Washington - For years I was a culinary libertarian.
I’d make dinner, put all the dishes on the table and then let everyone take what they wanted and mix and match it any which way. No mother-knows-best intervention. If they left the slaw off their pulled-pork sandwiches – the slaw I’d made specifically to be sandwiched – I’d let it go (and be only slightly bitter). If they didn’t want the sauce that I knew was fabulous over the steak au poivre, I’d shrug (and grimace, because I’m not as evolved as I pretend to be).
Those days are gone. Now, if there are things I think must go together, they get served together. I’ve become a benevolent dictator, and I’d like to think that everyone around my table is better for it.
I’d hate for anyone to miss any part of this dish, which has three components, each of which I think should turn up in every forkful: seared marinated swordfish, sharp and spicy sauce (made from the marinade) and salsa, chockablock with avocado, tomatoes, peppers and herbs. Sure, each part is good solo, but put them together and you get the golden T-some: a variety of taste, texture and temperature.
* South African readers should note that swordfish carries a Sassi code of orange. The Sassi website says: “Rather choose a green-listed alternative such as pole-caught tuna or queen mackerel. These alternatives have similar meaty, firm and rich flesh as swordfish. Or if you don´t want to cut swordfish out of your diet completely, eat it on a special occasion rather than every time you eat out.” (http://www.wwfsassi.co.za/ - IOL Lifestyle Editor
For the swordfish
Finely grated zest and juice from 2 lemons (1½ teaspoons zest and 5 teaspoons juice)
Finely grated zest and juice from 1 large orange (11/3 teaspoons zest and ¼ cup juice)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, white and light-green parts only
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro stems (reserve the leaves for the salsa)
Sliver of jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon honey (may substitute pinch of sugar)
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
4 slices swordfish
1 tablespoon canola oil, or more as needed
For the salsa
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, each cut in half
½ medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
½ cup (not packed) chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped red onion, rinsed in cold water and patted dry
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Flesh of 1 large, firm but ripe avocado, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
For the marinade
Combine the lemon zest and juice, orange zest and juice, extra-virgin olive oil, scallions, cilantro stems (to taste), jalapeño, sea salt, honey and cayenne pepper in a gallon-size zip-top bag (or non-reactive baking dish). Add the swordfish and seal the bag, first pressing out as much air as possible. Gently massage/turn to coat the fish. Let it sit at room temperature for one hour, turning the bag over from time to time, or in the refrigerator for up to four hours. (If you have refrigerated the fish, let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.)
Meanwhile, make the salsa: Combine the tomatoes, red bell pepper, cilantro, red onion, mint, sea salt, black and cayenne peppers, and the extra-virgin olive oil in a mixing bowl, tossing gently to incorporate.
To cook the swordfish and finish the salsa: Remove the fish from the marinade. Scrape any ingredients that may have stuck to the fish back into the marinade; transfer the marinade to a small saucepan. Use paper towels to gently pat the fish dry.
Working in a large skillet (non-stick is good here) over medium-high heat, warm the canola oil; once it shimmers, add the swordfish.
If your skillet isn’t large enough to hold the four pieces, cook the fish in two batches, adding more oil to the pan as needed. Cook for three minutes, then carefully turn the fish over and cook for about two minutes or until the flesh is opaque to the middle. Transfer the fish to a platter.
Bring the marinade to a boil over high heat; cook for about three minutes, then remove from the heat. Spoon some of the marinade over each piece of fish, and pour the rest into a jug to be passed at the table.
Add the avocado and lemon juice to the salsa and toss to incorporate. Spoon some salsa on top of each piece of fish and serve. If you have leftover salsa, bring it to the table.