Back in the old neighborhood, swordfish was a mainstay in our diet. Reason was that, now as then, in the island of Puerto Rico swordfish was readily available. This transferred over to our time in Spanish Harlem. In the marqueta, the market place on 116th street, swordfish was cheap, and it was cooked in every way possible. One of our favorite recipes was swordfish steaks cooked in lemon sauce (lemons were also very cheap and it made for an exceptional dish). Pez de Espada con Salsa de Limón, as my parents termed it, could be done today on a barbeque grill as well. We didn't barbecue in the Barrio, we just grilled these suckers in the oven.
One of the complaints I've gotten is that, in our cooking, it is traditional to pound the fresh herbs in a mortar and pestle. These, either wood, metal, or ceramic, can be found in almost any hardware or kitchen store. For those of you who don't have a mortar and pestle (think of the kind used by old pharmacists), you can substitute by pounding the seasonings between sheets of wax paper, using a cleaver or mallet. Just make sure the edges of the wax paper are rolled up so you don't have spices flying all over the kitchen.
In the old days the usual accompaniment to this dish was rice or potatoes. I recently did it with millet, an ancient grain common to Asia and Africa that is also rich ion iron, phosphorous and B-vitamins. It's also quite tasty, and it goes great with pez de espada. Let me add, this swordfish recipe and others like it can be found in my first cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Avalon Books - Running Press).
PEZ DE ESPADA CON SALSA DE LIMÓN
(Swordfish Steaks in Lemon Sauce)
4 swordfish steaks, 6 to 8 ounces each (can substitute halibut or any other white fish steak)
7-8 whole black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon fresh or dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1. Wash steaks under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. In a mortar, crush peppercorns, garlic, oregano, basil and salt. Add lemon juice and olive oil.
3. Place fish in a shallow dish. Add marinade; turn to coat both sides of fish.
4. Cover and set aside for 1 hour, turning once.
5. Place fish on a greased broiling pan (I prefer cast-iron) and broil at a distance of about 4 inches from heat source. Broil 5 to 6 minutes per side, brushing frequently with marinade.
Yield: 4 servings.
Labels: Avalon Books, Barbecue grill, Cook, Grilling, Olive oil, Puerto Rican cuisine, Puerto Rico, Swordfish Steaks with Mango and Avocado Salsa