I’m going to get this out of the way immediately: this salad is like a child to me. It is far and away one of my favorite things to both prepare and eat. The idea for this salad came from a truly uninspired trip to the grocery store. As you may have guessed, I rarely plan out a meal before I head to the market to see what is available. I usually end up wandering around the market and create a meal based on what looks the best, freshest or just catches my eye. This salad was a spawn of one of those adventures.
The salad requires a simple assembly of ingredients. You will need:
3/4 pound swordfish (loin or steak cut)
4 medium beets or 6 small beets
2-3 naval oranges
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
3-4 handfuls, fresh greens (we have about a pound of watercress for this incarnation, but I make it with whatever green I feel like that day)
When was the last time you had a properly roasted beet? I can tell you that there are few things that are more delicious than the roasted beet. Many of us have had less-than-excellent beet experiences in our lives, and I can tell you even if you are sitting there saying “I really don’t care for beets,” just give this a try, they are a wonderful, sweet and tasty treat that really is quite exceptional.
First, trim the greens off your beets and wash thoroughly. This brings me to an important point of buying beets. Never, ever buy beets without the greens attached. The greens are basically your only clue as to how fresh the beets are. You want to look for beets with crisp, vibrant greens attached. Avoid those with wilted or browned greens attached. Beet greens are also excellent themselves, so if you are know you will be in need of some greens you can reserve them.
Now that your beets are cleaned and trimmed, place them on a piece of tinfoil and coat with olive oil (preferably basil and garlic olive oil.) Liberally salt and pepper. They will look something like this:
Stash the beets in a 400 degree oven for 45-60 minutes or until tender. While the beets are cooking, we turn our attention to the swordfish. As you can see from the picture below, we have a loin cut of swordfish that comprises both steaks. This is no problem, and in fact if your swordfish is fresh, as this piece is, that is more than likely how it will be cut for you. Utilizing the loin cuts takes two extra steps over the steak cuts, but it allows you to custom trim your fish (something you should be doing anyway.)
Near the lateral line of your fish, there is going to be a T shaped piece of dark “meat” that needs to come out. Simply take a sharp paring knife and cut around it to yield the two white meat “lobes” as shown below.
Next, separate the two lobes and remove the skin. For every other preparation of swordfish I would keep the skin on, as it tends to help keep the meat together during cooking, but as you’ll see for this preparation we need all of the skin off. Your cleaned and separated steaks should look like this:
How are the beets looking? If they look anything like the beets below, it’s time for them to come out. Douse with a little oil and set aside to cool.
Back to the fish. What we want to do with our steaks is cut pieces of about 1/2 inch across as thinly as possible We are going to be flash cooking these pieces of swordfish, so it is critical that the pieces are both extremely thin and uniform in thickness. This would be an excellent time to break out your 12 inch Wusthof Salmon knife, if you have one (we do). If you don’t, you want to work with your longest bladed knife over 10 inches (like your large chef’s knife) or your largest santuku knife. (The vents will really help to keep the knife moving through the fish.) The key to making these cuts is to use as few strokes as possible, and by strokes I mean that each pieces is cut off in a single motion. Too much back-and-forth sawing with the knife will break apart the grains of the fish. Luckily, husband has perfected making these swordfish cuts. It is his handy-work you see below. Once the fish has been expertly butchered, please season with salt but not pepper (yet.)
Since he has taken care of the swordfish so perfectly, I can turn my attention to the rest of the mis en place. The dressing for this salad is unbelievably simple and compliments the roasted beets and swordfish perfectly. First, zest your tangerines and naval oranges. Reserve the zest. Now juice your tangerines and naval oranges so that there is a 2:1 ratio of orange juice to tangerine juice. Depending on the “juiciness” of your citrus, this will usually yield between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of juice overall. For reference, for this salad, I only ended up using the juice of two tangerines and one naval oranges as opposed to the 3 and 2 that I call for above. For this salad, I’ve also cut up some red, yellow and orange peppers for a garnish:
Once you’ve gotten to this point, there’s two main tasks left. First, take the roasted beets and cut into quarter inch discs and set aside. Once that is done, it’s time to cook the swordfish. Set your oven to broil. (Set your broiler to high if you have two settings as we do.) Also, make sure that your oven rack is as close to the broiler as it can get. Arrange the pieces of swordfish carefully on a foil-lined sheet pan that has been lubricated with oil. When the broiler is as hot is it will get, introduce the fish. Do not move, this is only going to take a second; well between 30 seconds and a minute, actually. When the fish is cooked, promptly remove from the oven and the sheet pan. Now is the time to add pepper and check the seasoning.
When the fish has cooked, whisk the champagne vinegar into the juiced citrus fruit. Don’t worry too much about making a firm emulsion, it is meant to be a quick vinaigrette. Add half the zest to the dressing and taste. I find that this dressing loves some salt and a lot of pepper, but your taste may differ.
To assemble the salad for family-style plating, take a plate and arrange beet slices around the outside. Add one piece of swordfish to the top of each beet slice. Put a handful of greens in the middle of your beet and swordfish circle and spoon on the dressing. Add a pinch of the leftover zest, salt and pepper over the top.
For individual plating, put the greens down first and make a line out of the beet slices. Repeat the above steps with the swordfish, dressing and zest and serve!
I really hope that you get a chance to try this. I make this whenever I see a really good piece of swordfish in the store, and it really has been a hit every time. The sweetness of the roasted beets coupled with the mild fish and tart citrus dressing just works perfectly. It is an excellent salad or appetizer to serve before a heavier meal, because everything is so light and flavorful. There are a couple of dishes in the imafoodblog catalog that we repeat often and this is one of them; Anyway or anytime you serve it, I guarantee that you will see the smiles of satisfied diners around your table.