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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Swordfish "alla ghiotta"

From the Fine Cooking (90) notes on this recipe: seafood "alla ghiotta" means glutton's style. It is a savory side dish/sauce made with fennel, tomatoes, olives and capers all simmered together. I wonder if the name means that that the sauce has some of everything, like a glutton might want. The editors suggest you serve this dish with fish or you could just serve it as a side on its own, like as part of an italian buffet. But then I would add an extra fennel bulb.

I'm going through a thing with fennel at the moment and, when I was searching on Fine Cooking's website for something to do with my swordfish, this popped up as the ideal candidate. I know many of you will read swordfish and think mercury. And that's true, you shouldn't eat a lot of swordfish and we don't. But once a month or so, I can't resist. Whole Foods has had some great swordfish in the case lately. I love its clean taste and meaty, juicy texture. And It can hold its own next to big flavors so it is fun to work with in the kitchen. Meditteranean flavors like tomato, olive, lemon, rosemary are all natural pairings. And there's just nothing like swordfish on the grill, except maybe a steak.

This sauce is outstanding. The fennel browns and then is cooked slowly in a braise of tomatoes, olives and capers. The tomatoes soften their flavor after some cooking with onions, but the olives and capers are sharp and acidy. If you like Pasta Puttanesca, you will like this sauce. And I could almost see using this on pasta, but you would have to cut up the fennel smaller, here it is in wedges. There's one thing missing in the recipe below. Can you find it? ......... Garlic. I would add garlic next time. I was nearly through with cooking it when I realized I hadn't chopped any garlic. I don't care what a recipe says, if I'm going to make a sauce like this, I'm going to add garlic. Any glutton I know would want garlic, I'm pretty much sure of that.

Braised Fennel with Tomato, Green Olives & Capers

by Janet Fletcher, Rosetta Costantino

Seafood prepared alla ghiotta (“glutton’s style”)—with tomatoes, olives, and capers—is common in Calabria and Sicily, but the same flavors are compatible with fennel. Serves four.

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed (3/4 to 1 lb. after trimming)
8 large green Sicilian or Cerignola olives
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1-1/2 cups peeled, seeded, and diced fresh tomato (2 or 3 small tomatoes) OR a 28-oz. can whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), drained, seeded, and diced
3 Tbs. capers, drained and rinsed
1-1/2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise and then cut each half lengthwise into four 1-1/2-inch-thick wedges. Trim a little of the core but leave enough to hold the layers together.
With a pairing knife, slice the olive flesh off the pits lengthwise.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, one cut side down, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, turning once with tongs, until the wedges are lightly browned on both cut sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add the onion and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally and gently so as not to break up the fennel wedges, until the onions are slightly softened and browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, capers, and olives to the pan along with 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce the heat to medium low or low, to maintain a steady simmer. Cook until the fennel wedges are fork tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to high, and simmer briskly until most of the liquid evaporates, leaving a thick sauce, 3 to 5 minutes. Gently stir in the parsley. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

serving suggestions:
Serve with grilled swordfish or tuna, roast chicken, or grilled sausages.

From Fine Cooking 90, pp. 50
December 4, 2007


Proud Italian Cook said...

Hi Toni, Love all the flavors here! I really need to buy some swordfish, haven't had it in a long time. I usually buy tilapia.
Looks terrific!

Toni said...

I tossed the leftover sauce with some pasta for a really good lunch one afternoon. I think the sauce is even better the next day.

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