Spices That Go With Swordfish

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Whether you feel like using many of the spices in your cabinet, or just keeping things simple, swordfish has a mild flavor that gives you the versatility you need. Its firm, meaty consistency makes swordfish a standout for grilling and broiling. That same firmness lets the fish stand up to a variety of seasoning methods -- from dry rubs to marinades, sauces and glazes.

Think of that swordfish steak like a blank canvas ready to be painted with the flavors you love best.

Simple Spices

When you keep your spices simple and minimal, you can enjoy the flavor of swordfish all on its own. Just as you might season a good steak very simply to allow its natural flavor to shine, you can also keep swordfish seasonings simple.

Brush both sides with olive oil and season the fish liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sear the swordfish in a hot pan, or grill it for approximately 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Serve the swordfish as is, or use it as the canvas for a pop of fresh, bright flavor. For example, top it with a simple cucumber salsa made by combining diced cucumber with diced red onion, diced tomato, chopped fresh mint, white wine vinegar, olive oil, a pinch of sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Bold Flavors

Swordfish's mild flavor profile also makes it well suited for seasoning with bold spices that elevate the fish and make your mouth sing. Many bold spices work well, including:

  • Sumac, a tangy spice often used in Middle Eastern cooking. Its vibrant lemon notes give a bright and intriguing flavor to the fish.
  • Grains of paradise, a West African staple that combines complex flavors of black pepper, herbs and citrus with a gentle spiciness and a woody aroma.
  • Mesquite, often used for smoking foods -- but also available in powder form. Mesquite is one of the stronger flavored woods used for smoking and grilling, and it requires a bit of finesse to balance the flavor.    
  • Cumin, garlic and cayenne pepper, a trifecta that frequently makes an appearance in Southwestern cuisine. These spices add warmth and earthiness without overwhelming the fish.
  • Ginger, sesame and soy sauce, a combination typically used in Asian cuisine. Swordfish pairs well with Asian spices, which offer a change of pace from the Southwestern salsas that many cooks use to top the fish.

Seasoning With Herbs

Whether you use them dried or fresh, the appeal of herbs is undeniable. These tasty spices add varying levels of flavor to the fish, transforming an ordinary dish into an extraordinary meal. Some culinary herbs to try include:

  • Rosemary has a natural affinity with swordfish. Masters of American Cookery recommends pressing dried or fresh chopped rosemary into each side of the swordfish before cooking it. 
  • Basil, with its slightly licorice-like flavor. Basil pairs particularly well in combination with tomatoes. Chop fresh tomatoes, and toss them with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Top the swordfish steaks with the tomato mixture followed by chopped basil.
  • Parsley, a staple in many kitchens. This basic herb adds a fresh quality that pairs nicely with citrus, garlic and other seasonings.
  • Oregano, a flavorful herb that's often used in Greek or Italian dishes.
  • Thyme, a subtle herb with citrus undertones. Thyme is flavorful on its own, but it also pairs well with other herbs, including rosemary, parsley, sage and oregano.  

Fresh Citrus

Citrus -- including lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit -- adds a bright, acidity to swordfish. This versatile flavor agent can be used in a variety of ways. For example, you can top cooked swordfish with a squeeze of fresh citrus, use citrus juice in a marinade, or use fresh or dried zest to season the fish before cooking . Citrus also pairs well with herbs and other spices, making it easy to combine seasonings to make balanced flavors.

Food blog Serious Eats hails its lemon herb butter as an easy way to take your swordfish over the top. To make it, combine a stick of butter with 1/2 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 5 tablespoons minced chives and 3 sprigs of freshly chopped parsley leaves.

Beat the mixture together, wrap it in parchment to form a log, and chill it until you're ready to serve. Top the hot swordfish with a tablespoon of the butter.

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