Pan-seared oven-baked swordfish with an easy tapenade is a tasty combo that's so easy to make and even easier to enjoy. It's a flavorful symphony of perfectly seared swordfish, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, paired with a zesty and tangy tapenade that will leave you craving for more.
Why you want to make this dish
- Flavor Explosion: Pan-seared oven-baked swordfish with an easy tapenade is a flavor bomb waiting to happen. The swordfish gets that delightful crust from the sear and stays tender inside, while the tapenade brings a burst of briny, herby goodness. It's like a culinary fireworks show in your mouth!
- Quick and Easy: Who said impressive dishes have to be complicated? This recipe is a breeze to make, perfect for a weeknight dinner that'll make you feel like a gourmet chef. Just sear, bake, and whip up the tapenade – easy peasy!
- Healthy and Satisfying: Swordfish is a lean protein packed with omega-3s, making it a smart choice for those health-conscious eaters. Add in the tapenade, which is loaded with olives and capers, and you've got a dish that's both nutritious and utterly satisfying. Your taste buds and your body will thank you!
Swordfish is now another "good for you fish"
When I first wrote this recipe much of the available swordfish was tagged yellow according to Fish Watch. But swordfish has slowly made its way back to the green category. Commercial fishermen line catch swordfish along both coasts and on the high seas and swordfish fisheries in the U.S. are strictly managed, both to conserve the swordfish and minimize the fisheries’ impact on other species. This is very good as swordfish were practically fished out in the 1980s and '90s.
That's also great news as swordfish is a great fish to eat. The fish is mild yet firm and holds up to many preparations. It is also a great substitute for many recipes that call for halibut.
Ingredients and Substitutions
For the Tampenade
- Briny olives - Use a combination of black-cured olives and green olives. For the black olive, I use Kalamata as it is the most accessible but other good choices are Gaeta or Ligurian. For the green olives, I use Castelvetrano, Cerignola, or Picholine.
- Roasted Red Pepper - You can easily roast the pepper yourself or buy jarred. For convenience, I generally use jarred.
- Fresh Parsley - The debate of Italian leaf vs. curly leaf has long been a culinary battle that is currently on hold. Many chefs now use curly leaf as it is much more convenient not to have to remove the leaves from the stem. And curly leaf is just easier to chop overall. For this recipe for an easy tapenade, I use curly.
- Anchovies - The anchovies give a deep flavor that is hard to get otherwise.
- Olive oil - Be sure to use a nice fruity one here.
- Red Wine Vinegar
And of course, Swordfish
When buying swordfish there will generally be a little dark-colored area. In newly-harvested swordfish, the bloodline will have a deep red color. Over time, it fades to a rusty brown as its iron-bearing myoglobin oxidizes. While perfectly safe to eat, it might have a more fishy taste so if you want to remove it you can do so.
You could make this with another firm white fish, such as halibut or grouper.
Yes. I recently grilled the swordfish and it was delicious with the tapenade.
While you can find a swordfish collar, which is the jaw bone, most steaks are free of bones.
While it may look unappetizing, in truth, it's actually perfectly safe to eat. It may have a stronger fishy flavor than the rest of the steak. The strip is packed with myoglobin, which is the pigment responsible for giving red meat its reddish hue. Just cook the steak as normal without any worries. That said, there's no harm in cutting it out either if you don't like the flavor.
I wouldn't. They're like the secret agents of flavor! Adding a small amount of anchovy to tapenade can be a game-changer. Those little fish bring a salty, umami kick that takes the olive spread to a whole new level. It's like they're the James Bond of condiments, sneaking in to make everything taste better. So, don't be afraid to invite them to your tapenade party – they'll add a dash of deliciousness!
Capers are the unripened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a prickly, perennial plant that is native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia.
After the buds are harvested, they are dried in the sun and then pickled in vinegar, brine, or salt. The curing brings out their tangy lemony flavor, I think of them as a cross between a dill pickle and a green olive.
The size of the buds ranges from tiny (about the size of a baby petite green pea) up to the size of a small olive. The smallest variety from the South of France, called nonpareil, is the most prized and comes with an equally notable price tag. Larger capers are more robust in flavor and less aromatic.
Step by Step Instructions
Chop the tapenade ingredients into a coarse chop.
Mix the chopped ingredients with the olive oil and vinegar. (Best if done at least an hour early to allow the flavors to blend.)
Brush both sides of the swordfish with olive oil, season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, then sear over medium-high heat in an oven-safe skillet.
After putting the fish in a 400ºF oven for about 7 minutes for a ¾ inch thick piece of fish, (add more time for thicker pieces, if your fish is less than ¾ inches you may omit this step and simply sear until cooked through). Cook swordfish steaks until an instant-read thermometer registers 130°F (54°C) for medium, 135°F (57°C) for medium-well, or 140 to 145°F (60 to 63°C) for well-done. I prefer my swordfish to be well done.
Because it is fish, you might think this dish requires white wine. As I explain in my article, How to Serve Red Wine with Fish, this is not necessarily true. Both the texture of the fish and the savory tapenade puts it into the "heavy-bodied" category of wine pairing theory which makes it perfect with a Super Tuscan or Chianti.
If you prefer pairing white wine with swordfish and tapenade, you'll want something that complements the flavors without overpowering them. A good choice would be a crisp and refreshing white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Albariño.
Sauvignon Blanc brings zesty citrus and herbal notes that can nicely contrast with the richness of the tapenade and the meatiness of the swordfish. On the other hand, Albariño offers bright acidity and a touch of minerality that can enhance the overall dining experience.
This recipe was first published in June 2013. It has been updated with new information and modified for easier viewing and information.
Pan-Seared oven-baked Swordfish with an Easy Tapenade
- ⅓ cup pitted and chopped green olives Castelvetrano, Cerignola, or Picholine
- ⅓ cup pitted and chopped kalamata or black oil cured olives such as Gaeka or Ligurian
- ¼ cup roasted red pepper chopped (you can do these yourself or you can use bottled, (I use bottled)
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley minced (or to taste)
- 2 anchovies drained and minced (this really gives a good flavor to the relish, so try to use them and don’t go yuck)
- 2 teaspoons capers drained (I like to lightly chop these)
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 large clove garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 4 4- 6 ounce swordfish steaks
- Combine the olives, peppers, parsley, anchovies, capers, vinegar, and garlic in a small bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, allow to sit for a while to let the flavors blend, 1 hour would be great. (Party Tip: Make this the day before and let it sit overnight covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush the swordfish on both sides with olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until hot; add the fish and sear on both sides until brown; then pop the pan in the oven to finish the cooking process; cook until done, about 10 minutes more. If your cut of fish is less than ¾ inch thick you may not need to put it into the oven to finish.
- Put the fish on a warm plate, and top it with the tapenade.