Blackened Swordfish with Sweet Corn Salsa


Blackened Swordfish with Sweet Corn Salsa

Well, I guess I’ve been away from this blog for a loooong time! Things are going well, I just haven’t been cooking too many new things.

However, making this swordfish dinner reminded me of my last post (last year), and reminded me to come back. :)

Swordfish a favorite and surprisingly easy, er, quick anyway. I made the salsa the other day with a couple lightly boiled cobs of fresh corn, a can of black beans, a touch of lemon juice, cider vinegar, red pepper, onion, apple cider vinegar and spices.

The thawed swordfish steaks cook in 5 minutes in a hot cast iron pan, 2-2.5 mins per side (from frozen at Trader Joe’s.)

I didn’t measure anything, but I’ve included a recipe below that’s a good basis for the blackening spices.



Blackened Swordfish with Sweet Corn Salsa

Coconut-Crusted Swordfish with Dragon Fruit Slaw


Coconut-crusted swordfish steak with dragon fruit slaw and jasmine rice.

Tonight we made a curiously medieval seeming meal with swords and dragons. We picked up some swordfish steaks and a dragon fruit with the notion of preparing fish with a fruit salsa, but the latter ended up as a cabbage-based slaw instead – looking a bit like dice has been thrown in. :-)

Ingredients, for the slaw:

  • red cabbage, 1/2 head, thinly sliced
  • dragon fruit, 1, peeled and cubed
  • spicy red peppers, e.g., jalapeño, 2-3, seeded
    (I think these were Barker’s Hot Pepper, a.k.a. hot Anaheim.)
  • scallion, 1, chopped
  • fresh orange juice, about 1/4 cup
  • fresh lime juice, from 1/2 lime
  • apple cider vinegar, to taste
  • chopped cilantro leaf (we used dried)
  • salt, to taste

Prepare the slaw much as you would any fresh cabbage and vinegar-based coleslaw. Wait until the end, though, to carefully stirring the cubed dragon fruit in, when your slaw has been otherwise prepared to your liking.


Some dragon fruit slaw ingredients.

Ingredients, for the swordfish steaks and sauce:

  • swordfish steaks, 1 per person, thawed from frozen
  • unsweetened, flaked coconut, about 1/2 cup
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • scallion, 1, white portion chopped, greens sliced for garnish
  • fresh orange juice, about 1/2 cup
  • corn starch

While the slaw sits for a while, salt and pepper the swordfish steaks and coat with flaked coconut.  For the sauce, simply stir about a teaspoon of corn starch into the orange juice and set aside for after the fish has been cooked.


Coconut-crusted swordfish and sauce ingredients.

Add a few tablespoons of oil, e.g., canola, to a skillet heated medium to medium-high.


Pan-frying coconut-crusted swordfish steaks.

Pan-fry the swordfish steaks, about 4-5 minutes per side (for these that were about 1 inch thick), flipping them over just once.


Pan-frying coconut-crusted swordfish steaks.

Plate the steaks and keep them warm. Meanwhile, reducing the pan heat to medium-low and quickly sauté the whites of the scallion just lightly, combined with whatever coconut flakes remained in the pan. Next, immediately pour the orange juice and cornstarch mixture into the pan, stirring with the scallion and coconut until the sauce thickens.


Preparing the coconut orange scallion sauce.

Pour sauce over each of the swordfish steaks, top with scallion greens, and serve accompanied by the fruit slaw and perhaps also jasmine rice.

This was a tasty meal. I’ve not prepared swordfish steaks before, but they were quite nice topped with this simple coconut-scallion-orange sauce. Swordfish is substantial in texture and was nicely contrasted by the fresh, crisp, spicy, tart, sweet fruit and cabbage slaw. I bet it would go just as well with a fruit salsa instead.

DSC09123 (1)

Coconut-crusted swordfish steak with dragon fruit slaw and jasmine rice.

Update (March 10, 2016):

The leftovers, with some black beans and salsa added, made a great “sad desk lunch!”


Swordfish and dragon fruit burrito!

Here are some related recipes I consulted for ideas:

Fried Smelts

Friend smelts, tossed with garlic and cilantro leaf.

Fried smelts, tossed with garlic and cilantro leaf and served with fresh lime and sriracha mayo.

I remember my dad picking up fried smelts from a takeout place when I was a child in Indiana.  They were interesting to me since you eat the whole fish: bones and all.
(We also ate a lot of northern Wisconsin panfish, so I was used to eating the tails.)

Smelts are something I really enjoy occasionally now: a simple, inexpensive fish – that is available coast-to-coast and you don’t have to be concerned from an environmental perspective (my understanding is that there are plenty of smelt in the wild) and they’re so small, you generally eat them bones and fins intact, like anchovies (unless they’re large… say, more than 4 inches long… then you may want to remove the spine with attached bones as you eat them.)

Most recently I was reminded of smelts when they were served last fall at my favorite brew pub, Cambridge Brewing Company, where the chef does lots of great specials.

Anyway, here is how I prepared them.  A pound of smelts (perhaps 35 here?) is likely enough for two as a main course and for four as an appetizer.

1 pound of smelts, thawed from frozen.

1 pound of smelts, thawed from frozen.

Peppers, salt, and mexican oregano to season the flour; mayonnaise and pepper sauce for dipping; and olive oil, cilantro, and garlic to be sautéed and tossed with the fried smelts.

Peppers, salt, and mexican oregano to season the flour; mayonnaise and pepper sauce for dipping; and olive oil, cilantro, and garlic to be sautéed and tossed with the fried smelts.

Coat the moist smelts with flour seasoned with smoked paprika, cayenne, crushed mexican oregano, salt, and pepper.

Coat the moist smelts with flour seasoned with smoked paprika, cayenne, crushed mexican oregano, salt, and pepper.

Fry the coated smelts in oil (at ~320° F).

Fry the coated smelts perhaps 4 minutes in oil (at ~320° F).

While frying the fish, prepare some ligltly sautéed fresh herbs with which to toss them.

Chopped cilantro leaf and sliced garlic.

Chopped cilantro leaf and sliced garlic.

After removing some of the oil by resting them on on paper towels or a rack, toss the fried smelts with herbs as desired:

Toss the fried smelts with cilantro and garlic, sautéed in olive oil.

Toss the fried smelts with cilantro and garlic, sautéed in olive oil.

I squeezed some fresh lime over the fish and served them with a dipping sauce of mayonnaise and sriracha sauce, on a beautiful first-day-of-summer in the backyard!

Fried smelts.

Fried smelts.

Here are the online recipes I consulted for preparation tips:

Cod with Tomato & Onion and Mashed Acorn Squash

Cod with tomatoes and onions accompanied by mashed acorn squash

Cod with tomato and onion accompanied by mashed acorn squash

As I said recently, I only have time for about one post a month lately, so lets get July out of the way.

I picked up some frozen cod fillets at Trader Joe’s and was in the mood for a seafood dish with tomatoes, so came up with this tasty main and side dish.  The acorn squash has been on the countertop for months – perhaps since wintertime, so it was time to use it… it’s nearly the fourth of July!

Ingredients (to serve 2) for the cod:

  • cod pieces, ~1 pound, e.g., Alaskan cod pieces, thawed from frozen
  • diced tomatoes, 1 can, e.g., Hunt’s natural fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, I used a small red onion cut top to bottom into strips
  • garlic, ~4 cloves, sliced thinly or minced
  • olive oil, a couple tablespoons
  • fennel seed, ~1 tablespoon, or to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cayenne powder, ~1/8 teaspoon, or to taste

Ingredients for mashed acorn squash:

  • acorn squash, 2 medium, halved, seeds and veins removed
  • red potatoes, ~8 small
  • olive oil or butter
  • dijon mustard, ~1 teaspoon, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste

First, to prepare the squash, bake the squash halves, open side down, with the whole red potatoes in a baking dish with about 1/4 inch of water, for about 50 minutes at 375° F until potatoes are tender.

While the squash is baking – perhaps 1/2 hour in – prepare the cod, by first sautéing the onion strips in olive oil, when partially cooked, add the cod pieces.  Once the cod and onions are nearly cooked, add the can of diced tomatoes undrained, garlic, and fennel seed and mix carefully, so as not to break up the cod pieces too much. Reduce to a simmer, and add the spices to taste, simmering a while, perhaps until the fennel seeds soften a bit.

Alaskan cod with tomatoes and onion

Alaskan cod with tomato and onion

When the acorn squash is done baking, allow it to cool a bit and scoop it out and place  in a bowl with the whole unpeeled potatoes and mash, e.g., with a potato masher, adding olive oil sparingly to develop the desired consistency and flavor. Flavor with mustard, salt and pepper to taste.

baked acorn squash and red potatoes

baked acorn squash and red potatoes

To serve, place roughly equal amounts of both on a plate and top mashed acorn squash with paprika, e.g., I used smoked paprika.

Cod with tomatoes and onions, accompanied by mashed acorn squash

Cod with tomato and onion, accompanied by mashed acorn squash

This was a nice dish that I’d  make again – both the fish and/or the mashed squash.  I didn’t consult any recipes this time, but I see there are a number of similar cod dishes on web sites, often baked.

I hope you enjoy it or perhaps it inspires you to create something with flavors you love… here I think the fennel and mustard made it great, but those are amongst my favorites!

Whitefish with Roasted Fennel and Potato

Pangasius fillet with roasted fennel and potatoes and fresh cilantro yogurt sauce

Pangasius fillet with roasted fennel and potatoes and fresh cilantro yogurt sauce

I love the flavor of fennel, both in seed form and as whole fresh fennel bulb, so I just recently bought some of this springtime favorite at the grocery store. I’ve also started experimenting with eating the stalks and fronds (that many recipes would have you discard or save for soup stock), so I put together a dinner that used the whole thing.

It seemed fennel and whitefish would go quite nicely together, and I found a couple recipes online (linked below) that I used as a guide. I’ve been using pangasius lately (from frozen), for the same reason everyone else is, it’s inexpensive, farm-raised, and tasty.

First, I roughly cut fennel bulb and red potatoes. I also chopped the fennel stalks and fronds, but left them aside, since they don’t need so much time in the oven. I coated a baking pan with olive oil, and tossed the potato and fennel, salt and peppered them, to prepare them for a 425° F oven.

Fennel bulb and red potatoes prepared for oven roasting

Fennel bulb and red potatoes prepared for oven roasting

Roast the vegetables (uncovered), for perhaps 40 minutes, initially; every 10-15 minutes, toss them so they cook and brown evenly.

While roasting, prepare a yogurt sauce to accompany the fish. I made a sauce from homemade yogurt, chopped cilantro, cumin powder, lime juice, salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne powder.

When the potatoes are somewhat tender, mix in the chopped fennel stalks and fronds, and continue cooking for perhaps 15 minutes.

Oven roasted fennel and red potatoes

Oven roasted fennel and red potatoes

When the potatoes are pretty much done, it’s time to add the fish. Since it’s easy to bake fish in a hot oven as well, I decided to make this a one-pan meal, placing the pangasius fillets atop the partially-roasted vegetables for a final 15-20 minutes of baking.  I spread some mashed garlic on the fillets and seasoned them simply with salt and pepper before placing in the oven.

Pangasius fillets baked atop roasted fennel and potatoes

Pangasius fillets baked atop roasted fennel and potatoes

The dish is done when the fish is cooked through and just be flaked slightly with a fork, but not dry.

I served a single fillet atop the yogurt sauce, with the fennel and potatoes on the side, and some lime slices; wedges would have been more convenient for squeezing on the fish.

Whitefish with fennel, potatoes, and cilantro yogurt sauce

Whitefish with fennel, potatoes, and cilantro yogurt sauce

This was really nice and you can see I made three servings, so I’m happy to have leftovers for tomorrow – and the next day. :)

Here are some recipes you might like, that I consulted for ideas:

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

I should really come up with names for my dishes well before I go to post them. Tonight I spent half an hour on this one, only to arrive at “Thai-inspired Peanutty Rice Noodles with Catfish, Okra, Acorn Squash, and Onions,” … way too long.

This may seem like an asian-creole fusion dish, but it’s not since both okra and this catfish (I used Pangasius) are common to asian cooking.  Anyway, the dish is a rather nice mix of catfish, vegetables, and rice stick noodles (banh pho) with a sweet sauce including acorn squash, coconut cream, and peanut butter.

I apologize for the horrible state of the following “recipe,” but I didn’t measure anything and I’m apparently in a narrative mood; you’re probably not going to make this anyway. (That there is what’s called a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”)

First I soaked dried banh pho noodles in water to soften them. Then I baked a small acorn squash, halved with “guts” removed placed in shallow water in a baking dish, for 40 minutes in a 375° F oven.

Meanwhile, I prepared the rest of the sauce: a combination of fish sauce, soy sauce, water, brown sugar, peanut butter, and coconut cream. When the acorn squash was cooked, I scooped it from the skin and mixed it completely into the sauce with a wisk.

In a large pan with canola oil, I fried the catfish (thawed from frozen) and onion strips (thinly cut from half a large yellow onion). Once those were mostly cooked, I reduced the heat, added sliced okra (defrosted from frozen) and fresh thai bird peppers. Once the vegetables were warmed, I added the sauce (~2 cups total) and added the drained noodles to the pan, stirred carefully, and simmered until desired consistency.

I served the dish topped with cilantro leaf and chili garlic sauce.

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

I couldn’t find any precedent for this dish in my cursory search for Internet recipes.
Many thai dishes have catfish and others have noodles, but apparently the two don’t usually touch. If you’re familiar with one, please let me know. :)

Kohlrabi Curry and Paprika Fish

Kohlrabi Curry and Paprika Fish

A friend with a garden plot gave me a nice selection of vegetables that I used for this curry:

  • kohlrabi
  • eggplant
  • onion
  • jalapeno peppers (seeded)
  • zucchini

Additionally, I used these ingredients:

  • apple (e.g., Braeburn)
  • oil
  • garlic
  • cumin seed
  • turmeric
  • garam masala
  • salt
  • water
  • homemade yogurt
  • cooked rice

I usually wouldn’t add rice into a curry (but rather serve it on the side, as is traditional), but I had added too much water (to boil off without overcooking the vegetables), so I added some cooked rice at the end to soak up some of the water and thicken the curry.

Fresh Curry Ingredients

I’ve not cooked with kohlrabi before, but upon dicing it, I realized it’s going to take a lot longer to cook (until tender) than the other ingredients.  Cut the apple and vegetables to their desired size for the curry; for instance, I like onion in strips (top to bottom of onion), zucchini in slices.

Curry Ingredients

To further spice the curry, I added bay leaves, cardamom pods, star anise, and to the oil with the cumin seed, turmeric, and garam masala, then cooked the kohlrabi in that mixture for 15-20 minutes (until somewhat tender) before adding any more vegetables.  (I removed the cardamom, star anise, and bay leaves at that point.)

Oil and spices

While cooking the vegetables, I periodically added water and covered the dish to steam the vegetables.  Once they were the desired tenderness, I stirred in yogurt and some cooked rice.

The curry: almost finished

For the fish, I prepared a mixture of mild spanish paprika, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper, and coated swai fillets (thawed from frozen) and pan-fried them in hot oil.

Pan-frying the fish

Before turning the fillets over, I applied minced garlic liberally to the top side, then flipped them (once) to cook through until flaky.

I really enjoy anise and fennel, and quite liked how this flavorful preparation of fish went with this somewhat mild curry.

Kohlrabi Curry and Paprika Fish

Baked Lake Trout and Crispy Kale

Baked Lake Superior Trout and Crispy Kale

Here’s an easy but great meal, whipped up last night with some wonderful companions.  We shopped at the market quite late, but found a nice Lake Superior Trout fillet (wild, frozen) large enough to serve three, after the seafood counter had closed.

Prepare a sauce for the trout from yogurt (plain, thick yogurt, e.g., greek style, perhaps 1/2 cup), finely chopped chives or garlic grass, Worcestershire sauce (~1-2 T.), lemon pepper, salt to taste.  Here, we used garden-fresh garlic grass from a friend.

Place the (thawed) trout fillet(s) in a baking dish and coat the top with the sauce, perhaps with a small amount of olive oil underneath to assure it doesn’t stick to the dish when cooking.  A tip: if you leave a large fillet whole, you can cut it to test for done-ness and cut into servings at the same time.

Arrange coarsely chopped fresh kale on a baking pan and toss with olive oil. We included the stems as well; if you do, they’ll just likely be a bit chewy rather than crispy, like the leaves.  Luckily, we had plenty of home-grown kale. :)

Bake both the trout and kale in a 400° F, perhaps for 10-12 minutes for the trout and 5-7 minutes for the kale, until the fish is cooked through, but still moist, and the kale leaves are somewhat crisp. Toss the kale occasionally to cook/crisp evenly.

We plated individual-serving-size portions of the trout, topped with a bit more finely chopped garlic grass/chives, and the crisp kale on the side, accompanied by a pretty insalata caprese (unfortunately, not pictured) of ripe, yellow tomato slices, fresh home-grown basil leaves, and sliced fresh mozzarella.

Lake trout with yogurt/garlic sauce and baked crispy kale.

Here are some related links:

Note that the crispy kale can be prepared easily at many oven temperatures, e.g., 250° F – 400° F, to share the oven with your entree.

I was away from home; these smartphone photos don’t quite do this meal justice. :)

Fried Fresh Bluegill

Fried Bluegill with zucchini green salad and sautéed chard

I haven’t posted many “rustic” meals. However, here’s one tied to my fond memories from summers at the lake in my childhood.

When I was young, my dad would fry panfish on the grill. First, of course, we’d have to catch the fish; typically for the lake we visit those would be perch, bluegill, and crappie (the latter two being varieties of sunfish.)  Then he would clean them, stationed on an old wooden bench covered with newspaper; if there happened to be many perch in the catch, he was not happy… apparently they’re harder to clean. Next he would drop them in flour and fry them in cast iron pans on a charcoal grill, so as not to make a mess of the kitchen.  My dad passed away more than half-my-life ago, but I still have these good memories and the cast iron pans as well. :)

I spent these past few days on a splendid holiday vacation at the lake in the northwoods (out of mobile phone coverage) with lots of swimming, canoeing, and just a bit of fishing.  While in recent decades I’ve eschewed fishing, opting instead for even lazier passtimes at the lake, a recent interest in foraging and finding one’s own food, and the idea of preparing a meal one might be able to do solely from what the earth provides directly, helped to change that.

Bluegill, a common variety of freshwater Sunfish

Bluegill are an attractive, colorful variety of panfish, i.e., a fish that typically fits, whole, in a frying pan.  (That’s a bit gruesome… wouldn’t that mean human beings could be called “pine box apes?”)

My companion and I caught four bluegill for this dinner, two for each of us; one was caught by casting an artificial lure and the others simply with cheese dangling on a hook as bait. I’ll admit I caught one and she caught three. :-) (When I was a kid, we usually fished with live bait: worms or night crawlers, but the cheese was conveniently on hand.)  I don’t believe that bluegill have any special affinity for cheese, but they were more interested in it than hot dog. :) Sometimes you can even catch panfish on a bare hook!

I considered cooking the bluegill whole (sans scales and guts, of course), but decided to do it as my dad did, removing the fish’s head and its gills along with it.

Scaling the fish with a knife…Warning to the squeamish: fish guts!


Once cleaned, I simply patted the rinsed fish partially dry, and dipped them in flour, spiced with salt, pepper, fresh thyme leaves, and an adobo seasoning mix (from Penzey’s.)

Bluegill dipped in flour and seasonings

I poured perhaps 1/2 inch of canola oil into a cast iron pan on a medium heat grill.  Once the oil was hot (test with a small piece of batter or food), I placed all four bluegill in the pan and cooked for 3-5 minute per side, until they began to brown and the fish flaked easily from the bone.

Frying bluegill in oil

Once done, place the fish on paper towel to drain excess oil.

Fried Bluegill

I don’t try to fillet panfish… besides, eating them carefully and watching for bones brings a civilized pace to the meal. :)

We ate our bluegill accompanied by a delicious green salad of fresh lettuces with sautéed zucchini, croutons flavored with fresh sage, and a touch of salad dressing; sautéed rainbow chard with garlic scapes; and a nice beer.

A meal of fried bluegill and vegetables

The bluegill were tasty, with a mild flavor and just slightly crisp, thin coating just as I remembered, having last had them prepared this way more than 20 years ago. They went from lake to plate in about an hour. I bet my dad (and mom) would be proud of my preparation from childhood memories. :)

Mmmm, fried bluegill tails!

Last but not least, don’t forget to try the crispy tails! They’ve got a potato chip-like consistency, and you can eat perhaps the last 1/2 end of the tail, just as you might eat the tail of a deep-fried shrimp.

Oh, I am also fresh from the lake in that last photo. :)

Salade Niçoise

Salade Niçoise: a french treat with tuna and anchovies

Here’s a delicious and colorful salad that makes a whole meal… and it’s perfect to make with your fresh vegetables on a warm summer day.

There are a number variations of the Niçoise Salad, common in its namesake city, Nice, France, and along the rest of the Côte d’Azur, where I first enjoyed it.
Apparently it became popular in the states because of Julia Child.

Last night, in anticipation of this salad, my companion and I biked around our city to procure vegetables from the yard and from a little farmers’ market (4-7pm!).  After a nice summer evening’s ride with a short stop for live music and visiting friends, we prepared our ginormous Niçoise salad from these ingredients (for 4 meal-sized servings):

  • romaine and other leaf lettuce, torn to bite sized
  • Nasturtium leaves, chopped
  • fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • scallion greens, from 2 scallions, finely cut
  • green beans, 1 pound, blanched (we substituted some nice Dragon Tongue Beans that surprising lost their purple stripes when cooked)
  • ripe roma tomatoes, 3, quartered and coarsely chopped
  • eggs, 4, hard-boiled, and quartered
  • fingerling potatoes (~1/2 pound), boiled (e.g., with the eggs)
  • green olives, pitted
  • tuna, 1 can, partially drained of oil
  • anchovy, about 2/3 of one very small jar

Dressing ingredients:

  • balsamic vinegar, 1 T.
  • apple cider vinegar, ~1/8 cup
  • Dijon-style mustard, 1-2 T. (e.g., Grey Poupon Country Dijon)
  • honey, ~1 t., to taste
  • olive oil, 1-2 T.
  • water (sparingly, to dilute slightly if desired)
  • capers
  • salt & pepper, to taste if desired

Niçoise Salad

To serve, we tossed the cooked beans with dressing, and placed them atop the chopped lettuce on a large platter and arranged the other toppings, leaving the tuna and anchovies for last, and finally lightly drizzled the salad with the rest of the dressing and olive oil.

Salade Niçoise, plated

I enjoyed this both for dinner and my subsequent day’s lunch. :)

Give it a try and experinece this tasty sample of southern France, especially if you can find some beautilful vegetables in your garden or at your farmers’ market!

Update (June, 2013):

I made this again… this time with the traditional green (string) beans and used a combination of pimento-stuffed spanish olives and jalapeno-stuffed olives. Also, I used a spicier Dijon mustard (Trader Joe’s)… mmm, still awesome.

Salade Niçoise

Salade Niçoise