July 4th: Local Swordfish To Celebrate Freedom From Seafood Imports

Grilled Gloucester Swordfish

Independence Day in the US: no matter political affiliation or personal belief, I think we can all agree freedom is pretty good. For me, my hard core partying days are over and I enjoyed a relaxed July 4th with family, many, many cocktails and food from both our garden and our local fishermen. Fishing was one of the Nation’s first industries, so important that John Adams made sure fishing rights were included in our treaty with England. What better way to celebrate our freedom than to eat our local seafood and liberate ourselves from imported fish.

Readers know I love my swordfish, especially in the summer and fall when we get local fish. Delicious and sustainable, swordfish is a warm-weather seafood staple for me and Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester has just started getting some in. On this most recent visit to their drive up seafood market, it was hard to decide between the halibut and swordfish. At $18 and $15 per pound respectively, these competitive prices belie the fact you are getting a far superior product than pretty much anything at that price.

As I’ve mentioned before, Fisherman’s Wharf has done a great job with their retail drive up during the pandemic. Even though Massachusetts has just entered Phase 3 and many more places are open for dining, I’d rather get it straight from the dock. Now, this isn’t the only place in town you can get fresh caught Gloucester seafood, but it is certainly the most convenient.

About The Swordfish

Raw swordfish steak

The warm waters of summer bring the Atlantic swordfish north where they feast off the coast of the US and Canada, getting bigger and tastier as the season runs into the fall. On this trip I had to stop myself from getting too much, I really want a whole pound of swordfish to myself but I always cook too much. Sometimes when you go to a good fish market they will cut you a custom steak right off the fish, but I don’t think I’ll be experiencing that this summer. Besides, a pound of meaty fresh caught swordfish should be enough right?

The vacuum sealed steak was in perfect condition, chilled down but still supple and with a bright red bloodline. When a swordfish steak has a bloodline that red you know it’s fresh caught. I used to cut that piece out either before or after cooking, but I’ve learned that it does not really taste any different. Once I got home I placed it on an ice pack in my fridge until ready to marinate.

Marinating Fish

One thing I do have to say: If you like to marinate your fish like other meats, make sure it is not too acidic. For fish, even thick cuts like my swordfish, 15 minutes is all you need for an acidic marinade like I prefer. As I’m learning more about how I like my fish I’m realizing some common mistakes, even from people that know way more about fish than I ever will. Most often it’s over cooked or marinated too long. I am guilty of both over marinating and over cooking fish, but in time I have learned that a fresh piece of quality fish speaks for itself.

marinated swordfish

Some old time fishermen I know (I’m not naming names) marinate their swordfish too long, which changes the proteins in the fish. It’s essentially turning a layer of your steak into ceviche. My personal theory? Those who I know that do this go back to a time when mako shark was passed off as swordfish. With Atlantic swordfish abundant and well-managed I’m not sure this happens anymore as both fish command high prices.

Mako, which is similar in appearance to swordfish, has to be marinated to remove the ammonia smell that sharks have. For instance my dad, who has caught everything from bluefin to swords to sharks still prefers mako over swordfish. I remember mako and other mackerel shark steaks marinating in Italian dressing for long periods before the grill.

As a drunken teenage backpacker in Sicily, I recall having the perfect piece of grilled swordfish and it changed my view. It was just a light touch of olive oil, salt and pepper, chopped parsley and then a squeeze of lemon. The only thing that I would change would be to swap out the small, think steak for a big thick cut from one of our local fish, which grow much bigger.

Grilled Atlantic Swordfish With Garden Herbs

No fancy recipe, just a simple lemon juice vinaigrette with garlic and herbs cut from the garden.

  • 1lb Swordfish Steak
  • 1 Lemon, juiced
  • 1/2C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Clove Garlic, chopped
  • 2-3TBSP Chopped Fresh Herbs (chives, basil, Italian parsley, dill)
  • Salt and Pepper

Make a marinade using 3 parts olive oil and to 1 part lemon juice, salt and pepper. Whisk or shake to emulsify then add the herbs. Place swordfish in a shallow dish, season, then pour marinade over fish.

After 15 minutes in the marinade wipe off the excess oil and herbs and place swordfish on medium-hot grill (about 400F). Depending on thickness, grill on one side for 6-9 minutes (shifting 90 degrees halfway to get those cool diamond grill marks) then flip and finish cooking for another 3-5 minutes. Give a good squeeze of lemon before pulling off the grill. Serve immediately.

Swordfish with watermelon salad

As I get used to my new indoor grill, apparently the swordfish needed a few more minutes than anticipated to get to perfectly flaky doneness. Besides that minor hiccup, the fish was superb. The marinade did not overpower and my wife’s delicious cucumber, feta and watermelon salad was the perfect side.

Another great job by Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester! If you have the opportunity to support your local fishermen during this year of turmoil, please do. It’s good for our fishing industry, our local economies, our carbon footprint and let’s not forget – our health.

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