08 November 2009

Home-cooked and gourmet

Image from Food & Home Magazine

This weekend I cooked a delicious dinner of parmesan-crusted swordfish steaks served over a bed of sautéed fresh spinach and bacon and topped with a chunky tomato-vegetable ragout and a watercress salad tossed in lemon-shallot vinaigrette. I was inspired by the beautiful photographs and mouth-watering descriptions in a Food & Home article that featured various local restaurants and their seafood-starring entrees. The pictures were gorgeous, and while some of them seemed fairly labor intensive (like smoked mussels jarred in olive oil with garlic, onions and herbs from Julienne or stuffed Louisiana soft-shelled crab from The Palace Grill) or simply mundane (like cioppino or grilled salmon with veggies…things I’ve had plenty of experience with already), this dish (which you can find at Enterprise Fish Co. with halibut instead of swordfish) was both approachable and unique enough to capture my imagination and get me into the kitchen.

With just the photo and a brief description, I went ahead and made up my own recipe for this great dish, and I am excited to share it with you! Composed of four different units, the colors, flavors, and textures come together to create a beautiful and fantastic experience. You’ll be thrilled with the cost ($30/plate at the restaurant versus $8/plate if made at home) and you’ll have a lot of fun making it and serving it to your appreciative guests!
If you plan to serve this when entertaining, here are some game-plan tips: make the ragout and vinaigrette a day or two ahead of time. Then, in the hour or so before your guests arrive, start reheating the ragout, wash the watercress, cook the bacon, and pat your swordfish steaks dry with a paper towel. Your final prep, which is best done right before serving, could take as little as 10 minutes, and will be to dredge the fish in parmesan and pan-fry it (4 minutes per side), sauté the spinach, toss the watercress in the vinaigrette, and then plate up the dishes. I served this with some crunchy ciabatta bread, and I think this would be paired well with a nice chardonnay.

But, don’t wait to have guests over to try this out! Go ahead and make this fun dish for your own enjoyment! The smoky, salty bacon with earthy spinach, the creamy swordfish in a crispy parmesan crust, the hearty ragout of tangy tomatoes, veggies, and jalapeño, and the cool and refreshing cress salad are just so delicious together!

Santa Barbara Swordfish
Serves 4

Tomato-Vegetable Ragout
½ large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 small rib of celery, diced
1 jalapeño, seeds removed, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely torn

In a medium-sized pot, sauté onion, carrot, and celery until onion is soft and translucent. Add the jalapeño and garlic and continue to cook for a few minutes more. Add diced tomatoes and juices and cook on at high simmer for about one hour, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened. Stir in basil leaves and continue to cook, uncovered, until juices have evaporated and ragout is very thick.

Bacon and Spinach Sauté
4 oz. lean bacon, diced
12 oz. pre-washed fresh spinach

In a large pot, render the fat from the bacon by cooking over medium-low heat. Drain fat from pot. Just before serving, toss spinach in bacon until warm and wilted.

Parmesan-crusted Swordfish
4 (1/3 lb.) swordfish steaks, patted dry with a paper towel
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
4 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese

Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper on both sides, and dredge evenly in parmesan. In a skillet over medium-high heat, pre-heat 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil. Cook swordfish 4 minutes on each side. The parmesan crust will become golden brown, but be careful to avoid overcooking the fish.

Watercress Salad
1 ½ tablespoons finely grated shallot (with juices)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1 bunch watercress

Combine vinaigrette ingredients together in a small glass jar. Cover tightly and shake to emulsify the dressing. Place the watercress in a large bowl and drizzle with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette, being careful to keep stems aligned together (to make it easier for pretty plating). You will have extra vinaigrette; save for another salad!

To plate:
Divide bacon and spinach sauté among four large dinner plates. Place a swordfish steak on each mound of spinach. Spoon the ragout over one side of the fish, and then arrange the watercress over top.

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