swordfish & coconut rice

The Big Fish of Autumn

September is my favorite month on the North Fork. The days are still warm and relatively long, and it is prime season for catching and eating fish. I must admit my sportfishing is limited to dropping a pole in the bay and waiting for a silvery snapper to find its way onto my hook. These baby bluefish are easy targets, but it is still a thrill to see them wriggling on my line, before quickly releasing them back into their natural habitat. 

Now is the perfect time to grill some of the wonderful big fish that abound off our coastline when they are at their very freshest. The fish markets are currently loaded with tuna, swordfish, striped bass and bluefish, and some of us are lucky enough to know a recreational fisherman willing to share their latest catch. 

Be a little adventurous when choosing your fish. Many people are hesitant to cook them because they mistakenly feel they require a lot of fussing and fiddling. The good news is skilled professionals have already taken care of the cleaning and filleting. All you must do is follow a few quick steps and you will have a healthy and delicious supper. A marinade can be as simple as lemon, salt and oil and just a few pantry staples can make a quick sauce. 

If you have not tried salmon fillets, brushed with mayonnaise (add a dash of lemon or soy sauce) and quickly broiled, then I suggest you try it for a weeknight supper that can be on the table in minutes. For September I present you with an easy Asian-inspired menu, ending with a simple cake that makes the most of our juicy local blackberries. I hope you enjoy it and that it inspires you to be a bolder cook and consumer of the bounty of the deep!

Lime Marinated Swordfish Steaks with Soy Honey Sauce

My plan for marinated and grilled tuna was quickly derailed when I spotted the plump and juicy swordfish steaks on display at the fish market. This robust fish is ideally suited to Asian flavors and can be cooked on the grill, in a cast iron skillet or ridged grill pan. After setting up my trusty Weber to cook the fish, the rain decided to make an unscheduled appearance, driving me inside to complete the dish in my trusty Le Creuset grill pan. I have given instructions below for a charcoal or gas grill, my favored method, but plan B gave great results. I heated the oiled grill pan to high and seared each side of the fish for two minutes, before turning the heat down to medium and cooking for a further four minutes on each side. The marinade and sauce pair well with tuna and wild salmon too.

Swordfish Steaks
One large piece of swordfish about 1 ¼ – 11/2 lbs. 
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 clove garlic peeled and crushed
1/3 cup canola oil

Mix the lime juice, mustard, soy sauce and garlic together in a small bowl, before adding the canola oil and whisking thoroughly. Cut the swordfish in half and place in a shallow container before adding the marinade and coating each piece thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for two to six hours, turning every 30 minutes. Remove the swordfish from the fridge about half an hour before cooking. 

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill to medium heat. Remove the swordfish from the marinade, allowing the excess to pour off. Place on a well-oiled grill grate and cook for about five minutes each side until fish is firm to the touch and just cooked through. Cut each piece of swordfish into two pieces. Drizzle with the soy honey sauce and serve with the pilaf and cucumber salad. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Soy Honey Sauce
1 ½ Tbsp. Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp clear honey
1 ½ Tbsp rice wine vinegar
½ inch piece fresh ginger, finely grated on a micro plane
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil

Place the soy sauce, honey, vinegar and ginger in a bowl. Mix thoroughly before whisking in the canola and sesame oils. Salt to taste and set aside.

Coconut Corn Rice Pilaf

Cooking the rice in a shallow pan and toasting the grains before adding the liquid keeps the grains nice and fluffy. Coconut milk and coconut oil add creaminess and yellow corn gives added crunch. 

You will have ample leftovers from the quantities given. If I am going to the trouble of making this dish, I like to have enough in the fridge next day to cook with extra vegetables, shrimp and seasonings for a delicious take on fried rice. Leftover rice must be cooled and refrigerated quickly to ensure food safety.

1 small yellow onion diced
4 Tbsp. coconut oil 
(you can substitute olive or canola oil)
2 cups imported basmati rice
1 large fresh or two dried bay leaves
1-inch piece fresh ginger peeled
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups fresh yellow corn kernels
Salt and pepper

Place the rice in a strainer and rinse under cold tap until water is clear. Place strainer over a bowl and leave the rice to drain and dry out for about 15 minutes. 

Heat 2 Tbsp. of coconut oil in a large lidded skillet and add the onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté over low heat until onion is translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir into the onions, turning to coat the grains with oil. Add the bay leaf and grate the ginger into the pan using a micro plane grater.

 Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring continuously for a couple of minutes. Add the broth and coconut milk and about half a teaspoonful of salt. Bring to a low boil and cover with lid. Cook over a low heat, stirring every few minutes for about 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking. If the mixture starts to look dry, you can add a little broth or water. 

When the rice is nearly tender, stir in the corn and replace the lid. Cook for a further 3 minutes. Rice should be cooked through but not too soft. 

Remove pan from stove to a heatproof surface. Remove lid and cover with a clean dishtowel before replacing lid and allowing pilaf to sit for about 10 minutes. This allows the mixture to steam slightly and absorb any remaining liquid. Stir in the remaining two tbsp. coconut oil (optional) before serving. 

Thai Cucumber Salad

This refreshing and light salad is an excellent accompaniment for this menu. It is essential to use English cucumbers, which are extremely juicy. Use either hothouse grown variety from a supermarket or a locally grown specimen in season. They are not readily available on the North Fork, but Wickham’s in Cutchogue stock them all summer. Thai fish sauce can be found at local supermarkets. My favored brand is Red Boat if you can find it.

1 large English cucumber, peeled, seeds removed 
& cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices
4 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 ½ Tbsp. brown sugar
1 ½ Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 a small jalapeño, seeded and minced finely
1 small garlic clove, grated finely
1 cup cilantro, chopped
3 scallions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced

Whisk the first seven ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the cucumber slices and mix thoroughly. Stir in half the cilantro and scallions and salt to taste. Place salad in the fridge for about 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Garnish with additional cilantro just before serving.

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