Friday, August 22, 2008

Oriental Swordfish

As a former vegetarian (I sometimes say vegetarian emeritus) I am still a bit squeamish about eating meat. Somehow eating only fish and fowl makes it easier for me to justify my new status since these creatures are relatively small. Eating chicken or a fish doesn’t seem quite as cruel as eating cow or pig. I regularly eat salmon, tuna, octopus and shrimp, but this week I tried my largest animal yet – swordfish. While the Trader Joe's package was quite small, a little bit of research reminded me that swordfish are among the largest animals in the ocean. They can reach up to 15 feet in length and weigh upwards of 1400 pounds.

Linnaeus first described the swordfish in 1758 providing the scientific name still in use today Xiphias gladius (gladius is Latin for sword). Swordfish are named for their sharp elongated bill which is used to slash (not stab) prey. They are agile, powerful fighters that have few natural enemies besides sharks and whales. Popular culture often references human deaths by swordfish, though this is relatively rare except when the fish are harpooned. They can put up a vigorous fight – damaging boats and their captors.

In the late 1990s the “Give Swordfish a Break Campaign” encouraged a number of prominent chefs to stop serving swordfish and led to a ban on harvesting swordfish in the Northern Atlantic. Later a Pacific ban on swordfish was enacted to protect sea turtles, whales and other creatures caught in the longlines that fisherman use to capture swordfish. As contested as swordfish harvesting is in the United States, many other countries are avid harvesters including Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Greece.

As with other wild fish, mercury toxicity is a concern. The USDA warns pregnant women not to consume swordfish and others to limit intake to one serving a week.

Despite these concerns, swordfish continues to be popular in American, Asian and Mediterranean cuisines. The fish is among the most dense and “meaty”, making it amenable to a variety of preparations and widely used as an alternative to beef or pork (as in swordfish burgers and kebabs). This recipe is quick and flavorful.

Serves 2

1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 shallot, minced
pinch dried hot red pepper flakes
2 swordfish steaks (6-8 ounces each)

1. In a bowl stir together all ingredients (except fish) until combined well.
2. Pour 3/4 into a shallow dish. Reserve 1/4 in the bowl.
3. Marinate defrosted fish steaks, covered and chilled for 1-4 hours. Turn several times during marination.
4. Grill fish on a barbeque, indoor grill or broil in the oven. This will take about 3-5 minutes on each side. Check after a few minutes - do not overcook.
5. Serve topped with a little bit of reserved sauce. The sauce can also be drizzled on vegetables and rice.

No comments: