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come un pesce fuor d’acqua – like a fish out of water

September 28, 2008

You might ask why I call this “Like a Fish out of water”?  Well a North Atlantic/Pacific fish like Halibut has no place in traditional Italian cuisine.  The Calibrians and Sicilians use swordfish and eggplant as main staples in their food.  The Calibrians have a traditional dish, pesce spada alla bagnarese, in which swordfish is roasted with olive oil, lemon, capers, eggplant and chopped parsley.  And the Sicilians prepare a dish called aggiotta di pesce spada, swordfish cooked with tomato, pine nuts, raisins, olives and herbs.  This dish borrows inspiration from both of them.  My grocer didn’t have swordfish the day I went, so I used halibut.  I chose Halibut as it has a very low fat content with a clean taste, and it possesses a very dense and firm meat great for sautéing as it holds it shape well, much like swordfish.


          Penne – 1 lb. cooked al dente

          Halibut – 2 steaks, trimmed from bone and cubed into 1 ½” pieces

          Garlic – 4 to 5 cloves, rough chopped

          Olive Oil – about ½ a cup

          Graffiti Eggplant – 2 cut into squares 1” or smaller

           (substitute: Japanese eggplant)

          Cherry Tomatoes – 2 large handfuls, halved

          Pine nuts – ½ cup, toasted in a hot sauté pan for about 1 to 2 minutes

          Capers – 2 teaspoons

          Parsley – large handful, flat leaf, rough chopped

          Lemon – zested and juiced

          White Wine – about a glass and a half

          Kosher Salt and Black Pepper


Bring your pasta water to a boil.  And cook your penne noodles al dente.  Drain.  Reserve a cup of the now starchy cooking water.


In a large sauté pan heat 2 glugs olive oil over high heat.  Add your eggplant and garlic.  Cook until you get some color on the eggplant, then remove to a plate.  Salt and Pepper your chunks of halibut.  Reduce heat to medium high, in the same pan add a glug more oil if needed, then sauté your halibut until it starts to brown on all sides.  This should only take about 2 minutes or so.  Stir in ¾ of your parsley.  Add your wine and lemon juice, let the alcohol cook off a bit.  Remove pan from heat and re-add your cooked eggplant and garlic.  Fold in your cooked penne, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, capers and remaining olive oil.  Adjust your seasoning with salt and pepper.  Now take a look at your sauce coating the noodles… if they look too dry add a dash more olive oil and some of the reserved cooking water. 


Transfer to a large serving bowl, garnish with remaining parsley, lemon zest, and enjoy. 




4 Comments leave one →
  1. lindsay permalink
    September 28, 2008 11:17 am

    sweet! what does the expert think about switching sundried tomatoes for the cherry tomatoes?

  2. vesperbistro permalink*
    September 28, 2008 12:18 pm

    It will work – especially if you are fans of them… but maybe just add them in addition to. Personally I think the fresh cherry tomatoes work better here as they actual act as part of the sauce since we don’t have a tomato based sauce the uncooked tomatoes sort of burst with juice and flavors.

  3. vesperbistro permalink*
    September 28, 2008 12:29 pm

    Oh and by the way… if you are trying to impress Italian relatives, I would use swordfish instead of halibut. You won’t find frsh halibut in Italy.

  4. windygap96 permalink
    September 29, 2008 8:43 am

    I have to admit – fish pasta does not sound appetizing to me but this dish was nothing less than heaven! OMG it was so delicious! It was surprisingly filling yet light and incredibly flavorful, this is a keeper. I think though that you are doing a disservice by not also sharing the quick, easy, fabulous garlic bread you made with it because non-cookers like me can only heat frozen bread and you whipped it up very quickly and it was better than any boxed break. I know you used garlic from a jar and wouldn’t normally but since it was a last minute addition and it really complimented the meal you should share!

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