Discover more from EDIBLE LIVING by Sarah Copeland
THE BIG FISH
A go-big-or-go-home dinner to end summer with a bang.
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We are back from a short week in Cape Cod, beaching and stuffing our faces with seafood. It wasn’t the sparkly, magical vacation of August’s past (Italy, Croatia), but that’s a story for another time. What we got right, though, we really got right— fish tacos and poke bowls at the Wellfleet Drive-In, evenings at dreamy deserted beaches accessed only by bike, and a big-bang seafood dinner at the finish with bowls of juicy steamers, meaty crab cakes, briny oysters, lobster bisque, spot-on clam chowder and the whole fried fish platter with clams and shrimp and cod—which put us way over the edge, but it was worth it.
The fish market where we had this last meal on our slow drive off the Cape also supplies fresh seafood to half the East Coast (and anyone else who wants it, via mail). They had several tanks of enormous live lobsters—including one giant 7-pounder they guessed to be 40 to 50 years old—plus ample big game fish cut to perfection: Tuna, Halibut, and several thick, generous slabs of Swordfish.
As good as vacation food is, sometimes the very best meal is the one you cook at home, so when you get the chance to take home an epic slab of Swordfish, you take it.
Swordfish was a big no-no for many years—overfished and endangered. But thankfully, years of slowing down consumption and supporting the right fisheries* have replenished the stock. Swordfish is oft reputed to be dry, which is true if it’s overcooked—but cooked correctly, it is meaty and melt-in-your-mouth. Because it is so thick, you can cook it like a steak—hard sear, gentle finish to get buttery, moist insides.
The real charm of a giant piece of fish is that it’s easy to cook for a crowd—without standing over the stove or grill flipping individual pieces (which is tricky, at best).
Yes, big game fish are expensive, but on occasion, as a splurge, they are meaty masterpieces that will rival a good rib eye and IMO, better than red meat on the second day (should there be any leftovers.)
This Swordfish gets a classic treatment with a glug of good olive oil, your favorite olives, and ripe, in-season tomatoes. People have been cooking white fish with tomatoes and olives for as long as there have been fishermen…for as long as there has been Italy! Or France (think: "fish en papillote”—the no-fail way to make fish!). But for the last weekend of summer, you may want to dress it up a little. Make it special.
*FISH LOVERS SHOULD KNOW:
When buying any fish or seafood outside of local waters, it’s smart to check with SEAFOOD WATCH for what’s safe and the best fisheries to support sustainability and health.
This dish takes cues from Sicily’s classic Pesce Spada alla Siciliana, slightly stripped back. A true Pesca Spada Alla Siciliana leans heavily on the tomatoes (cooked, not raw) and adds in capers, raisins, and pine nuts (yum!). I’ve left those out here, ala Kendra Vaculin’s summery interpretation of this classic, but added something surprising instead: FRIED LEEKS.
And that’s where this dish transforms.
Leeks are an ingredient I often forget about, but they are the unsung hero of this dish and any other fish dinner you want to give the same treatment: they get crispy and golden, lending a perfect complement to the olives and tomatoes.
The recipe is below, with a few other tweaks (fresh mint, cracked coriander…), with my well wishes for the last days of summer. I’ll be back with an essay for paid subscribers later this weekend (maybe? It is a holiday, after all).
I’m taking next week off of the newsletter to focus on getting my kids back to school and catching up on some deadlines for a big baking project—but when I’m back, we’ll have lots of fall-leaning recipes and oodles of travel guides from the entire last year—including Michigan, Croatia, Cape Cod, and Vienna. Hang tight, my fellow wanderlusters; I have treats for you.
UPDATE ON AUBRIE: enormous thanks to everyone who donated directly or signed up for a paid subscription in support of Aubrie Pick. Together, we raised $350 for Aubrie’s urgent medical funds, added to a pool of over $171,000 donated thus far from those who love Aubrie. Thank you for your love and generosity. xo
SEARED SWORDFISH WITH TOMATOES, OLIVES, AND FRIZZLED LEEKS*
One 1 1/2-inch thick, 18 oz swordfish steak or two 1-inch thick swordfish steaks (about 12 oz. each)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons coriander seed, cracked
4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus for frying leeks
1 lb small heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved, quartered if large
½ cup Castelvetrano olives, Kalamata olives, or a blend of olives, pitted and smashed
1 Tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
½ cup fresh parsley, torn
1/4 cup small mint leaves, torn (optional)
Two cloves garlic, smashed
1 to 2 large leeks, trimmed and washed well, thinly sliced
lemon, quartered, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Season both sides of the fish with salt, pepper, and cracked coriander seeds. Add to a shallow bowl; pour over a generous glug of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons). Turn to coat and “drown” the fish.
Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, olives, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, vinegar, parsley, and mint in a bowl and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.
Prep a griddle or large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the pan. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is just starting to turn golden, about 2 minutes.
Add the fish to the pan, along with any additional oil; sear until golden on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes for smaller steaks or 4 minutes for one larger one. Turn and cook on the other side for 2 minutes more. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook on low until just opaque throughout, 5 to 12 minutes more, depending on the size and thickness of the steak (two smaller steaks may only need 5 minutes; a larger one will take more). Transfer to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm.
Return the pan to the stovetop over medium heat and cook the leeks in the remaining oil until golden and crispy, seasoning with sea salt halfway through. Uncover the fish and spoon the relish and all the juices over the top. Sprinkle with fried leeks and serve warm.
Serves 4 to 6
COOK’S NOTE: This would work exceptionally well on the grill, if (duh!) you’re grilling for the last weekend of summer. Grill over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes per side for two smaller steaks. Move to the cooler side of the grill and cover to cook through if needed for thicker steaks.
This relish will work beautifully with a large cut of salmon, halibut or even red snapper (smaller and more flaky, so cooking times will be entirely different). For a classic Sicilian pesce spada alla Siciliana, add capers, raisins and pine nuts to the relish, and use either brown or green olives—or both.
FOUR MORE SUMMERY FISH SUPPERS
And, if you’re looking for a Lobster Roll recipe to end the season (we ate those in Cape Cod, too), this one gets rave reviews.
Photos by Kate Sears. Styling by Sarah Copeland and Kate Sears. *Recipe adapted from Grilled Swordfish with Tomatoes by Kendra Vaculin for Bon Appetit.