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The Ribeye of the Sea

Hey Neighbor,

At this point, you’ve probably dusted off the grill and picked up your pursuit of the perfect char. But while burgers, dogs and NY Strips have their place, sometimes your summer grilling needs a little dose of excitement. That’s where swordfish comes in.


Swordfish steaks are the ribeye of the sea—firm, flavorful, and sturdy enough to stand up to the high heat of the grill. If cooked correctly, swordfish, unlike silky salmon or flaky halibut, has the potential to offer a unique dense meatiness. This distinctive texture, combined with a sweet, mild flavor, can excite even a staunch carnivore. 


But cooked incorrectly, swordfish also has the potential to end up too soft and tacky, like the mushy texture of canned tuna. That’s because the fish contains enzymes called cathepsins. If the circumstances are right, the cathepsins will snip the proteins that give swordfish its sturdy texture, turning it soft. Although they’re ultimately destroyed by heat, cathepsins are increasingly active at low cooking temperatures. 


So in order to prevent giving the enzymes time to act, swordfish needs to be cooked quickly. The trick is cooking hot and fast, flipping more often than a typical steak, so the flesh stays firm while giving a smoky char. Whether marinated or simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of grilled lemon, swordfish delivers a punch of flavor, ideal for summer evenings. 


By choosing swordfish, you're contributing to the economic stability of our coastal communities. Swordfish are landed year round with peaks from June through October up and down the New England Coast as the boats follow these migratory fish. These fisheries adhere to strict regulations that ensure fish populations remain healthy and abundant and protect against overfishing and bycatch. Practices such as harpooning and deep-set buoy gear target swordfish specifically, minimizing the impact on other marine life.


So, as you light the charcoal, remember that each swordfish steak is a nod to responsible fishing practices that preserve our ocean's health and ensure that future generations can enjoy the same delightful flavors.


To celebrate, here’s a recipe from our friends at America's Test Kitchen that’s tailor made for a barbecue - pairing the rich, meaty flavor of swordfish with a lemony, garlicky, oregano-infused Sicilian staple that’s sure to be added to your summer grilling rotation.


Recipe: Grilled Swordfish Salmoriglio

(Sicilian Swordfish with Lemon, Garlic, and Herbs)

This workhorse sauce is stirred together from basic ingredients and always on hand to season grilled foods, particularly swordfish and other proteins. A nearly 1:1 ratio of lemon juice to olive oil made for a bracing sauce, and adding lemon zest boosted its aroma. As the cooked fish rested in the salmoriglio, it shed juices that slightly diluted the sauce's acidity and balanced its flavor. Plenty of dried oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper added savory, herbaceous character to the bright sauce. Applying it to the swordfish three times—before and after cooking, as well as alongside the fish for serving—meant every bite was full of flavor. 



Flipping the fish every 2 minutes during cooking ensured that heat continuously hit both sides of the flesh, promoting uniform doneness. Pulling the swordfish off the grill when it reached 130 degrees and letting carryover cooking bring it up to its serving temperature (140 degrees) prevented overcooking.


Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus ¼ cup juice (2 lemons)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds Walden swordfish steaks, 1 to 1½ inches thick, skin removed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided

Instructions:

  • Whisk oregano, lemon zest and juice, garlic, 1¼ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in bowl until salt is dissolved. Whisk in oil.
  • Arrange swordfish in single layer in shallow pan or dish. Pour half of marinade over fish, flipping steaks to ensure both sides are evenly covered. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or up to 45 minutes. Whisk 1½ tablespoons parsley into remaining marinade and set aside.
  • FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
  • FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high; cover; and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn other burner(s) to medium-high.
  • Clean and oil cooking grate. Remove fish from marinade, letting excess drip off (do not pat dry). Sprinkle both sides with remaining ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Place fish on hotter side of grill and cook (covered if using gas), flipping every 2 minutes, until steaks develop dark grill marks and register 130 to 135 degrees, 7 to 11 minutes.
  • Transfer fish to clean shallow pan or dish and pour reserved marinade over top. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest until centers register 140 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer fish to serving platter or individual plates and sprinkle with remaining 1½ teaspoons parsley. Transfer sauce in pan to small bowl. Serve, passing sauce separately.


And there you have it—a dish that’s not only delicious but also a testament to the responsible practices and economic vitality of New England’s fisheries. This summer, make swordfish the centerpiece of your grilling adventures, and savor the flavor of responsible, local cuisine. Happy grilling!