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

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

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.


  • 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).