During the summer grilling season, swordfish makes a succulent meal, one I look forward to. With long-standing environmental and sustainability issues, however, it hasn’t always been so easy to recommend with a clear conscience.
Because of overfishing, swordfish numbers were dangerously low for many years. But after a boycott and moratorium put in place by consumers and chefs — alongside stricter federal regulations — over the last several decades, swordfish populations in U.S. waters are now at a sustainable level, well above the target goal. That is good news.
This isn’t to say there aren’t problems. There is the long-term issue of bycatch (the incidental capture of nontarget species, such as other fish, turtles and seabirds).
Another concern is mercury, which is found in many larger fish, such as swordfish and tuna. Eaten occasionally, though, as part of a varied diet, swordfish is considered a beneficial source of nutrition.
Now, with that bit of necessary preamble, may I say that swordfish is delicious? It’s meaty, boneless and benign. It’s sweet and juicy, and it takes well to almost any kind of sauce. It will gladly accommodate bold flavors.
For grilling, I prefer slices about ¾-inch thick. The large, thick-cut swordfish you find at many fishmongers is hard to cook properly, and the portion size is huge. An 8-ounce slice, depending on the menu, is enough for two.
Here, swordfish is topped with a spicy salsa of cherry tomatoes, anchovy, hot pepper and smoky pimentón. The whole affair is salad-like, best accompanied by arugula or lettuce leaves. Served with roasted potatoes or garlic toast for a casual picnic-style supper, it is, essentially, summer on a plate.