Summer Food: The Swim Team

Humans, by and large, are afraid of fish, and we have been since before Roy Scheider had his showdown with the shark. Home cooks tend to view sea creatures as too complicated, too bony, too fragile, and, as an occupant of the fridge, way too stinky. When we come across a fish recipe that works, we keep returning to it, which must be how generations of mothers turned their kids against it (albeit with help from Mrs. Paul’s). It’s a shame, really, since fish is the perfect fast food: incomparably healthy, adaptable to countless cooking methods, and – best of all – genuinely, unequivocally fast. To make our case, we asked eight top chefs to share their techniques for preparing local fish: codfish fried in a beer batter. Black sea bass baked in a salt crust. Striped bass steamed in a wok. Tuna seared rare in a deconstructed Niçoise salad. A horseradish-spiked swordfish club sandwich. Scallops grilled over coals, and an applewood-smoked bluefish buried right among them. And a Greek seafood stew called plaki. The results are tantalizing proof that the catch of the day should be the staple of the season.

The Recipes

Seared Tuna Paillard Topped
With a Salad of Baby Watercress,
String Beans, and Olives

Serves six.


1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt and pinch of freshly ground white pepper

4 and 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

4 and 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


36 string beans or haricots verts, trimmed

6 3-ounce 1/4-inch-thick tuna steaks

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

3 tablespoons thinly sliced chives

15 Niçoise olives, pitted and halved

9 red cherry tomatoes, halved

9 yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cups baby watercress (small leaves from regular watercress may be substituted)

2 lemons, halved

Vinaigrette: Whisk together the mustard, salt, pepper, and vinegar in a mixing bowl. Add oil slowly in a steady stream, whisking constantly until combined. (May be stored tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to one week.)

Tuna: Blanch the beans in boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Immediately plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking. Heat two nonstick sauté pans over high heat. Using a pastry brush, coat each tuna steak with extra-virgin olive oil, season one side with salt and pepper and sprinkle the thyme leaves. Sear on seasoned side for 45 seconds, until barely cooked (top should still be rare). Transfer each steak to a large chilled plate, cooked-side-down, and brush the tops with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with chives.

Arrange the beans, olives, and cherry tomatoes evenly around each tuna steak. Drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil over the vegetables. Season the watercress in a small bowl with salt and pepper, and toss with just enough vinaigrette to coat the salad. Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over each tuna steak, and top with a small handful of the salad. Serve immediately.

Swordfish Club Sandwich
With Horseradish Aïoli

Serves four.

3 tablespoons olive oil

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 shallots, finely chopped

4 4-ounce 1/4-inch-thick skinless swordfish steaks (cut to fit the bread)

Horseradish aïoli:

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon roasted-garlic purée

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish


8 slices of black-olive bread cut from Pullman, boule, or peasant loaf

1 red tomato, sliced

1 yellow tomato, sliced

4 ounces mesclun greens

8 thin slices of pancetta, fried until crisp

1 ripe avocado

Combine the oil, lemon zest, and shallots in a shallow bowl, add the swordfish, and marinate for 5 hours or overnight.

Horseradish aïoli: Blend together in a bowl the yolk, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and garlic purée. Slowly drizzle in the oils, whisking constantly until the aïoli is thick. Stir in the lemon juice and horseradish, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To assemble sandwiches: Grill each slice of bread on both sides and spread one side of each with the horseradish aïoli. Lay out four slices, and place one slice each of red and yellow tomato, a quarter of the mesclun, and 2 slices of pancetta on each. Peel the avocado and discard the pit. Slice the avocado thin, and divide evenly among the four sandwiches.

Remove swordfish steaks from the marinade, and season with salt and pepper. Broil or sauté each steak for about 1 minute per side and place one swordfish steak on each sandwich. Top with the remaining 4 slices of grilled olive bread and slice in half on the diagonal.

Note: Cooking the swordfish just before the sandwich is served ensures that fish will be juicy and medium-rare.

Fish and Chips
Serves six.

Canola oil for deep frying

2 and 1/2 pounds fillet of fresh cod

Freshly ground white pepper


2 and 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 large egg whites, cold

12 ounces pilsner beer, cold

Add enough oil to half-fill a large heavy-bottom saucepan or deep-fat fryer, and preheat to 400 degrees.

Remove skin and pin bones from the cod. Slice the fish into 12 pieces, about 2 to 3 ounces each. Season with pepper. Set aside.

Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks in a separate bowl. Add the beer to the flour mix, and whisk until smooth. Fold in the egg whites.

Using tongs, dip each piece of fish in the batter to coat. Carefully place the fish in the hot oil, holding each piece with tongs for a few seconds before releasing it so it doesn’t stick to the fryer. Fry 2 or 3 fillets at a time for about 8 minutes, depending on their thickness, until the batter is a rich golden brown. (Increase the heat if the temperature of the oil drops below 400 degrees, as the batter will become soggy if the oil is not hot enough.) Serve with chips, malt vinegar, and coarse sea salt.

Steamed Striped Bass With
Vegetables and Spicy Garlic Sauce

Serves two to three.

1 2-pound whole striped bass, gutted and scaled (sea bass can be substituted)

Salt and freshly ground black

8 ounces assorted vegetables
(asparagus, broccoli,
haricots verts, onion, and
green pepper) cut into
uniform bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, sliced thin

1 and 1/2 tablespoons chili-garlic
paste (Lee Kum Kee brand;
available in Asian markets)

1/2 cup flamed sake (heat sake,
then light with a match to
burn off alcohol until flame
goes out)

1/4 cup light soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Score the fish diagonally three times on each side with a sharp knife, and season with salt and pepper. Place the fish on a plate and put in a bamboo or other steamer (covered) over medium heat for 12 to 15 minutes.

While the fish is cooking, blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for about 45 seconds. Drain and plunge asparagus into a bowl of ice water. Repeat with the broccoli (about 45 seconds) and haricots verts (about 30 seconds).

Heat oil in a sauté pan over a medium-high flame, add the garlic, and sauté until it’s golden. Remove the garlic from the oil and reserve. Add onions and peppers, and sauté until onions are translucent, then add the blanched vegetables. Add the chili-garlic paste, and continue to sauté briefly. Add the flamed sake and soy sauce, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange the fish on a large plate, and top with the vegetables. Pour the remaining sauce over the top, and garnish with sautéed garlic and sesame seeds. Serve with rice.

Note: If you don’t have a large steamer, put 1 inch of boiling water in a large roasting pan. Invert a saucer in the bottom to support the fish plate, and cover with foil.

Grilled Foil-Wrapped Bluefish
Serves six.

3 medium red onions, peeled and sliced thick

6 plum tomatoes, ends trimmed, sliced in thirds

3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup chopped shallots

1/3 cup capers, strained

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon green peppercorns

14 cup prepared horseradish, drained

1/3 cup chopped fresh dill

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

14 cup soy sauce

2 teaspoons lemon juice

6 6-ounce day-boat bluefish fillets, skinned and dark meat removed

Applewood or cherrywood chips, soaked in water

Prepare a medium-hot grill (if cooking indoors, preheat a cast-iron sauté pan until it is very hot). Arrange the onion and tomato slices in one layer on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan, and sprinkle with garlic and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

Remove tomato and onion from the marinade, allowing excess oil to drip off, reserving marinade. Place the slices over the hot coals and cook until charred (tomatoes and onions will char in the dry pan as well). Return the slices to the marinade, and set aside until ready to serve. (May be prepared in advance up to this point; cover and refrigerate in the marinade overnight, allowing them to return to room temperature before serving.) Maintain the grill heat for the fish fillets.

Combine in a food processor the shallots, capers, mustard, peppercorns, and horseradish, and process until puréed. Add the dill and parsley, and pulse a few times to combine. Set aside.

Mix the soy sauce and lemon juice in a small bowl, and brush each fillet generously on both sides with the mixture. Cut 12 pieces of aluminum foil, approximately 15 inches square, to make six 2-layer packets. On the middle of each double-layered square, arrange equal amounts of tomato and onion, and drizzle with remaining marinade. Top with one seasoned bluefish fillet, and spread equal portions of the shallot-caper mixture over each fillet. Bringing two sides of the foil together above the fish, seal and roll down close to the food. Pinch the ends closed, and fold once or twice to seal tightly.

Move the coals to one side of the grill. Transfer the foil packets to the grill away from hot coals, cover the grill, and cook for 15 minutes. Add some wet cherry or apple chips to the hot coals. Open the packets, cover the grill, and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes.

(Alternatively, preheat the oven to 500 degrees, and place the packets in the oven for 18 minutes. Open and continue cooking for 4 to 5 minutes to brown.)

Serves four.

4 8-ounce fillets of local striped bass from Long Island, skin left on

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 sweet Vidalia onions, sliced

4 medium Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced into large medallions

4 tomatoes, sliced

4 tablespoons capers

4 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

4 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

6 cups fish stock

4 tablespoons chopped fresh scallions

4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Score the skin with a sharp knife, and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan; add the fish, skin-side-down, and brown over high heat, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the fish over, and add the onions, potatoes, and tomatoes, and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Add the capers, thyme, oregano, and fish stock.

Transfer the mixture to a large casserole and bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the scallions and dill, and serve.

Grilled Sea-Scallop Salad With Orange-Miso Vinaigrette
Serves four.


2 tablespoons orange-juice

1 tablespoon light miso paste

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1/2 cup canola or grape-seed oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 bunch chives, minced

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, cut in 1/4-inch dice

2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped coarsely


2 pounds large sea scallops

1 teaspoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


2 large bunches baby arugula, washed and
spun dry

1 small red onion, peeled, halved, sliced thin

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 and 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare a grill to medium-high heat, or to low embers if using a live fire.

Sauce: Combine the orange-juice concentrate, miso, vinegar, and Tabasco in a bowl, then gradually whisk in the oil to emulsify. Just before serving, season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the chives, red bell pepper, and mint.

Scallops: Coat the scallops lightly with oil. Skewer 4 scallops at a time, using 2 skewers for each. Place skewers on the grill, and cook for 1 and 1/2 minutes; turn 45 degrees to form grill marks, and cook 1 minute more. Turn the scallops over, and repeat the procedure.

Place the arugula and most of the onions (reserving the remaining onion slices for garnish) in a large bowl. Toss the salad with the oil and lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide salad among four plates, place 4 scallops around each of the salads, drizzle sauce around and partially over scallops, and top with the reserved onions.

Summer Food: The Swim Team