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Grilled Fish Skewers with Cilantro and Cumin

This dish features a potent mixture of smoky and spicy North African–style seasonings: cumin, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. Here, the heady mixture does double duty, as a marinade and as a sauce for simple skewers of meaty grilled fish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves  
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped and firmly packed fresh cilantro 
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin 
  • 1/2 tsp. hot smoked paprika 
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper 
  • 1/3 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 lb. swordfish or mahimahi fillet 
  • Canola oil for grilling  
  • Sea salt, to taste 

Directions:

On a cutting board, mash the garlic cloves to a paste with the side of a heavy knife. In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, cilantro, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, olive oil and lemon juice and process until blended but not completely smooth. Set aside 1⁄4 cup of the cilantro mixture. Pour the remaining mixture into a nonreactive bowl.

Cut the fish into 1-inch cubes, removing any errant bones. You should have 28 cubes. Add the cubes to the bowl with the marinade, turn to coat evenly, cover and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak fourteen 9-inch bamboo skewers in water to cover for 30 minutes. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct-heat grilling over high heat.

Drain the fish cubes, discarding the marinade, and drain the skewers. Thread 2 fish cubes onto each skewer. Brush the grill rack with canola oil, then grill the skewers over direct heat, turning once, until the fish is nicely browned and just cooked through when tested with a small sharp knife, about 2 minutes on each side.

Arrange the skewers on a warmed platter, sprinkle lightly with salt and pour the reserved cilantro mixture over the top. Serve right away. Makes 14 skewers; serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Appetizers, by Amy Sherman (Oxmoor House, 2008).