Swordfish puttanesca is a twist on a classic Italian dish that features red pepper flakes, crushed tomatoes, olives, capers, and garlic. Image source: Flickr CC user megan.chromik
I have always been impressed by my mother and how she made me lunches that weren’t prepackaged growing up (although, as a naive child, I was always jealous of those parents who bought Lunchables for their kids). My elementary school lunch demands were simple: peanut butter and jam sandwiches on white bread (in retrospect, not really that much healthier than a Lunchable).
As an adult I find myself struggling when it comes to packing healthy and filling weekly lunches. I find myself dealing with the “salad every day” dilemma of needing healthy food but not feeling inspired to find other options. It’s just so easy to throw everything in a Tupperware container, bring some bottled salad dressing and have done with it. My “Super Mom” had a lot of time saving, easy quick meal ideas, though. One of her go-to “use whatever is in the pantry” recipes was puttanesca, and I’ve used that as inspiration this winter to make a protein-rich swordfish version.
Puttanesca is a hearty tomato-based sauce usually made with such pungent ingredients as olives, anchovies, garlic, and capers. While swordfish was not an ingredient in the traditional version of this famous dish, I’ve added it to mine because it’s substantial enough to stand up to the saltiness of the capers and olives and the acidity of the tomatoes. Swordfish is also perfect for keeping you full and satisfied (not to mention that it’s full of protein, zinc, iron, and omega-3s). This puttanesca falls into the comfort food category and is much more appropriate for these bleak winter months than an uninspired salad.
Swordfish Puttanesca (4-5 servings)
Heat about 3 tablespoons of oil in a deep frying pan with a lid or a dutch oven. Sear swordfish fillets, approx 4 minutes per side, or until a nice brown color. Set fillets aside. Add more oil if needed to the pan, add in garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes and onion to the pan, stirring occasionally so that the garlic doesn’t burn. Once the onions are translucent, stir in the anchovy fillets, breaking them up with your spatula as you do so. Add the white wine and allow to simmer and reduce a little before adding the canned tomatoes. Add tomatoes, capers, and olives. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat. Return swordfish fillets to sauce and allow to simmer, covered, for approx 20 minutes. Remove lid and allow the sauce to reduce at a simmer for another 10 minutes. Break up the swordfish fillets into large chunks. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and lemon juice as needed. Add chopped herbs if eating right away, if not, reserve herbs separately for when you are ready to eat.
Let cool before putting into containers and refrigerating or freezing.
The Logistics: Making and Planning Ahead
The beauty of this recipe is that most of the ingredients are things that I usually have lying around in my pantry. Other than the fresh swordfish, which is easy enough to order online, you shouldn’t really need to add too much to your grocery list this week. I like to stock up on canned tomatoes and anchovies since they contribute to other excellent pasta sauces and quick meal fixes (like Caesar salad) when I feel uninspired. Olives and capers go a long way and help liven up salads, pastas, braises, and other meal options as well, so don’t feel like you’re just buying the ingredients for the puttanesca--stock up on canned and jarred anchovies, tomatoes, olives, and capers, and you’ll be set for this puttanesca and for a myriad of other delicious dishes as well.
My suggestion would be to make the puttanesca on Sunday while you’re already in the kitchen making dinner (or before you chow down on takeout for dinner). The sauce can simmer while you eat and cool before you go to bed. When I freeze things for the week I like to portion them out into containers that hold enough for a meal or two. This way you can take a container out of the freezer the night before and put it into the fridge to grab in the morning--it should be defrosted by the time lunch rolls around, and then all you need to do is stick it in the microwave for a minute or two.
If you’re going to serve the sauce with pasta I suggest a larger shaped pasta, like conchiglie (also known as shells) or thicker noodles like fettuccine so that they can grab up all that good swordfish and sauce. As a stew I like to garnish with some olive oil and serve it with some garlic toast. Bread doesn’t reheat well in a microwave, so if your office kitchenette has a toaster, bring your bread with you, and toast and butter it there so it’s nice and crisp. If you’re feeling ambitious, bring a cut garlic clove to rub on your freshly buttered toast for an extra touch of Italy. If you’re trying to avoid wheat, this sauce also goes well over quinoa or creamy polenta.
Whichever way you decide to enjoy your puttanesca, you can make your preparation even easier by ordering your swordfish online. Not only will you be saving yourself time packing lunches this week, but you can save some time in line at the grocery store. Daily Fresh Fish is dedicated to providing its customers with fresh, sustainably sourced fish and they’ll deliver it directly to your doorstep. So make some comforting and filling swordfish puttanesca this week--you’ll thank yourself when you don’t have to suffer through another cold salad.