heat to medium; cook the vegetables gently until the peppers are soft, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the garlic, orange juice, piment d'espelette and smoked paprika. Increase the heat to medium-high; once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed so the mixture gently bubbles. Stir in the thyme. Transfer 4 cups of the piperade to the baking dish, spreading it evenly. You will have about 2 cups of leftover piperade to save for another use.

For the fish: Season the steaks well on both sides with salt and pepper. Wipe out the large saute pan and place over medium-high heat.

Add the oil; when it is hot and shimmering, add the steaks and sear on the first sides for about 3 minutes until nicely browned.

Transfer to the baking dish, uncooked side down. Do not overlap the steaks. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or as needed; an instant digital-read thermometer inserted into the center of the steaks should register 125 degrees.

Divide the piperade evenly among wide, shallow bowls or individual plates. Top each portion with a swordfish steak. Drizzle the fish and piperade with a little olive oil, then garnish with the thyme leaves. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition per serving: 460 calories, 36 grams protein, 14 grams carbohydrates, 28 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 65 milligrams cholesterol, 550 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 8 grams sugar

Panko-Stuffed Swordfish Roast

This entree is dinner-party worthy. Ask your fishmonger for a center-cut chunk of skin-on swordfish (with no bloodline on it), about 5 inches long and 4 inches high — akin to a small rib roast.

Creating pockets in the roast and stuffing them imparts flavor and moisture to each slice and makes a lovely presentation. You'll need kitchen twine.

To guard against overcooking, use a digital thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the fish, which should be 125 degrees.

Serve with Brussels sprouts or asparagus, or perhaps parslied potatoes.

Make ahead: The stuffing mixture can be made and refrigerated a day in advance. The roast can be prepped and refrigerated several hours before it is baked. From David Hagedorn.

12 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 teaspoons capers, drained

1 medium clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves

2 cups plain panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton)

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

13 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 lemons)

1 teaspoon chopped rosemary leaves

One 2-pound, 4-ounce piece of skin-on swordfish, cut from one side of the center, with all traces of bloodline removed

Use a tablespoon of the oil to grease the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Heat the remaining 12 cup of the oil with the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until the butter foams. Add the capers and cook for 1 minute, until they blister. Stir in the garlic and thyme; cook for 15 seconds. Add the bread crumbs, paprika, the teaspoon of salt and teaspoon of pepper, the lemon juice and rosemary, stirring until thoroughly incorporated. Let cool.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lay a long piece of kitchen twine horizontally down the center of a cutting board. With its long side facing you, center the swordfish on top of the twine, skin side down. (This is so you can tie the roast together after you finish stuffing it.) Cut five equidistant slices into the swordfish, making sure to stop slicing a half-inch before you reach the skin (at the bottom). This will create flaps that enclose the stuffing, and a total of 6 slices. Season each slice lightly with salt and pepper.

Fill each opening with an equal amount of the stuffing, pressing it in gently. As stuffing falls onto the cutting board, press it back between the slices of the fish. Don't worry if the roast looks a little messy. Tie the whole roast together with the twine to keep the end slices from collapsing as they cook. Transfer the tied roast to the baking dish, sprinkling any crumbs from the cutting board evenly over the roast.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour; an instant digital-read thermometer inserted into one of the center slices should register 125 degrees.

Discard the twine. Carve through to the bottom of the roast to separate the 6 slices. Serve each one with plenty of stuffing.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition per serving: 490 calories, 36 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 75 milligrams cholesterol, 560 milligrams sodium, 1 grams dietary fiber, 0 grams sugar

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