Sunday, December 11, 2011

Swordfish Crudo


Enjoyed quite a bit of spada crudo (raw swordfish) while in Sicily this past summer. After strolling through the street markets in Sicily, the below photo coming from a Palermo market, it becomes readily apparent why swordfish is on the menu at almost every restaurant in town. Row after row of vendors selling some of the freshest fish and seafood imaginable. Raw hunks of fish strewn about with loud and gruff men hacking away with rather large knives, the streets crammed with shoppers, tourists, and a few mopeds whizzing by. Stumbled upon this site that sums it up very nicely, "A Palermitan street market is a cacophony of sights, sounds, and scents." This is not a site typically seen in the States and one of the things I love so much about traveling. Some may be lured by monuments and museums, but it's the humble street market that draw me in. If only I had a kitchen when traveling to experiment with some of these treasures. Then again, perhaps it is best to initially sample local dishes prepared by local chefs or home cooks.

That's how I discovered spada crudo. Had several variations along the way, all very simply prepared. This particular version incorporates lemon, mint, and pistachios, and personifies the flavors of the Sicilian landscape.

Crudo the Italian version of sashimi. Technically raw, but don't be alarmed about consuming raw fish just yet. The swordfish is sliced very thin and then bathed in a marinade of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil (this is one dish where the quality of the olive oil really makes a difference). The lemon juice, an acid, acts to "cook" and tenderize the fish. Just make sure your fish is the freshest possible. Fish should not have a "fishy" smell; this means that its been sitting for a while. If you can't find swordfish, you can substitute with other meaty fish, such as wahoo, tuna, halibut, or whatever is local in your neck of the woods. A simple appetizer to prepare (there is no cooking involved), a clean, light, and refreshing way to start a meal. Recently served this along with salmon tartare, a piece of sesame seed encrusted seared tuna, and a big green salad -- feast of the three fishes.

Note: according to Seafood Watch, US swordfish is a good alternative, while imported swordfish should be avoided. 

Spada Crudo (Raw Swordfish)
1 pound swordfish, thinly sliced, about 1/8 inch thick
Juice of a lemon
Good quality extra-virgin olive oil
Mint to taste, thinly sliced
Pistachios to taste, roughly chopped
Zest of half a lemon, chopped
Coarse sea salt

Preparing the Fish
Wrap the fish tightly in plastic and put it in the freezer for about an hour. After an hour, check to see if it is hard, but not solid. When the fish is hard, take it out of the freezer, and slice across the grain with your sharpest knife, as thin as possible (about 1/8 inch thick). Do not pound the sliced pieces to make them flatter; you want crudo, not carpaccio.

Lay the slices of fish on a large serving platter. Squeeze lemon all over the fish. Drizzle with plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Garnish with mint, pistachios, and lemon zest. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

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