When I left the trailer this afternoon, I told my roommate that I was going to the grocery store and would stop and run on the way back. I’ll be out for a while, I said.
So when I popped back in 30 or 40 minutes later, she was surprised.
“Did you go to the store?”
“Yup…. it was the run I skipped,” I replied. “I just got so excited about cooking dinner that I had to come right back home.”
Before leaving for the grocery store, I had picked out a recipe for the evening. It was from David Tanis’s cookbook A Platter of Figs, and it was grilled halibut with Indian spices and yellow tomatoes (am I supposed to capitalize all that? grammar police?). You can find the original recipe online, including here; I originally stumbled upon it when Gourmet reviewed the cookbook.
So into the Publix I went, shopping list in hand. When I began wandering around and eventually made it to the fish counter, they had no halibut. In fact, they only had a handful of different kinds of fish. I am still somewhat in shock about this, since we live on the coast and everything. But anyway, halibut was not an option, unless I wanted to buy frozen. I did not.
But…. swordfish was on sale. Swordfish! And so I got some, promising myself to eat only half of the gorgeous-looking steak tonight and saving the other half for tomorrow’s dinner, because after all, even on sale, swordfish ain’t cheap.
I was so excited that I rushed back to the trailer and started seasoning my fish with a spice blend similar to that in Tanis’s recipe. It was actually a fairly complex dinner by my current standards: rice, fish, tomatoes, some spinach, and a yogurt sauce. That’s a lot of parts, but each of them was quite simple (especially the spinach: place on plate, put swordfish on top, done).
Immediately, things began to smell good.
“Damn, what are you cooking over there? Are you using herbs or something?” my roommate asked.
Ignoring the fact that I was using spices, not herbs, I nodded. “Coriander, cumin, turmeric, fennel seed, nutmeg, cayenne….”
Her eyes got big.
But not as big as mine were when the fish and tomatoes came out of the oven. They looked good.
I brought the pan out to the picnic table, where I already had a plate set with rice and spinach. I put half the swordfish steak on top of the spinach, half the tomatoes next to that, and drizzled the whole thing with the yogurt sauce.
And it tasted just as good as it had looked and smelled.
While the swordfish was great, the real star of the show was the tomatoes. They totally stole the spotlight. Perhaps I should have rubbed more of the spice mix into the swordfish, although then it would have barely even tasted like fish anymore, and wasted a perfectly good steak. But the tomatoes were spicy, hot, interesting, delectable… I can’t think of enough words to describe them. They were still juicy, like a tomato should be, but the top edges had crisped up a little, too. On a side note, why are yellow tomatoes so much more exciting than red ones?
And the tomatoes drizzled with my improvised yogurt sauce, wow. The yogurt sauce was awesome. I’d eat it on its own, honestly.
In any case, I do not regret skipping my run today, because this was hands-down the best and most inspired meal I’ve cooked so far in Florida. The bar has been raised, plus now I have some spices in my cabinet, so I’d better keep using them!
Oven-Baked Swordfish With Spiced Yellow Tomatoes and Yogurt Sauce
adapted from/inspired by A Platter of Figs by David Tanis; serves two
1 6-oz swordfish steak (or two if you are particularly protein-hungry)
1 yellow tomato
salt and pepper
1/3 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt
1 clove garlic
1 small piece fresh ginger
fresh parsley, cilantro, or mint
spinach, arugula or your favorite leafy green
3/4 cup white rice
First things first: place your swordfish on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Drizzle a bit more olive oil on top, and sprinkle on some salt and pepper. Rub these in with your fingers so that they cover the whole top of the steak. Then, sprinkle on coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and nutmeg, in the following ratio: 2:2:2:1:0.5. Does that make sense? Then sprinkle on five to ten fennel seeds. You can use more or less spice depending on how strongly you want your swordfish to taste; it’s your call. With your fingers, rub all of these spices into the top of the swordfish steak. Then, I rubbed a bit of additional turmeric and cumin onto the sides of the steak. Let this sit, preferably in a refrigerator for a couple of hours, but at least for a few minutes while you make some of the other dinner components.
For instance: boil 1 1/2 cups water and add the rice to it. Turn down to low and let simmer.
Next, cut the yellow tomato into eight to ten wedge-shaped pieces, removing the tough core. Place the pieces in a bowl and sprinkle with a small amount of olive oil. Then, add equal parts coriander, cumin, cayenne, and turmeric. The tomatoes should be a bit more spicy than the fish itself. Stir until all of the wedges are evenly coated with the spice and oil mixture, then arrange around the swordfish on your baking sheet.
Bake at 450 degrees for 7-8 minutes, or until the fish is only barely pink or no longer pink in the middle. I’m not a master fish-cooker. I went for no longer pink. Also, my oven is a piece of crap, so I really can’t vouch for the 450 degrees part.
While the fish is cooking, mix up the yogurt sauce (also, check on the rice to see how it’s doing). Chop the garlic and ginger very finely and toss into a frying pan which has been sitting on medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Let sit ten seconds, then shake the pan to move the garlic and ginger around. Cook another 10 seconds, repeat process. After 30 seconds of cook time, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, cumin, and parsley or other green herb. Add the garlic and ginger mix along with any olive oil left in the pan, and stir thoroughly. Place back in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
To assemble the meal, put some rice on each plate and a small bed of spinach. Place half the swordfish on top of the bed of spinach, and the tomatoes on the side. Drizzle yogurt sauce over the fish, spinach, and tomatoes. Enjoy!