Swordfish with Olive Salmoriglio

Crossword puzzle aficionados will recognize Nobody ever told me as a familiar clue. The answer is LAMEEXCUSE. That’s all I can offer for why I didn’t recognize the orange slab of swordfish Jody brought home for this week’s blog. It’s called pumpkin swordfish – new to me – and the jack o’lantern color results from a diet heavy in shrimp and krill. I wish I could say that there’s an echo of those meals in the flavor, a suggestion of sea air and wild shellfish. Mais, non.

It tastes like swordfish.

When Jody’s restaurants closed in March staff were invited to take home perishable food and we – to our delight – were left with a quart of this post’s exotic other half, salmoriglio. It was made two days before closing, and we’ve been working off it ever since. The sauce in today’s photographs was made for this post, but it might have been from a conveniently bigger batch originally prepared for something else. Here’s some info from salmoriglio’s previous appearance in The Garum Factory. I wouldn’t change a word, because someday those heartache provoking references to guests and a dinner party will be true once again. Enjoy, wear a mask and keep on social distancing. No lame excuses!


Salmoriglio is a tasty little sauce from Sicily worth inviting into your list of go-to quick condiments. At its bare boniest, salmoriglio is little more than olive oil heated with garlic, a bit of lemon and, characteristically, dried oregano. Although frequently described as “good on anything,” it sings with grilled food. Swordfish or dark-meat fish like sardines, mackerel or bluefish go happily with it; grilled lamb blade chops are another alternative. Rule of thumb: anything you’d match with garlic yogurt will play well with salmoriglio. Serving it at a dinner party will earn you novelty points. Few guests will recognize the name (unless they’re Sicilian), and despite the familiarity of the ingredients I can almost guarantee they’ll never have tasted a lemon-oregano combination before.

Swordfish with Olive Salmoriglio


  • 1½ pounds swordfish, whole or in 4 pieces, ideally 1½ inches thick
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 lemons or enough to make 1/3 cup juice
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced red hot chili pepper
  • 1/3 cup assorted chopped green Sicilian olives (volume after chopping)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Cherry tomatoes, on the vine if possible
  • Mint, or other fresh herb. I used bronze fennel.


  1. Season the fish with salt and pepper and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  2. Zest one of the lemons to make 1 teaspoon zest. Juice 2-3 lemons. You should have 1/3 cup.
  3. To make the salmoriglio combine the lemon zest and juice, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, chopped fresh chili pepper, chopped olives, bay leaf, chili flakes, dried oregano and 1 tablespoon of water in a pot. Bring everything to a bare simmer and keep it there for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt.
  4. When cool, remove bay leaf.  
  5. Preheat a broiler to high. Put an oven rack 4-5 inches from the flame.
  6. Set the swordfish on a broiler pan with the tomatoes. Brush them both with oil from the salmoriglio. Sprinkle with paprika. Season the tomatoes with salt. 
  7. Broil. It will take 12-18 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish and the power of the flame. If the fish gets too dark before it is done, move the rack further from the flame. Keep an eye on the tomatoes, if they are nice and charred before the fish is done, transfer to a plate while the fish continues to broil.
  8. According the the USDA, the fish is done when the internal temperature is 145. That’s too cooked for our taste. I prefer to stop at 130 and allow it to rest for 5 minutes, when the internal temperature will continue to climb.  
  9. Serve the swordfish with some tomatoes, a generous helping of salmoriglio, a garnish of torn mint leaves or other herb and crusty toasted bread.
  10. Smear a tomato over the bread.

These are My Guys – they saved my arthritic hands.
I have two honest serving men,
They taught me all I knew.
Their names are smash-the-garlic and smash-the-olives.

Jody Notes

I have vivid memories of picking up fish with my mother for that night’s dinner at a market about 3 blocks from our house. Swordfish was a favorite. She seasoned it with salt and paprika which gave it a delicious nutty flavor and a terracotta color and simply cooked it on one side under the broiler. (She will probably correct me on this!) In the spirit of keeping things simple, I do not have you flip the fish to cook on the second side, but if you prefer to have char on both sides, put the fish closer to the flame and flip it halfway through cooking.

Salmoriglio made its way into my repertoire in 2008, right after my first visit to Sicily, and has been one of handful of a staples – preserved lemons, slow-roasted tomatoes, dukkah – in our fridge at home ever since. It’s better if it sits overnight.  

Sicilian olives have been on the ingredients list in my Salmoriglio recipe since I first served it at Rialto a dozen years ago. As fate would have it, I had Castelvetranos on hand last week, a relatively mild Sicilian olive. I would have preferred one of the sharper Sicilian varietals, but in this time of Covid-19, I’ve resolved not tot let perfection be the enemy of the good. Use the olives you have – or a combination of them. Salmoriglio is a very basic foundation – make it your own.

14 thoughts

  1. Love this week’s recipe and takes me back to that wonderful trip to Sicily! The swordfish there was super yummy as the size of the fish was relatively small (I dislike woody swordfish)
    Will definitely make this recipe soon…my Cherry tomatoes and herbs are growing!
    Thanks Jody and Ken…with any luck we can get together soon as it’s really easy to socially distance on my patio. Xxoo BA

      • yes, i am growing both tomatoes and herbs in pots – come on down when you can! As of now, there is not much covid here and everyone is following the rules.
        Looking forward when we can travel again:)

  2. My memory of Sicilian olives starts with visiting a country market with your father when we took that Elderhostel trip to Sicily in the 1990s. We wanted to buy a few of the green olives on display but knowing no Italian we ended up with a “ginormous” bag and then had to purchase a nesting set of plastic containers to house them all. We shared them with the tour group but even so I don’t know how we managed to empty the containers before returning home. In any case the blue-lidded set is in use in my kitchen to this day. Mom

    • Sorry, Conor, this comment missed me. Do you mean the recipe for swordfish is new, or that you haven’t tried swordfish at all? Thanks for the comments on the shots – takes one to know one. Ken

      • My lack of clarity is not helping. The issue is the trumpian swordfish. The swordfish we get over these parts is a more Caucasia sort of colouring. I love cooking it rare on a very hot griddle. Delicious fish.

      • Hey, Conor, I hope we’re talking about different species. You would never cook swordfish available in the US rare (unlike, say, tuna) because of the nematodes (parasite worms). It’s why we don’t see swordfish sushi. I don’t want to turn people off from eating swordfish – it’s wonderful when it’s cooked enough (not cooked to death, but cooked through). But if you salt a large piece of freshly butchered swordfish and then leave it on the counter for a bit, you’ll be horrified by what comes crawling out. Ken

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