To me Sicilian recipes take the best of the land and the sea and combine them with Arabic flavors to produce bold tastes unique to the island. This is my interpretation using all three elements. The charred fish works so well with the bright fresh flavors in this pesto of raw cherry tomatoes and almonds. Which is the lesser known but traditional style pesto in the town of Trapani. The roasted tomatoes may not be traditional, but they add a luscious element to the textures here. —Sippity Sup (Greg Henry)
cherry tomatoes (about 6 cups)
large basil leaves
garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
whole almonds, lightly toasted, then roughly chopped
red pepper flakes
kosher salt, to taste, plus more for the pasta water
extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
pecorino-romano, parmigiano-reggiano, caciocavello or grana padano, freshly grated
salt and pepper to taste
pasta of your choice
clove garlic, minced
flat-leaf parsley, minced
red pepper flakes
olive oil, plus more for roasting tomatoes and the grill
juice and zest of 1 lemon
vincotto (slightly watered down pommegranate molasses or a reduced and thickened fruit vinegar may be substituted)
To make the pesto Trapanese: Halve or quarter 1 pound of the cherry tomatoes. Set the rest aside for roasting. In a food processor, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, halved or quartered tomatoes, garlic, basil, almonds, and red pepper flakes. Pulse the machine 10 or 12 times. The resulting pesto should be a consistent texture, quite grainy but not too chunky and not too wet.
Scrape the the pesto in a serving bowl and stir, adding the remaining olive oil a little at a time. You may not need all of the olive oil depending on your tomatoes. Once the desired consistency is achieved add the grated cheese.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set the sauce aside so that the flavors will have a chance to meld while you roast the remaining tomatoes and grill the fish.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the remaining whole cherry tomatoes with a bit of olive oil, minced garlic and minced parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes, uncovered about 15 minutes until shriveled but mostly intact.
To make the fish: Combine red pepper flakes, capers, fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle and grind them, adding the olive oil a bit at a time until a thick paste is achieved.
Whisk in the lemon juice, lemon zest and vincotto (or substitute). Pour the mixture into a large zip-lock bag. Add the fish and seal the bag. Let marinate about 1 hour, agitating often.
Bring a large pot of water to a simmer, add a generous amount of salt. Heat the grill, or grill pan, brushing the grates or pan with a bit of olive oil if necessary. Lay the fish onto the grill or pan and brush with a bit of marinade. Grill the fish over medium-high heat about 3 minutes, until well marked. Then turn it over and brush it with more marinade, cooking an additional 2 minutes or so until the fish is just cooked through (it will continue to cook as it rests)
Bring the pot of simmering salted water to a full boil. Add the pasta, stirring to avoid sticking. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Toss the pasta with a bit of its liquid and the reserved pesto Trapanese.
To serve, arrange some pasta on each of 4 plates. Top with a piece of swordfish. Gently spoon several tomatoes onto the fish keeping them intact if possible. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.