HOME WITH THE LOST ITALIAN: Sicilian Swordfish and Rapini A healthy, fresh and flavorful meal
This week we continue our focus on healthy dishes with a Nasello family favorite: Sicilian-Style Swordfish and Rapini. Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, and fresh seafood is a staple ingredient in its cuisine, especially along the coastal regions.
Swordfish is prevalent in these waters, and its wonderfully mild flavor and firm, steak-like texture make it popular and versatile enough for a variety of dishes, including light and lemony preparations like today’s recipe.
Finding good, fresh seafood in our area can be a challenge, especially in the depths of winter. On a recent visit to our butcher, Meats by John and Wayne in Fargo, I noticed some exceptionally good-looking swordfish steaks in their seafood freezer.
Having owned a restaurant for 15 years that served only fresh seafood, Tony and I haven’t really explored the world of frozen fish, fearing that the contrast would be too great between fresh and frozen. But these swordfish steaks were vacuum packed, had great color and no icy frost, and with pricing at just about five dollars per steak, I couldn’t resist giving them a try.
I’m so glad I did, because I have found another favorite item to stock in our freezer. When I opened the vacuum seal, I expected to encounter a fishy odor, but there was none of that. These steaks had a faint brininess, but nothing strong or unpleasant. Their texture was supple and firm to the touch, without any of the wateriness that can occur with frozen fish.
Swordfish is easy to cook, and its mild flavor and meaty texture make it a popular choice even for non-fish eaters. Swordfish is hearty enough for the grill, but in winter months we’ll often sear it on the stove and finish it in the oven.
To make it Sicilian-style, a simple sauce of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, dried herbs and seasoning is prepared as the fish bakes. As soon as the fish comes out of the oven, use a fork to pierce multiple holes across each fillet, and then generously pour the sauce over the holes. The important factors here are the holes, which allow the flavors of the sauce to infuse the fish, and the heat – the fish must be hot when the sauce is added, to best amplify the flavor.
Rapini, (also known as broccoli rabe or raab), is another staple in Sicilian cuisine and a childhood favorite of Tony’s. With its little florets and leafy, long stalks, it looks like a cross between broccoli and spinach. Rapini has a pungent and pleasing bitterness, and it’s packed with protein and a bounty of nutrients that are vital for preventing and fighting cancer. We cook ours the same way Tony’s mother does — blanched in boiling water to soften the stalks and florets, then sauteed in extra virgin olive oil with slivers of garlic until tender.
The Mediterranean diet is often hailed as the healthiest in the world, and the Italians are committed to making sure it is also the most delicious. This meal embraces the very best of Sicilian cuisine — healthy, fresh and full of flavor.
4 swordfish steaks, 6 to 8 ounces each, skin and fat layer removed
2 tablespoons oil (vegetable or olive), for frying
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wrap a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up, and set aside.
Use a sharp knife to remove the tough skin and attached layer of fat from each fillet.
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of each fillet, then place in pan and cook on one side until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer to baking sheet, browned side up, and bake in a 400-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until the center appears white, opaque and slightly moist. Remove from oven.
Prepare the sauce as the fish bakes. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper until combined.
As soon as the fish is removed from the oven, use a fork to poke multiple holes in each fillet. Next, generously spoon the sauce over the holes until the top of each fillet is covered. Lightly cover fillets with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
1 bunch of rapini (also called broccoli raab or rabe)
1 to 2 garlic cloves, sliced into thin slivers
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the rapini and blanch in the boiling water for 2 minutes, until bright green and slightly tender. Immediately transfer to a large bowl filled with ice water and soak for 2 minutes, then drain on paper towels, patting to dry.
In a medium or large pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the rapini and slivered garlic, and toss to combine. Cook over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, until the stalks and florets are tender. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste (start with a pinch of each), toss and serve.
“Home With the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 13-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org. More recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com.