With Memorial Day around the corner and grill season afoot, these rosemary-skewered swordfish kebabs are just the ticket. Not only are they light and richly flavored, but they also come together in a snap.
Don’t let the unfussy preparation, which involves nothing more complicated than making a citrus-herb marinade, fool you into thinking the fish dish stints on taste. The resulting flavors are nuanced and sophisticated. Rosemary branches that pierce the fish perfume the kebabs, and the swordfish, with texture reminiscent of a steak, stands up to the herb’s signature aroma. Once the smoke from the grill works its way into the mix, the result is bewitching.
“Rosemary is a hard herb,” says Jimmy Bradley, chef and owner of The Red Cat and The Harrison, in New York City, and the author of The Red Cat Cookbook. “With fish, you usually use soft herbs, like parsley and tarragon, but swordfish is meaty enough so it’s a great combination. Why buy skewers when you can use what you already have?” Bradley first saw herb branches used as skewers in Italy, where he goes to visit family. Back at his restaurants, these fish kebabs might get served with a more-involved pepper salad or vinaigrette, he says, but here only a lemon wedge is called for to keep a grilling feast fuss-free.
With such simple recipes, however, it is important to remember that the details count. Bradley, who knows this better than most, reiterates the importance of working on a clean grill and letting coals get good and hot before cooking. And once the time comes to lay down the skewers, resist flipping the fish until it naturally releases from the grate. “The fish will cook itself off the sticking point if you give it enough time,” Bradley says. “My whole style of cooking is less is more. It’s about the ingredients.” With this clever pairing, that is certainly true.
Rosemary-Skewered Swordfish Kebabs
1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons grated lemon zest (from 2 medium lemons)
1½ tablespoons grated orange zest
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
4 rosemary branches, each 12 inches long, leaves removed and chopped, branches reserved
2 pounds swordfish, cut into approximately 16 cubes
Pour ¼ cup oil into a wide, shallow, nonreactive dish. Stir in lemon and orange zests, ½ tablespoon of thyme, and all but 1 tablespoon of the chopped rosemary. Add the swordfish to marinade and turn to coat fish completely. Refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.
Preheat gas grill to high, or prepare a charcoal grill, letting the coals burn until white ash is visible. Remove swordfish from marinade, brushing off any solids. Skewer fish pieces with the rosemary branches (about 4 pieces per branch). Season each kebab with salt and pepper. Place skewers on the hot grill and cook, turning as needed, until cooked through, approximately 4 minutes total.
Note to the cook: If you can’t find long, sturdy rosemary branches, use bamboo skewers. Soak them in warm water for 15 minutes before using them to keep them from catching fire on the grill.
Kitty Greenwald is a Brooklyn-based food writer and recipe developer. She eats a lot for work and pleasure. Her column Slow Food Fast appears in the Wall Street Journal.
Photo by David Sawyer
Portrait courtesy of The Red Cat