Cook the Book: Salt-Seared Swordfish with Garlic and Mint

Cook the Book: Salt-Seared Swordfish with Garlic and Mint

Whenever I travel to a new place, there are two topics I exhaustively research: restaurants and local markets.

My first trip to Palermo was no exception. Our hotel was reasonably priced and well-reviewed, but most importantly it was steps away from the Ballarò, one of Palermo's biggest and most beautiful markets.

The seafood stands were piled high with shiny black mussels, silvery sardines, and squid still filled with their ink. Rising from the center was a massive head of a swordfish, encircled by giant slabs of its pink flesh. The sword must have been at least three-feet long, and the whole scene was a still life come to life. As someone who formerly considered the Whole Foods seafood counter to be pretty fancy, this display blew me away.

I hadn't felt too strongly about swordfish before that day, but ever since, I've developed an affinity for it—and let me tell you I ate a lot of it on that trip. This recipe for Salt-Seared Swordfish with Garlic and Mint from The Southern Italian Table by Arthur Schwartz is just about as Sicilian a preparation as their is.

Simplicity and great ingredients are once again the only way to go. Since the olive oil used in this recipe acts as a dressing (it's not heated), it's a prime opportunity to break out the good stuff. And the salt? Well, if you ask any Sicilian they will tell you that the only salt to use is the kind produced in Trapani.

  • Yield:2


  • I tablespoon dried mint
  • 6 to 8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • At least 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons large-crystal sea salt
  • 2 (1/2-inch thick) swordfish steaks, skin removed


  1. 1.

    With your fingertips, push the mint through a fine-mesh strainer onto a large platter. Add the garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. Blend with a fork.

  2. 2.

    Turn the fish and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes for medium-well, without a trace of pink in the center.

  3. 3.

    Lift the fish from the pan with tongs or a fork and brush off any large pieces of salt clinging to it. Place the fish on the platter and turn it to coat with the raw sauce, finally spooning some of the sauce on top.

  4. 4.

    Serve immediately.