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swordfish, big fish

A swordfish on display on a market, fierce even just laying there, sword drawn


The expression “What’s in a name?” could not be more out of place than with describing swordfish: a fish with a sword on its nose. Once beheaded though it is just a big black skinned cylinder with a strong tail. Buying it in frozen slices is an option, and probably the easiest one, since finding it fresh, with the head laying next to it, requires a trip to Sicily. On the daily open markets in Palermo the heads are a fundamental ornamental feature, impossible to ignore and leaving costumers impressed and intrigued.

So easy

With no small bones, only a big backbone, it is loved by children and fuzzy eaters. The versatility in preparing makes it a product loved by cooks. The name ‘swordfish’ crowns it all. The mighty sword, the fierce reputation somehow gets transmitted in those who eat the fish.

Swordfish on ice

What to do with fresh swordfish

swordfish grilledThe easiest way of preparing is simply grilling the fillets and season them with olive oil, salt and a squeeze of lemon. For scenic reasons as well as for taste the fish must display the brown lines of the grill. A preparation that has all it takes to have success, and is almost impossible to screw up, so well worth to give it a go. Swordfish is not a cheap fish so be sure to serve appetizers and pasta before turning up with the main dish. If you have ravenous guests, highlight the delicacy of the fish, making them look uncouth rather than you being cheap.


And if you are not sure about the freshness of the fish you bought, serve different wines during dinner and so to create a diversion of why people felt unwell the following day. Better stick to frozen swordfish; use a decent olive oil, since there is no accompanying sauce people often expect and even pretend. If no complaints or questions immerse, bring them up yourself, bask in the light, and tell your diners how fragile the equilibrium sea –fish, salt- and land -olive oil, lemon –  blend. Talk about purity, talk about the elegance of simplicity. Carefully deliberate if saying that this naturalness symbolizes your friendship, if this would move your guest of turns you into a clown.

Involtini - let's get cooking

A more difficult but likewise successful preparation are ‘rolls’ (involtini). The advantage is that you’ll need far less fish and save money. The taste is determined by the filling rather than by the fish but will give its name to the recipe anyway. 

Pasta with swordfish and aubergines

pasta with swordfish, aubergines and eggplantThere are two kinds of pasta in Italy: quick ones and others. If you can prepare the sauce within the time the water boils and the pasta cooks, it is quick. Most vegetable based pasta dishes fall in this category, since vegetables don’t want to be overcooked here. On weekdays quick pasta is preferred, unless you eat out. Furthermore, pasta sauces containing meat or fish are, especially in Sicily, marks a celebration. Pasta with swordfish and aubergines is definitely not a quick dish and therefor eaten only on special occasions and in restaurants. It showcases Sicily’s abundance and potential, lush and panache. Not easy to prepare but once mastered this dish leads to a guaranteed triumph; balance is the keyword, patience the virtue. 

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