Swordfish Kabobs with Mustard (Kaboom!)

Spicy Mustard Swordfish and Artichoke KabobsSpicy Mustard Swordfish and Artichoke KabobsMustard. Mustard. Mustard.

We are still on the road with mustard. That sunny golden road running through the hills near my house.

We have used mustard in a sauce. We have used mustard as an ingredient. We (of course) used mustard as a condiment. We have even made mustard from scratch.

But today we are using mustard in a marinade.

What is it about food on sticks that makes us love it so? Is it the convenience? Is it that slightly exotic flair? That hint towards the mysteries of the East? Maybe it’s our genetic deference to fire. I believe grilled foods are what separate us from other animals.

But it is probably the simple fact that everyone loves a party. And kabobs scream party!

Kebap is Turkish for “roast meat”. But modern day party kabobs can be made with most anything you can think to throw on the grill.

I am choosing a nice firm swordfish because it grills so well and I know it won’t fall apart.  Plus it is Seafood Watch rated as a Best Choice. I am giving the fish a partner in store-bought canned artichoke hearts.

provencal ingredients for marinadeThe marinade is heavily influenced by the mustard, but also relies on a classic Provencal flavor combo featuring anchovies, capers and red pepper flakes. I used a whole teaspoon of RPF. If you are a wuss, cut it back some. This is one of the greatest flavor-trifectas I can think of.

There are very few rules in kabobs. But there are a few hints I can give you to make to process go more smoothly.

First the skewers. Wood or metal? 

I prefer wood (or more accurately grass). I tend to use the bamboo variety. I like the burn marks that come from contact with heat. It’s often necessary to soak them in water before you put the cubes of food onto them. But honestly, I often skip that step.

Metal kabobs-sticks have a huge advantage because the very best ones are flattened somewhat. The food won’t pirouette all over the swordfish cubes for kabobsplace. Making the skewers easier to turn quickly on the grill. But they do get very hot. Burned tongues and fingers can ruin a kabob party pretty quickly.

Also, I know you are a good host, and it’s so tempting to let your generous nature come through in the form of very full, tightly packed kabob beomoths. But give the food some breathing room. It will cook more evenly.

In this vain it is also important to narrow each kabob down to just a few flavors per stick. Cooking times vary, so it’s best to not only pair things that taste great together, but that also have similar cooking times.

Veggies can take a long time to cook on the grill in general. If you want to incorporate 1 or 2 onto your skewers with meats or fish try swordfish and artichoke heartscutting the veggies into smaller chunks than their faster cooking friends. Certain vegetables like potatoes, large onions, carrots, or beets may best if parboiled, or pre-roasted until nearly cooked before they hit the flames.

My kabobs start with a marinade.

Whisk together mustard, lemon juice, capers, anchovies, red pepper, garlic and 6 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl. Add the swordfish chunks, and the artichoke hearts to the bowl, tossing to coat them with the marinade.

I am using canned artichoke hearts. They are pre-cooked and only need to be heated through on the grill. So the cooking time is very similar to the swordfish cubes. I prefer the water packed variety to the kind packed in a marinade because they are firmer and don’t fall off the skewers so easily. Sometimes the pre-marinated artichokes that come in a jar are too mushy for this application.

Let the swordfish and artichokes marinate at least 4 hours, but overnight is better.

Divide the fish and artichokes evenly between 8 skewers. Alternate between artichoke and fish as you thread everything onto the skewers. Do not pack them together on the sticks too tightly. They should touch but not be crammed up next to their neighbors.

swordfish skewer kabobs with mustardCarefully brush some of the remaining olive oil onto each skewer. Season with salt and pepper.

Then arrange the skewers on the grill. You want to use indirect heat, so arrange your coals appropriately.

Cook the kabobs, rotating them some as you go. Continue to brush the surface with the remaining olive oil as you turn each skewer to help prevent sticking. 

Swordfish should be just charred some on the outside and just barely cooked all the way through. About 7 minutes depending on the heat of your grill. Don’t forget the fish will continue to cook once it leaves the grill, so do not overcook.

The artichokes should also have some nice charred marks.

Bring them to the table hot. You can serve these with a variety of condiments such as: lemon slices, chopped herbs, good black pepper, cucumber and onion relish, garlic aioli, or just a drizzle of very good olive oil.

Grilled bread and a variety of salads will round this party out!


Greg Henry