Swordfish Souvlaki (Ξιφίας σουβλάκι)Jun 24th, 2010 | By Peter Minakis | Category: Dressing, Featured, Fish, Greek, Greek Grill, Greek Wine, Herbs, Lemon, Main, Olive Oil
I remember when and where I first had a swordfish souvlaki, like it was yesterday. It was the summer of 1987, my first summer in Greece without my parents. I had just completed one year of university and the trip to Greece was a gift from my parents for graduating high school and being accepted in university.
I graduated in 1986 (back then we had a grade 13) and I was supposed to go that summer but my parents weren’t going to send sonny-boy to Europe with radiation fall-out from the Chernobyl disaster. So, my vacation gift was delayed by a year and I went to Greece in 1987, a gap of 4 years since my last visit.
The 1987 visit to Greece also offered me my first visit to an island, Skiathos. This island is relatively small, lush green with evergreens and turquoise waters bordered by sandy beaches and that light blue sky. Skiathos is the northernmost island in the Sporades. Just to the south of it lies Skopelos, which was the primary location for the filming of the movie Mamma Mia.
Skiathos is located just east of the mainland, near the Pelion peninsula and the port city of Volos. It’s located around halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki and there are many options for getting there. One can take a ferry from Athens to Skiathos or drive from either Athens or Thessaloniki to Volos and then catch either a ferry or hydrofoil. Regular ferry boat and hydrofoil service to Skiathos is also available from Thessaloniki.
All I have from Skiathos are grainy photos taken with a cheap Kodak camera and my memories….blurred by beers, Ouzo and Gin & Tonics (my gin drinking phase). What I do recall is a picturesque small port town that wins you over immediately. Winding alleyways of small bars and tavernas, nearby beaches (you have to visit the sweeping bay of Koukounaries) and delicious food that caters to all tastes and budgets.
I can vividly remember sitting down and enjoying the swordfish souvlaki. It was near the end of our stay, we were tired from late nights and sleepless days on the beach. My body and soul craved sit-down food, a slower pace and we tripped upon a taverna that was just down from the port, elevated about 50 feet above sea level, within full view of the sea. The smell of pine was combined with the aroma of gardenias. Bougainvillea overhang like draped over the whitewashed wall that keep the taverna from spilling over into the sea. A trellis of grape wines provided us with ample shade from the hot Greek sun.
Have you had swordfish before? The swordfish (Xiphias gladius) roam temperate and tropical waters worldwide. It’s flesh is firm, pink to ivory in colour and it contains a moderate amount of oils in it – a good candidate for grilling. Choose thick swordfish steaks, remove and dark red areas and cut into cubes for the souvlaki recipe. Often the swordfish steak will still have the skin on it and it too should be removed (along with any bones).
The flavouring of this swordfish is no long-held secret recipe but just nudging/helping along this light-tasting fish. Olive oil, citrus, Greek oregano, garlic are all that are needed here. The dish benefits from having a light touch with the ingredients: my marinade only uses the zest of lemon and a minimal juice, I don’t want the acid to cook the swordfish. Mixed with some garlic, olive oil, black pepper and a bit of Dijon mustard and you have a simple marinade that complements the fish – not cover it.
Your choice of what vegetables to accompany the fish in the skewers is up to you. Regardless of what you choose, cut the vegetables to the same diameter as the cubes of swordfish. In this instance, I used red peppers, purple (red) onions, green peppers and tomatoes. For the tomatoes, I simply pared the hull of the tomato and cut them into cubes, resembling the other veggies on the skewer. Try and cut/trim the vegetables to the same diameter as the the swordfish so that they may cook evenly.
When grilling swordfish, you need medium-high heat, gas or charcoal is fine and if ever you should heed my instructions to brush the grill surface well and ensure you begin with a clean, residue-free grill, it would be now. You don’t want your fish to stick. The grill should be wiped with an oil-treated towel to lubricate it and then simply allow heat to do the rest of the work. If using wooden skewers, soak overnight to reduce the chance of them burning up.
Accompaniments to the swordfish souvakli are a baked rice pilaf, a seasonal salad and a Latholemono sauce as a dressing for the fish: extra-virgin Greek olive oil, lemon juice, some chopped fresh chives or scallions, chopped fresh Greek oregano (or dried), chopped capers and salt and pepper to taste. I cracked open a Boutari Santorini white, a delicious wine made 100% with the indigenous Assyrtiko varietal of the island.
Swordfish Souvlaki (Ξιφίας σουβλάκι)
4 swordfish steaks, skin removed, trimmed of bones and any dark meat and cubed
uniform-cut pieces of onions, red and green peppers and tomatoes
coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper
zest of 1 lemon
3 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. of Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. of fresh oregano or thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. of Dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. chopped capers
1 Tbsp. dried Greek oregano
salt and pepper to taste
- Remove the skin and bones from your swordfish steaks and cut into large, uniform cubes. Rinse & pat-dry. In a bowl, add all of your marinade ingredients, adjust seasoning to taste. Add your swordfish cubes into the marinade, cover and place in the fridge for one hour. Remove from the fridge and allow to return to room temperature. In the meantime, add all your latholemono ingredients in a jar and place lid on and shake. Adjust to taste.
- In the meantime, cut your vegetables into uniform size, roughly the same diameter as your cubes of swordfish. Skewer your swordfish with alternating pieces of vegetable. Pre-heat your gas grill, thoroughly brush your grill surface and when your grill gets to a medium-high (be able to place your hand over the heat and count to five), we’re ready to grill.
- Treat a towel with some vegetable oil and wife your grill surface. Season your swordfish souvlaki with coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Place on your grill for 4-5 minutes a side. Remove and plate with some wedges of lemon, spoon over some of the latholemono sauce and serve with some rice pilaf and a salad.
If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.
© 2007-2010 Peter Minakis
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© 2010, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.