Salmoriglio is a typically Sicilian sauce that adds great flavor to fish, particularly that most typical of Sicilian fishes, swordfish. The fish is grilled or otherwise simply prepared and napped with sauce before serving. Salmoriglio looks like and plays a culinary role similar to the salsa verde that goes so well with bollito (boiled meats), adding zest to an otherwise ‘plain’ dish. But salmoriglio uses lemon (and lemon zest) rather than vinegar and some fresh oregano for a distinctly southern taste.
Swordfish is a great choice for folks who may not be too partial to fish. It has a mild taste and firm texture that really reminds me (almost) of a kind of white meat. Add some tasty sauce on top and even the most hardcore piscisceptic might fall in love.
For the sauce:
- A handful of fresh parsley
- 2 sprigs of fresh oregano
- 1 garlic clove
- A spoonful of capers
- 2 or 3 strips of lemon zest
- Salt and pepper
- The juice of one lemon
- Olive oil, q.b.
For the fish:
- Swordfish steaks
- Olive oil
Now whiz all the ingredients together until you have a fairly smooth sauce. Check the sauce for taste and consistency and see what it needs: if it’s a bit too thick or too tart, add some more olive oil. If it’s a bit too bland, add some more salt. If you want it tarter, add a bit more lemon juice. And so on. You can play with it until you reach a balance that appeals to you. The sauce should, in all events, be very flavorful.
The use of fresh oregano is really pretty important for this dish, in my humble opinion, even if you will see many recipes that call for dried oregano, either as a substitute or as the ingredient. It may surprise some readers, but I’m actually not a big fan of oregano in general. I find it too pungent for my tastes. But if I do use it, I like to use it with discretion, and fresh oregano lends a much ‘softer’ oregano taste than dried. And in a raw sauce like this, a dried herb is not particularly appealing. Still in a ‘pinch’…
I would recommend you ask your fishmonger to cut the steaks fairly thin, no thicker than a finger. This will let you cook the fish fairly quickly and ensure a proper fish-to-sauce ratio. If you have rather thick steaks on your hands (which is very common if you buy them pre-cut) then you can either cut them into thinner slices (a bit tricky but doable) or just cook them longer.
While swordfish is perhaps the most typical fish to serve with salmoriglio sauce, at the price of swordfish steaks these days ($25/lb. when I bought them yesterday!) it’s a good thing that it really goes well with almost any simply prepared fish. And it can do double service as a sauce for grilled lamb, chicken or veal.