I like to buy fish every week from the local fishmonger who shows up to my greenmarket. It's a relationship, you know? Inevitably, I learn something from the guy every time, and even if I don't, I still walk away with a nice pound of fresh, local scallops or striped bass or, like last week, swordfish. 


But here's the thing about swordfish and me--I only ever grill it. Which, of course, is a great way to eat a nice, thickly cut piece of it, there's no denying, but it gets kinda... boring. Or just limiting. Certainly when the weather turns and the distance between my back door and the barbecue grill seems like one, long chilly trek.


Still, those swordfish steaks looked so good, I bought two, and headed on home with the rest of my bag o' fresh goodies, some for which I had concrete plans, others that were left up in the air. Enter

Sicilian Home Cooking. This came to me from my Uncle Frank out in California (you remember him; the one who trolls book stands and then sends boxes of tomes to his kids and neices and nephews; lucky me, I get all the cookbooks because of my job). Its authors, Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene, a mother and daughter team who run Gangivecchio, an inn and cooking school in Sicily's Madonie Mountains, a place I hope to get to one of these days because it looks pretty darned amazing. One thing I love about some Sicilian dishes is the unexpected combination of sweet with sour and/or savory elements, and it's what made me stop on a page out the book that contained the recipe for swordfish pie, or impanata di pesce spada d verdure (fun to say, right?). The first time I had anything like this was at my husband Dan's aunt's house in Caltabellotta, Sicily, the town from which his father emigrated back in the early 1960s. Dan and I went the year after we married so I could meet that part of the family, as Dan's dad was the only one who'd left home. Everyone else stayed there, or in the neighboring seaside town of Sciacca. That one night, Aunt Lila made us a dish I'll never forget -- a beautiful whole, roasted fish with capers, olives, onions, tomatoes, herbs, and raisins. It was, wow -- phenomenal. So fresh and flavorful, I'm pretty sure I went back for thirds (ah, the American wife--she has a good appetite!).


This pie from the Tornabene's fantastic book reminded me of that wonderful dish I had that night, but with the added pleasure of a pastry wrap enclosing all those fantastic flavors in a beautiful package. It was a chilly night that I made this -- a little too cold to trek out to the grill, and perfect for teaching an old (well, old enough) cook a new trick.



Swordfish and Vegetable Pie

(serves 6)


1/2 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup pitted and chopped green olives (Sicilian, if possible)

2 TBSP capers, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup raisins, soaked in tepid water for 10 minutes and drained

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes

2 lbs swordfish, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 recipe for Pasta Frolla Piccante (see below and note: It needs pre-prep before beginning prep for swordfish pie ingredients), worked with the grated zest of 1 orange

1 large egg yolk, beaten


In a large fying pan, heat the oil and cook the onion until it begins to turn golden brown, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the celery and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the olives, capers, and raisins. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine well and simmer for 10 minutes.


Stir in the tomatoes and swordfish. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring often. Taste for seasoning, Transfer to a shallow bowl and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan, Set aside. Divide the Pasta Frolla dough in half. Roll out each half into a 12-inch circle. Fit 1 circle into the pan, letting the extra dough hang over the edge. Spoon the seafood mixture over the dough. Cover with the second piece of dough and seal the edges securely by pinching them together or pressing them with the tines of a fork. With a knife, make serveral evenly spaced short slashes or little holes in the top of the dough. Brush the top with the egg yolk. Cook for 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve at room temperature.


Pasta Frolla Piccante

(pastry dough for vegetable tarts)


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP sugar

1 TBSP baking powder

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup plus 3 TBSP unsalted butter, melted then cooled to room temperature


Put the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder into a large bowl. Combine. Add eggs and vanilla, and mix together with a pastry blender or the blades or 2 ordinary kitchen knives. Little by little, incorporate the butter. Coat your hands with a little flour, and knead the dough only enough so that it sticks together; take care not to overwork it or it will toughen. Shape the dough into a ball.


With a little flour on our hands, form the dough into a ball, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, if possible, but at least for 1 hour. The dough also freezes for future use, so cut in half (as you only need half the recipe for the swordfish pie), wrap well, and put one half in the freezer, and keep the other in the refrigerator for the above recipe.

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by on ‎11-04-2010 10:34 PM

Just a question, not a condemnation. But are you watching the sustainable seafood guide for your area before you hit your fish monger?


Here's a link to the down loadable ones if you were looking



You got to be careful what waters your swordfish came out of.


by Blogger Amy_Zavatto on ‎11-05-2010 02:38 PM

Indeed, TB. I have it as an app on my iPhone. In the Northeast, long-line caught swordfish is at the moment in the Good Alternative category. It's swordfish from overseas that you need to avoid, or so says Monterey.

by Blogger Amy_Zavatto on ‎11-10-2010 01:34 PM

Oh, also! Duh -- something that might not be so very apparent: to sell your veg or fruit or fish or meat in the NYC Greenmarket system you must be a local farmer/fisherman within a certain mile range, and you can't be bringing in stuff from other places. It's gotta be local. So that's why I dig that fishmonger -- he's not only complying with Greenmarket rules, but local general rules of overfishing, etc. Thank goodness! Makes my eating life a lot easier.


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