Preview of Next Week's Theme

July  9, 2010

Swordfish Recipe Contest

Starting Sunday at midnight, we want to see Your Best Swordfish Recipe.

This is the sixth contest Whole Foods Market will be sponsoring, awarding the winner with a $100 gift card. At the end of this 8-week summer promotion, one of these winning recipe authors will be awarded the Grand Prize: a $1,000 gift card!

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Our longtime partner OXO will continue to award a bounty of kitchen products to the winner and runner-up. So for 8 weeks, we're talking double prizes!


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • dymnyno
  • pierino
  • cchayes123
  • Teri
Food52 (we cook 52 weeks a year, get it?) is a food and home brand, here to help you eat thoughtfully and live joyfully.


TheWimpyVegetarian July 12, 2010
What a great chain of comments! Like many of you, I haven't eaten swordfish in maybe 10 years as much due to mercury content than anything. Since easily 40% of my protein each week comes from fish, I've given serious thought to getting tested for mercury. I read an article a couple years ago by a local guy who's significant protein source was fish. He thought he was being very healthy, followed sustainability guidelines, etc. and when asked to write the story on the mercury content of fish he got himself tested only to find that his mercury levels were off the chart they were so high. His lesson was to have a more balanced source of protein and to stay away from large-top-of-the-foodchain-fish. I guess we can all go vegetarian, but then there wouldn't be enough LAND to grow the food. There are issues everywhere I look with food it seems. BUT I've loved reading different valid viewpoints here and have learned something in the process, as usual. Like dymnymo I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's contribution. It might not get me back at the swordfish counter again, but I'm sure I will see lots of recipes I can apply to other fish.
dymnyno July 12, 2010
I haven't eaten swordfish since I read Kitchen Confidential. I know reading Food52 recipes will change all that and I be eyeing the fish again!
pierino July 12, 2010
I'm happy to see the "swordfish" discussion going on. We cooks really do need to contemplate these things. Paul Greenberg contibuted a very insightful article to the New York Times magazine two weeks back on blue fin tuna. Actually a whole book has been written on the subject. Realistically I see fish as wildlife but I'm not giving up eating animal anytime soon. Somebody sent a letter in to the Times suggesting that humans are supposed to be vegetarians. Yeah? That's why we are suckled on human milk and we have canine teeth and eyes in the front of our faces not on the sides. Oh, that makes sense. But really we have to make intelligent choices because we are sapient beings. Maybe whales are smarter, that hasn't been determined. But fish do eat other fish and mammals do eat other mammals. Neither salmon nor tuna are vegetarians but they get penned up in corrals in the worst examples of aquaculture and are fed soy products. Billfish, well go read "The Old Man and the Sea" again.
cchayes123 July 11, 2010
Have to agree with all the above comments. I haven't eaten a piece of swordfish since the 1980's and am surprised to see the contest listed here. Here is the link from an EPA report from 2004. Item # 1 ... do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel or Tile Fish.

Please choose another fish i.e. Copper River Salmon would make a lovely candidate for a contest. (I am thinking of a recipe right now that would include soaking a cedar plank). =)
Lizthechef July 11, 2010
Thank you for your thoughtful comments and powerful attachment. I went to my best seafood market here in San Diego and found only imported s'fish from Fiji (looked OK), local WF with old-looking fish from Canadian northern Atlantic waters at $19/lb. Cooked $15/lb lovely local halibut instead, appreciative of where we all live but still reluctant to eat swordfish after a pretty hard look at You missed the salmon theme...
cchayes123 July 11, 2010
Liz, you're right ... I did miss the Salmon theme - week 48!
lastnightsdinner July 12, 2010
cchayes123, I appreciate your comments, but It's not a black and white issue. I think that in addition to being educated consumers, it is important for us to support those fisheries who are operating in a sustainable manner like the Nova Scotia fishermen Whole Foods is sourcing their harpoon-caught seafood from. As the Heritage Foods USA folks say, "you have to eat it to save it" - if we don't create a market for sustainably-caught/harvested seafood, or for other responsibly raised animal products for that matter, those who are trying to make change in the industry by doing things in an ethical way won't be able to succeed.
cchayes123 July 12, 2010
Hi Jennifer,
Good discussion. I love the notion of supporting local and sustainable but, sadly humans are still polluting our earth and oceans with mercury. Swordfish (sadly) accumulate via bioaccumulation. My family are regular consumers of fish and regrettably swordfish is too risky to take that chance for potential neurological consequences.
lastnightsdinner July 12, 2010
Oh trust me, I'm still far more likely to choose sardines over swordfish 99% of the time, but it's good to know that there's a better option available for the times when I do want to indulge :)
pierino July 11, 2010
I applaud the sardines suggestion. They are one of the fishes that might yet be with us for awhile (along with anchovies)... Sardines do have those little pin bones but the flesh is sweet and mild. And they take well to grilling.
Teri July 12, 2010
Pin bones, shmin bones. I'll eat them pretty much whole. :)
Teri July 11, 2010
At first glance, I was shocked and a little disappointed to see Food52 had chosen swordfish as this week's theme. I haven't ordered or cooked with swordfish in nearly a decade because of all its troubles, for me and for the sea. Then, I thought, maybe there's something new in the swordfish-eating world that I've missed since I erased it from my own personal menu.

So I took a look at the thoughtful comments people have posted so far. No one's convinced me yet to go looking for swordfish when there are so many other tasty, fresh, and small seafaring things at my every turn. (I ate fresh uni last night for dinner just plucked from the waters off the northern coast of Honshu, and, let me tell you, it tasted better and more buttery than any tuna I've had in this wonderful fish-eating country.) And I can appreciate the sentiment of seeing many weeks roll by when the themes have nothing to do with what's in my market. Ramps in Tokyo? Not so much. A pork roast? A HAM? Anyone got a couple hundred dollars I could "borrow"? But I'm also very glad when everyone, not to mention A&M, pushes us outside our ingredient zones. (Shiso rules. Really. When you finally find some, you'll know what I mean.)

I decided I liked the debate this week's challenge sparked, which I assume will continue. It's the conversations, as much as the food, that I like about Food52. I'm curious to see what everyone comes up with this week and what else people have to say. Personally, I'll be trying the new swordfish combinations and techniques on saba and aji, types of mackerels, and other small, meaty fish available to me. I'll also be looking forward to more themes that I can join. I can't wait for iwashi week. Best sardines, anyone?
lastnightsdinner July 11, 2010
I love the idea of a "best sardines" contest :)
adashofbitters July 11, 2010
This has nothing to do with swordfish or any other fishes at all, but shiso. It's delicious and beautiful, and I've actually played with it as a cocktail ingredient.
Lizthechef July 11, 2010
I ate fresh sardines in Amsterdam 3 years ago - delightful!
Teri July 12, 2010
Shiso cocktails? Keep talking.
fiveandspice July 12, 2010
Yes! I'd be so much more behind a "best sardines" contest! (I once had to come up with a slogan for sardines for a nutrition communication class: "the tuna of tomorrow", hehe.)
Abra B. July 11, 2010
Mahi-mahi's texture and flavor are not far off from those of swordfish, so if you can get Hawaiian mahi-mahi, go for it. No amount of sustainable fishing is going to solve the mercury problem, though. It's just endemic to eating at the top of the (sea)food chain.
Lizthechef July 10, 2010
Amanda, your points are well-taken. Thank you, "ramp-less in San Diego" ;)
lastnightsdinner July 10, 2010
I didn't eat swordfish for years, starting back in the day when many chefs pulled it from their menus in response to overfishing. We try to stick to sustainable seafood choices like bluefish, mackerel, sardines, and local squid and shellfish, and we're lucky to have a great fishmonger we trust a short walk from my office in Boston. I appreciate that Whole Foods is working to provide more sustainable seafood options in their stores, and that they're working to educate customers. In fact, I just returned from our local Whole Foods with two gorgeous pieces of their MSC-certified, harpoon-caught swordfish. My store had some printed materials right at the fish counter with the story behind the fish and fishery, cooking tips, and recipes. Tonight's dinner :)
Lizthechef July 10, 2010
I think it's nice that the healthy stuff is available through Whole Foods but it's hard for folks not having a WF store available to find swordfish that is OK for healthy consumption. The fact that the summer contests are sponsored by WF doesn't sit entirely well with me either. With so much beautiful fish in the markets, I wish we had been offered an option.Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to what delicious recipes you will offer us!
Amanda H. July 10, 2010
Liz, thanks for your comment. We partnered with Whole Foods Market because we share similar beliefs about food and home cooking. We know it may be difficult for some people to find sustainably fished swordfish, and we're sorry about that, but we're catering to a large, spread-out audience, and sometimes the themes can't be relevant to everyone. We try our best, but some ingredients, like ramps, or strawberries, which are out at different times in CA than NYC -- aren't available to everyone at the same time. Hang in there -- we'll announce a new theme next week!
pierino July 10, 2010
"Sea bass" covers a multitude of sins. Many so called are not even bass at all: for example "Chilean Sea Bass" aka Patagonian Toothfish is dangerously overfished. Halibut is a very poor substitute for swordfish as the texture and taste is very different. For people who must choose at the supermarket fish counter (God help them) the odds are about 90 to 1 that the "swordfish" is frozen, defrosted and in poor condition and who knows its provenance. It wasn't uncommon in the '70's for shark to be sold as swordfish.
Savorykitchen July 10, 2010
I didn't say "sea bass" - I said "black sea bass" (an approved fish on the Monterey list) which in itself is a catch-all name for multiple fish. Chilean sea bass is overfished, although Whole Foods sells an MSC-certified Chilean Sea bass, for what it's worth.

I agree that halibut is not the same as swordfish, but in my experience when cut into steaks, it can have the same "steaky" texture as swordfish, although the flavor will be different. What would you substitute?

While in the ideal world, we'd all have access to a fish counter with an educated staff and excellent product, for many people supermarket seafood is the only option. In the past this option limited you to canned albacore or frozen fish sticks, but nowadays I have found that seeking out the seafood manager and letting him know sustainable choices are important to me does make an impact. I question the workers behind the counter about the origin of what I'm buying and will always adjust a recipe to accomodate a sustainable choice.
pierino July 10, 2010
I'm in agreement with Abra's comments about swordfish. I consult Seafood Watch regularly myself. Whole Foods does an excellent job of identifying the sources for their fish counter. But not everyone has a Whole Foods at their disposal. This is going to be a dodgy week to submit a recipe. Best recipe for squid or mussels might have been a better choice. Steak like fish is a very delicate area these days. Healthwise you have to think about mercury levels as well as the destruction of "by catch." Thank you Abra, I would have brought it up if you hadn't
Abra B. July 10, 2010
Swordfish is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Avoid list and there's also a health advisory on it for mercury content. I know that not everyone is concerned with these issues, but for those that are, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a great source of information.
Savorykitchen July 10, 2010
Actually, that Seafood Watch link lists domestically, preferably harpooned or longline-caught swordfish as a "Best Choice" or "Good Alternative" - Imported swordfish is a "Poor choice". Frankly, I live in New England and swordfish is a more sustainable choice than our local halibut.

I do agree that mercury is a concern, but a serving of swordfish once a month should be ok for most (unless of course, you're pregnant or nursing). To me eating is all about making sensible choices that are right for ME. If you're more cautious about mercury, use a substitute fish like pacific halibut or black sea bass.
Lizthechef July 10, 2010
Thanks for your comment. This is why I don't cook swordfish. Agree that "Seafood Watch" is a most valuable information resource. I refer to it quite often.Thanks again, Liz
MyCommunalTable July 9, 2010
On the sustainable list by Seafood Watch: recommend buying only Broadbill, Espada, and Emperador market names of swordfish from the US, and Canada. Should be caught on handline or harpoon. You can also have Shutome from Hawaii. It does pay to know your fish monger. No imported swordfish.
Merrill S. July 9, 2010
Thanks so much for the tips!
lastnightsdinner July 10, 2010
AntoniaJames July 9, 2010
Is it necessary that all ingredients used in the recipe be available at Whole Foods? Thanks! ;o)
Amanda H. July 9, 2010
Not necessary -- you're not expected to know everything they carry! -- but it does help if recipes have mostly accessible ingredients.