Chris Schlesinger & John Willoughby
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Grilled Swordfish with Artichokes, Tomatoes, and Olives

from License to Grill (William Morrow and Company, 1997)

Along with tuna, swordfish is probably the preeminent grilling fish, because the tight texture of its flesh approximates that of meat. Swordfish freezes better than any fish I know. I hesitate to say this, but there is some pretty high quality frozen swordfish referred to as "clipper sword", because it is caught and quick-frozen within hours. Freezing technology has advanced a great deal over the years, and I think a lot more of our seafood than we know is frozen before we eat it.

But back to cooking. Here we accent the steaklike quality of swordfish with a collection of Mediterranean ingredients mixed together in a free- form chunky relish/salad type preparation. The poached, then grilled artichockes are excellent all by themselves, but they are even better mixed with other ingredients, and I think they complement the swordfish very well.

You can substitute steaks of tuna, mahi mahi, or salmon in this recipe.


  • 2 large artichokes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 large tomato, cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup pitted brine-cured black olives
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 4 8-ounce swordfish steaks, about 1 1/2 inches thick

1.Cut off the top third of each artichoke, snip off the sharp tips from the remaining leaves, and trim the bottom slightly so that it is even.

2. In a small stockpot, bring 3 quarts of lightly salted water to boil. Add the artichockes and boil for about 20 minutes, or until the outer leaves pull away easily with a sharp tug. Drain the artichokes, immediately plunge them into ice and water to stop the cooking process, and then drain again.

3. Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise, brush them lightly with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place the artichokes on the grill over a medium-hot fire, cut side down, and cook them for about 10 minutes, or until the cut sides are well browned. Remove the artichokes and cut each half in half.

4. In a medium bowl, combine the artichokes, tomato, olives, parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil and lemon juice and mix well. Set aside.

5. Check to be sure the fire is still at the medium-hot level. If it is not, add a bit of fuel and wait until it is caught. Rub the swordfish steaks with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and place on the grill. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side, turning only once. To check for doneness: Cut into one of the steaks; it should be just opaque throughout. Remove from the grill and serve, topped with the artichoke mixture.

Serves 4


Chris Schlesinger grew up in Virginia and, at age eighteen, dropped out of school to wash dishes. He soon graduated to fry cook, went on to receive his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America, and subsequently cooked in restaurants ranging from Hawaiian burger joints to New England's finest dining rooms. In 1985, he and partner Cary Wheaton opened the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in 1987, they opened Jake and Earl's Dixie Barbecue next door.

John Willoughby was born and raised in Iowa and graduated form Harvard University in 1970. He has worked as a community organizer, legal services advocate, health administrator and free-lance writer in the Boston area, and for three years worked part-time with Chris Schlesinger in the kitchen of the East Coast Grill. He has published articles about food in several national magazines and is the feature writer for Cook's Magazine.


   Published: May 1999