Thursday, October 15, 2009

Indonesian Grilled Swordfish

A few days ago, Dan and I trekked over to the Whole Foods in Richmond's west end to do some shopping. Now, you'd think that with a Ukrops, Kroger, and Ellwood Thomson's (a natural food store) all practically within walking distance of the house, there would be no need to drive 15 minutes to Short Pump to go grocery shopping. Well, you'd be wrong. 

Make no mistake, for most things I just head over to Ukrops and can find most of the basic necessities for everyday cooking and eating; plus, since they're locally owned and like to imagine Richmond is still a small town, they routinely carry your bags out to your car for you. Now if they would only help you bring them into the house...but I guess that's what I have Dan for. Anyway, Ukrops is nice in its own right but its produce, and particularly its protein selection is a bit lackluster. So when Dan and I found ourselves close to the Short Pump area, we decided to stop in and see what goodies we could find.

Now, I've never been to a Whole Foods before. WHAT?! You say. Yes, Charlottesville had a Whole Foods, but I never felt the need to do my shopping there while I was in school. Harris Teeter worked just fine for me. Virginia Beach has a Fresh Market, and a Trader Joe's (finally!), but no Whole Foods, so I didn't really know what to expect. Basically, I thought I would be walking into just another Fresh Market. Boy, was I wrong. (Mom, once you read this you're going to be really jealous, just so you know. Sorry, in advance.)

This Whole Foods was huge. The produce department was impressive and had a lot of greens you don't see in regular grocery stores. But most impressive were the selections of proteins. Their meat and seafood departments had huge cases fully stocked with fresh produce. Much of the seafood had been wild caught and there was such a selection, I didn't know what to choose. One of the dishes I will be making is a bay scallop gratin, but the note in the recipe suggests bay scallops can be hard to find.

Apparently Ina has never been to Whole Foods.

There was a huge tray of them! I asked one of the employees working behind the counter how often they carried bay scallops and the response? "Oh, daily." YAY!! I know you're thinking, Ok Morgan, enough about the scallops, this post is suppossed to be about swordfish. Since I know the bay scallops will be waiting for me until I return, I chose a beautiful piece of swordfish and asked them to remove the skin and cut it into two portions.

Before I go on with the recipe, just one last thing. Yes, Whole Foods is great and all, but why is it that I can't just go to one grocery store and get everything I need? Although Whole Foods has great produce and meat and fish, since they're an upscale, somewhat "natural" food store, they don't carry cheap generic brands of rarely-used ingredients like cider vinegar or honey, nor do they have the name brand items we need on a daily basis. Where are my Honey Bunches of Oats or the Morningstar Buffalo "Chicken" tenders I like? Oh, that's right. They're back at Ukrops... Looks like I'll be seeing more of Short Pump than I thought.

Alright, on to the swordfish.

First, I made the marinade, which the fish was to soak in for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Here are the ingredients:

In one ramekin (the darker liquid) is soy sauce and canola oil. In the other ramekin is lemon zest and juice. I also used garlic (in the middle) and ginger, both of which I minced. Last was Dijon mustard, and of course, the fish. Please notice the newspaper-like wrapping the fish is in. Oh, that Whole Foods... so clever!

I combined all the marinade ingredients together in one ramekin and rinsed and dried the fish.

I know this marinade may not look like much, but it smelled so good. Something about the combination of the ginger, lemon, and soy was so aromatic and I started to think this could be a very promising dish. I layered half the marinade in the bottom of a tupperware, layed the fish on top, and poured the rest of the marinade over top.

This hung out in the fridge while I ran some more errands, including visiting the Farmer's Market I mentioned earlier, but sorry, you won't get to hear about that until my next post. While the recipe suggests to marinate this overnight, it also warns not to leave it too long or the soy sauce, which acts as a tenderizer, will make the fish mushy. Since I marinated this in the early afternoon, I was concerned about leaving it for more than 24 hours, and decided to cook it that night instead. 

Once the fish had been marinating for about 4 1/2 hours, I preheated the grill.

Ok, Dan preheated it, but I supervised.

After about 30 minutes, when the grill was hot, we (read: Dan) brushed it with oil to prevent the fish from sticking. After ensuring Dan didn't need medical attention for the burn he suffered to his knuckle, I got the fish from the fridge and sprinkled one side liberally with salt. You'll remember that there was no salt or pepper in this marinade and I did not salt and pepper the fish before placing it in the marinade. The recipe specifically instructs to be generous with the salt here, so, ignoring Dan's grimace, I salted away. Using tongs I placed the salted side down on the grill, allowing some of the ginger from the marinade to stick to the fish, as instructed. I then salted the other side of the fish and left it alone to cook.

Swordfish is a thick fish and cooks for about 10 minutes, 5 minutes per side. Nevertheless, I stood watch to ensure everything went smoothly.
Just call me Bobby Flay

After about 5 minutes on the first side, I flipped the steaks over with only a little difficulty due to some stick-age. As fish cooks it gets more delicate and can fall apart. Although I was able to flip these with tongs so they remained intact, a spatula may have been an easier tool to use, and was what I used when I removed the steaks from the grill after another 5 minutes. I placed the cooked fish on a plate, covered it tightly with tinfoil , and let it rest for about 10 minutes. And here is the final plating presentation


Let me just say, with this dish, I totally redeemed myself after the cape cod salad debacle. I'm not a big fish-lover, but swordfish is one of my few favorites. It's very substantial and meaty, (hence swordfish steaks as opposed to fillets) and is not fishy at all. The flavor this marinade infused into the fish was outstanding. The lemon stood out, but in a subtle way; it didn't hit me over the head like the orange did in the cape cod salad. Instead, all the other flavors in the marinade complimented and balanced the lemon, letting it shine. Even though I only marinated the fish for the minimum amount of time, it still had so much flavor. I'm not sure marinating it over night would have made much of a difference, and if it had, the marinade might actually have been too strong. 

The cook time was also accurate, although the very center of Dan's piece seemed slightly underdone. His piece might have been a little thicker, or perhaps we're both just paranoid and it was actually fine. Either way, he's still alive and well today so I guess it was ok. Also, allowing the fish to rest under foil kept it nice and juicy so it wasn't too dry. This is definitely a dish I'll be making again, probably for my mom since I know how much she likes swordfish.

And to make up for the fact that she doesn't have a Whole Foods. 

Make this when: you want to impress a date with your cooking skills. All the prep is done hours before and it only takes 10 minutes on the grill. Boys, you get to look all rugged and manly at your fire pit; and ladies, you look confident and capable, able to handle one of the boys' toys. Of course, you can always bat your eyelashes, feign ignorance, and let your man handle the tongs. Sometimes its best to let them think they're in charge.

Next Course: Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette 


  1. My favorite post (and meal) so far! I'm not sure the pictures quite do these swordfish steaks justice. They turned out absolutely delicious and beautiful. One thing people might also want to know is that the 24 hour marination should be reserved for when you pair with a robust side dish. The four hour time used here was perfect for rice and string beans.

    So good. Can't wait for the salad.

  2. I LOVED this post! Incredibly cute! The fish looked great and your writing was wonderful and incredibly entertaining! The "Make This When" section of this post was adorable and right on. I only hope I am home when you decide to make this for Mom!

    xoxo can't wait to hear about the butternut squash!

  3. Mmmm this looked so yummy. Your posts are just getting better and better. I'm really excited about this recipe because it looks like something I could make on the boat with little difficulty. Or maybe we could have it for dinner next time you visit.

  4. I am sorry I am so delayed in responding but some of us do work and therefore need to have their lovely daughter come home (preferably with Dan to do the grilling)do make this wonderful dish which as noted above is my favorite fish. I also expect you to stop at Whole Foods on the way - what no time, remember 9 mos of pregnancy, many hours of labor...


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