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Swordfish is in a culinary class all by itself; a fish with the substance of beef, high in protein, rich in fat, but with all the benefits of fish.

Swordfish are captured primarily by longlines ÄÄ a line that may extend for as many as twenty miles with multiple hooks set between buoys in the open ocean ÄÄ although some are taken by gillnets and a very small percentage are harpooned.

They are large fish, averaging 50 to 200 pounds in the commercial catch, with occasional specimens up to 1,000 pounds.

Swordfish is almost always sold in steaks. Color is the key to getting good quality. Swordfish naturally vary in color depending on diet. East Coast swordfish is pinkish in color, while California swordfish is creamy white.

Regardless of color, the flesh should always be slightly translucent and have a bright sheen. The lighter flesh should never be gray; the darker flesh and blood vessels should be reddish; never brown, a sign of old age.

Whether fresh or frozen, swordfish is sold at the retail level as skin-on boneless steaks. The thickness varies, but at least one inch thick is preferred. Steaks range from 6 ounces to about a pound.

Sometimes stores will sell cubes, the trim left over from steaking whole swordfish; they're excellent for seafood kabobs and usually cost half as much as steaks.

Found in all but the most frigid waters of the world, swordfish are pursued by fleets from more than 20 nations.

Fresh swordfish is available year-round, but the best buys are in the late spring when the Hawaiian and Chilean fisheries are in full swing, and in the early fall when fish from both California and the Northeast are being landed. Expect to pay at least $6.99 a pound for good quality steaks.

Domestic swordfish, which is always sold fresh, usually costs more because of the shorter trip times and better handling methods.

Imported swordfish, while less consistent in quality, can still be a good buy. In fact, some imported frozen swordfish can be superior to fresh.

Swordfish has a full and versatile flavor. it is delicious alone, with a simple seasoning of pepper and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, or it can be served with strongly flavored accompaniments. It holds its own with flavorful herbs such as rosemary and sage.

Accompanying sauces can be robust with flavors of garlic, curry, mustard or hot peppers.

Cooking swordfish is not complicated. The key is to cook it quickly.

Cook steaks over a very hot charcoal fire or under a preheated broiler. Calculate the cooking time from the thickness of the steaks, roughly 10 minutes total for each inch. So a «-inch steak will need little more than 2 minutes on each side, and a 1«-inch thick steak needs about 6 minutes per side. Take the fish from the heat shortly before it is fully cooked, as the exterior heat of the fish will continue to cook it, retaining more of the moisture.

Often referred to as the beefsteak of finfish, swordfish is hearty eating; 7 ounces yields 50⅘ grams of protein, 100 mg cholesterol, 2 g saturated fat and 310 calories. Like all higher oil content fish, it is high in healthy omega-3 acids with 1⅕ g per serving.

Simply Seafood Fall 1993

Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 01-13-95

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