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The Food Processor

An Easy Swordfish Dish Blanketed in Olive Flavor

September 03, 1987|JANE SALZFASS FREIMAN | Freiman is a New York-based food writer

People who will not eat fish because they are afraid of bones often can be coaxed into trying swordfish, which is a white-fleshed fish without small bones.

Swordfish has gained in popularity during the last few years, both in restaurants and at home, because it also has a great flavor, particularly when grilled or broiled.

During a recent visit to Toronto, I dined at Orso, a popular Northern Italian restaurant. The menu included swordfish with olive butter, which sounded so unusual I could not resist ordering it as a main course.

The perfectly grilled fish arrived with a spoonful of what appeared to be a type of olive pesto on top. But the sauce, which began to melt as I spread it over the fish, was a delicious surprise. It was, in fact, an olive butter that lightly covered the swordfish in a velvety blanket of flavor.

Simple Recipe

A request for the recipe yielded one of the easiest and best fish dishes I have tasted in quite some time. The sauce has two ingredients--drained Nicoise olives and butter--and the fish is cooked completely without salt. Since olives are cured in a salt brine, their salt adds sufficient seasoning to the fish.

Small dark Nicoise olives are a French import available in jars in specialty food stores and many supermarkets. Their flavor is mild and skins are dark since the olives are picked when ripe. It is necessary to pit the olives. Since they are small, this is easily done by cutting away the flesh with a sharp, small knife. The recipe calls for one ounce of Nicoise olives (with pits), which measures out to a generous quarter-cup when tightly packed.

Making olive butter is a snap. First, the pitted olives are minced, then softened unsalted butter is added. Just process continually until the two ingredients are combined, stopping several times to sweep the container with a spatula should the butter stop moving on the blades.

Olive butter can be used immediately, refrigerated several days or frozen indefinitely. Do not overlook using leftover olive butter on pasta or in soup.




1/4 cup black Nicoise olives, drained

6 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

Olive oil

4 to 6 (1/2-pound) skinned swordfish steaks


Drain olives and remove pits by cutting away flesh with small sharp knife. Discard pits. Put olive flesh and butter in processor and process, sweeping side of container frequently with spatula, until mixture makes thick paste. Can use immediately or wrap in plastic and refrigerate 4 hours (or up to 3 days).

Lightly brush olive oil on both sides of swordfish and season to taste with with pepper. Grill or broil about 2 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Fish is done when tip of sharp knife inserted into thickest part is withdrawn hot.

Put 1/4 to 1/6 of olive butter on top of each piece of fish. Serve immediately. Butter will melt to make sauce as it sits. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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