On Sunday, cook lives by leisure, dines by swordfish

HAPPY EATER

April 10, 1994|By ROB KASPER

There is nothing like a little swordfish with garlic and shallots for Sunday dinner. We had it on a recent Sunday night, not as a planned meal, but as a dinner by default.

The planned meal was supposed to be ham. But it required a couple hours of cooking. It had been a sunny day, and there was yardwork to be done, time to be wasted. Before you could say "siesta's over," it was almost 6 o'clock, the ham was not stuffed and the tribe was getting hungry.

I opened the fridge hoping to find ingredients for a dinner that could be reasonably quick but also rewarding. Sunday dinner was, after all, one of the last treats of the leisurely weekend. Monday morning and the logistical grind of the work week loomed on the horizon.

I spotted some fried chicken in the fridge. Cold fried chicken is so good that it should not, in my view, be categorized as a leftover. Finding it in the fridge was cause for celebration. My kids did not feel as strongly as I did about the glories of cold fried chicken, but they would eat it.

That meant if some salad and bread were tossed in, their supper would be taken care of. It also meant that a piece of swordfish that I had bought the day before and tucked in the bottom of the fridge was the likely adult entree.

Paging through cookbooks, I found a recipe for grilled swordfish with fried garlic sauce in "Miami Spice" (Workman, $12.95), a cookbook with recipes from Florida and points south. It was written by Steven Raichlen, a chef and food writer who now lives in Coconut Grove, Fla., but who grew up in Baltimore and went to Milford Mill High School.

In his book, Raichlen pointed out that the marinade and sauce used on the fish were Cuban classics. The lime juice and cumin marinade is called adobo, and the garlic-citrus sauce is called mojo. The recipes required a little chopping, some squeezing, and a little soaking followed by a few minutes of grilling. These were my kind of classics.

I made the marinade, then the swordfish and I rested. The piece of fish rested in a glass baking dish, covered with the marinade. I went out in the back yard to light the barbecue grill and watch the smoke rise. My reverie was interrupted by my kids, who wanted to squeeze in one last game of catch before the weekend faded. In about 30 minutes, the fire was ready and I was whipped.

While the kids ate the fried chicken, I grilled the fish and topped it with the fried garlic sauce. It was very good. The garlic gave the dish a nice edge and shallots in the sauce gave it richness that lesser onions couldn't. And it was easy.

I had hoped that the garlic sauce would scare the kids away from the dish. It was somewhat successful. The 9-year-old wouldn't eat it. But the 13-year-old liked it -- a lot. He ate two pieces.

Which was too bad, because I had my eye on that second piece.

*

Grilled swordfish with fried garlic sauce

Serves 4

Swordfish steaks, cut 1/4 - to 1/2 -inch thick

MARINADE:

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

freshly ground black pepper to taste

GARLIC SAUCE:

1/4 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat barbecue grill to very hot.

For marinade: Mash the garlic with salt in mixing bowl. Whisk in lime juice, cumin and pepper. Put fish in nonreactive baking dish and pour the marinade on top. Marinate fish, covered in refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning once.

For sauce: Heat olive oil in small, nonreactive frying pan over high heat. Add the garlic and shallot slices and fry until golden brown, about 1 minute. Stir in lime juice, salt, and pepper, bring to boil. Mixture may splatter. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove swordfish from marinade, blot dry. Grill over high heat for about 1 minute per side if thinly sliced -- 3 to 5 minutes per side for thicker cuts -- until cooked to taste. Spoon sauce over swordfish, serve immediately.

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