Some people are under the (wrong) impression that cooking fish is a complicated affair. It is not! Actually fish is much easier to cook than meat.
When I last visited Siracusa in spring, the Ortigia market was jumping with activity already in the early morning, with the fabulous fish stalls attracting my attention. A vast array of fresh-from-the-sea gleaming, silvery creatures of every sort, including scabbardfish, which is such an underestimated marine delight. Lean and incredibly healthy, salt-water scabbardfish (also known as frost fish, saber fish or belt fish) don a shiny silver livery with no scales, an elongated ribbon shape, which can grow to over 2 meters (6 ft 7 in) in length. The prized flesh is pinkish-white, tender and very tasty, and once cooked, the skin slips off with no effort, without tearing at the flesh. In Italy this is a fish that is mostly cooked in the Southern regions of Campania, Sicily and Calabria and is locally known by many different names, like spatola, sciabola, pisci lama, pesce falce, arzentin, and lama d’argento.
Should you be lucky enough to chance upon sensational scabbardfish, here is a fantastic scabbardfish involtini recipe I learned in Siracusa during one of our delicious cooking demos. It’s easy to make and the result is a healthy and delightful Mediterranean dish your guests will absolutely love. And making it only takes 15 minutes of your time!
1 scabbard fish, filleted
1 whole unwaxed organic orange
For the filling:
100 g (3 oz) breadcrumbs, toasted
50 g (1/4 cup) raisins or Corinth sultanas
1/2 garlic clove, minced
Small bunch of Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
50 g (1/4 cup) pine nuts, toasted
1 tbsp pecorino, grated
Zest of 1 orange
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
You’ll also need:
Preheat static oven at 180° C (350° F).
Line a baking sheet or oven tray with parchment paper.
Slice the whole orange to obtain several large, round discs.
Flatten the scabbard fish fillets on your work surface, skin side down, and pat dry.
Now the filling: in a large mixing bowl, stir together all the ingredients. Spoon the obtained filling mix on each fillet and roll, closing each roll with 1 or 2 toothpicks. Place each one upright on top of an orange slice, and transfer each assembled roulade on your lined baking tray.
Bake at 180° C (350° F) for 10 minutes, or until the filling looks lightly toasted, according to your oven’s power. Serve with a drizzle of more extra virgin oil, and enjoy with a chilled glass of Cerasuolo di Vittoria.
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.