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Swordfish on the Grill with Lemon and Mint (Pesce Spada alla Griglia)

The Romans called swordfish xiphias gladius, gladius being the name of the short sword carried by soldiers. The fish, which can grow to over a thousand pounds, are quite fearless and have been known to attack ships with their built-in weapons. Fish sellers in Italy are always careful to display the head with its awesome sword, often several feet long, alongside the trimmed swordfish. Not only is it an eye-catching sight, but it also ensures purchasers that they are getting the real thing.

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 thin swordfish, shark or tuna steaks, each about 6 oz.
  • Lemon slices for serving


Grate the zest from the lemon, then halve the lemon and squeeze the juice from the halves. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped mint and garlic.

Rinse the fish and pat dry. Place in a shallow non-aluminum container and pour the lemon mixture evenly over the top. Turn to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill, or preheat a stovetop griddle or griddle pan. Remove the fish from the marinade and place on the grill rack or griddle. Cook, turning once, until the fish is just opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Transfer the fish to warmed individual plates and garnish with the mint sprigs and lemon slices. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Italy, by Michele Scicolone (Time-Life Books, 1999).