Swordfish Sicilian Style  

Pesce Spada alla Siciliana 

Pisci Spata Cunzatu 

 

 

My mother, who specialized in frying, prepared the swordfish, sliced ½ inch thick, pan fried usually 4 to 5 minutes on each side and served with lemon’s wedges and potato salad.  

When cooking swordfish at the Focacceria Palermitana, we followed our father’s recipe that he claimed was truly “alla Siciliana” or Sicilian style: we briefly fried the slices of floured swordfish, sprinkled the steaks with a delicate sauce to enhance its taste and savor, and baked for a few minutes. 

This sauce was made not to overwhelm the mild flavored flesh of the swordfish; however it had a definitive Sicilian accent due to the presence of capers, olives, raisins and pine nuts, which inspired my father to call it Sicilian style. 

Swordfish Sicilian Style was very successful as well a convenient and easy dish to prepare. In fact the sauce can be prepared ahead of time, the swordfish can be fried a few hours in advance, assembled at the last minute, quickly baked and served fresh hot from the oven to our customers. 

The usual recommendation is to use fresh and wholesome fish and not spoil it by overcooking or by adding too much sauce. 

At home the sauce can be prepared in advance and kept refrigerated up to 2 days; the swordfish can be fried in the morning and then assembled and baked at the last moment, giving time to prepare the rest of your meal and any other details. 

 

 

Serves 4 

 

INGREDIENTS 

 

  • 4 slices of swordfish (6 oz. each ¾ “ tick) 
  • flour for dusting 
  • 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil for frying (peanut, corn or canola oil) 
  • salt and pepper to taste 

 

  • FOR THE SAUCE 
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil - divided 
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove minced 
  • 4 inches of a stalk of celery chopped  
  • 8 pitted black olives cut in half 
  • 1 minced anchovy 
  • 1 ½  tablespoons of minced fresh parsley 
  • 2 teaspoons of drained capers 
  • 2 tablespoons of pine  nuts 
  • 2 tablespoons of raisins 
  • pinch of oregano 
  • 1 cup white wine 
  • 1 cup water 
  • salt and pepper to taste 
  • 4 bay leaves 

PREPARATION  

 

The Frying 

Rinse the swordfish steaks in running water and pat them dry with paper towels. 

Place the flour in a wide dish; dredge both sides into the flour and shake off the excess. 

In a large skillet (12 ½ inch wide) place 2tablespoons of oil and over a high heat sauté the fish cooking it in batches. Fry each side for 3 minutes. Transfer to drain onto a dish covered with paper towels: set aside and sprinkle with pepper and a little salt. Repeat the process until all the steaks are fried; add more oil if needed. Cover with aluminum foil and keep refrigerated until ready to use. 

The Sauce 

Soak the raisins in hot water.
Discard frying oil and in the same skillet, over a medium heat place 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the onion. When the onion is light golden in color, add in the garlic and the celery. Sauté for a few minutes and increase the heat to high; add in the olives, anchovy, 1 tablespoon of parsley, capers, pine nuts, drained raisins, and the oregano, stirring continuously. Add the wine and keep at a high until most of the alcohol evaporates, about 1 or 2 minutes; add the water, adjust for salt, and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the sauce for additional 5 minutes or reduce it until it reaches a good consistency. Should the sauce get too dry add some water by the spoon full a little at a time. 

Transfer into a bowl, cover and keep refrigerated until ready to use. It can be prepared in advance and kept refrigerated up to 2 days.

 

Swordfish Sicilian Style 

 

The Assembly 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Coat a baking dish with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil; place the fried swordfish steaks onto the tray, place a bay leaf on top of each steak and cover the fish with the sauce.
Bake for 10 minutes until the steaks are cooked through. Transfer the fish into a serving plate; remove bay leaves, spoon over any sauce form the pan and garnish with the remaining ½ tablespoon of parsley. 

The swordfish Sicilian style goes well  with a potato salad dressed with olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice, salt, pepper, a pinch of oregano, parsley and 2 hard boiled sliced eggs (optional).  

Serve with hot, soft and chewy bread, for mopping any sauce at the bottom of the plate and pair this delicacy with a young Sicilian or Californian Chardonnay wine or if a red wine is preferred a Nero di Avola from Sicily or Pinot Noir from the Napa Valley

 

Swordfish with Pine Nuts