A moment in time + a recipe for grilled swordfish

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mise en place

There are times, and we all have had them, when our normal routine is interrupted by a surprising interaction with another person. I am not talking about a conversation with someone new at a party or a business meeting. Those situations are to be expected and assumed. I am describing an event that seems to have been planned in advance without our knowledge or consent. One where we have been placed just where needed and at just the correct time. An event that will remain and continue to give us pause.  

Occasionally we leave our homes to head out on a pre-planned agenda, then from out of nowhere we get detoured into another person’s life. I had one of these chance encounters a few days ago.

I am and have been for years an aggressive cyclist. Now that I find myself with more time than I have had in decades, I am logging more miles than ever this summer. One of my favorite routes is a 24-mile loop around Cape Anne Mass. (Gloucester -Rockport- Magnolia ) Claudia and I lived there for a time and are very familiar with its beauty so we try to get back there as often as we can.

I was at a junction of Route 27 and Ocean Road just outside Magnolia waiting for traffic to pass so I can make the left turn and ride to the shoreline. A string of cars was coming down and around the hill in front of me so when there was a break in the traffic I took off.  I leaned over the front of the bike, clipped in the pedals and sprinted down the road to the beach just after an enormous black pickup truck passed by me.

I was riding along a beautiful scallop-shaped cove, empty of people and looking out at a shimmering ocean when coming at me was the black pickup. A woman, honking and waving her hand out the window, was gesturing for me to stop. She pulled next to me, leaned out the window, and as I looked up at her, as the driver’s seat was high off the ground, I saw that she was teary-eyed. I was holding on to the open window to steady myself as she put her hand over my arm.

“I thought I killed you,” she said quietly locking her eyes on mine. “When I looked in my mirror and did not see you I thought you hit the back of my truck and the last car ran over you. I stopped and turned around. You were not there. I am still shaking and my heart is racing.” She was tightly gripping my arm, her eyes watering.

“I am very sorry to have upset you,” I said looking at her tear-filled eyes and feeling confused. ”It really was not close and I was clear of your truck, but I am very sorry that I frightened you.”

“I am so glad you are safe,” she said, her hand still on my arm. “I need to calm down,” she said while trying to control her breathing. “I have had a terrible day and this was not what I needed. I thought for sure you were hurt.”

Leaning against this giant truck and staring at a stranger who seemed to be having a panic attack, I was not fully processing the situation. We just looked at each other for a few seconds not saying anything then she then leaned further out the window and gripped my arm tighter. ”I just got back from the doctor,” she said in a tone one would use with someone you know well.

Instinctively, I reached over with my other arm and covered hers. “So what did the doctor say?” I don’t know why I said that. The words came out without any thought but I was sincere. “He said that all will be fine. All will work out,” she answered with a smile.

“That’s good,” I said. I am very glad to hear that. I am sure he is right.”

“Thank you so much,” she said quietly. “I have to go now but please be careful.”

“I will” I answered. Then she gave a half smile and drove away.

I watched the truck drive back along the shoreline and as I stood holding my bike, I tried to make sense of what, over a span of just 10 minutes, just happened. This exchange, triggered by a non-event, is now imprinted on me and on her as well.

I am sure the next time I ride this loop and cruise along that cove I will see in my mind’s eye a large black truck driven by a frightened woman, and I will wonder if the doctor was correct.


It’s grilling season for sure. You can’t walk the neighborhood without smelling the tang of charcoal, the rich aroma of seared meat and the eye-burning odor of lighter fluid. Here is a very simple and quick summer recipe. The butter and the polenta can be repurposed for your next refrigerator dinner. The polenta, grilled corn and the butter can all be done prior to cooking the fish.

Serves 4

  • 1-2 pounds of swordfish.
  • 3 ears corn
  • 1 cup washed basil from your garden
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter left out to soften plus 1table spoon
  • 1 1/2 cups instant polenta ( readily available)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup cream.
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 sheet parchment paper ( a roll should always be in your pantry)
  • A ruler or any straight edge
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Basil butter:

Chop the washed basil. In a bowl (or in an electric mixer) place the butter and whip until smooth. Add salt and the chopped basil then mix. Spread the butter mixture evenly on the bottom half of the parched paper. Fold the top over and form and envelope. Using the ruler, push the butter toward the top to form a tight tube. Roll the paper tube into a cylinder. Place in the refrigerator for the butter to firm back up.

Grilled corn polenta.

Grill the corn on the hot grate and let some of the kernels char and caramelize. When cool run a sharp knife down the cob releasing the kernels, then using the blunt end of the knife, run it along the cob and scrape off the “corn-cream”. Set aside.

In a pot, bring salted water and 1 tablespoon of butter to a boil. Slowly add the polenta. Lower the heat and stir continually.

CHEF’S TIP – Use a high-sided pot. The polenta will bubble and if molten polenta makes contact with human skin, pain ensues. When the polenta comes away from the side of the pot add the corn and the cheese, Stir to incorporate and turn off the heat.

Grilled Swordfish:

CHEF’S TIP – Look for fish that is lighter in color and has a smaller red bloodline. Lightly coat the fish with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place the fish away from the hot side of the grate and leave it alone. When the edge all along the top of the fish turns opaque flip the fish and lower the lid on the grill. Let it smoke for another 4 minutes.

To serve: When the lid is down on the grill, turn the heat back on the polenta. Add the cream and stir. When it is soft, place a scoop on each plate. Remove the swordfish and cut into four portions and place over the polenta. Remove the basil butter and slice 4 quarter size circles and place on the hot fish to melt.

If you’ve got questions or comments, send them along: edandclaud@gmail.com

About this Author

Edward Aloise

Edward Aloise Previous Co-Owner/ Chef of Republic Cafe and Campo Enoteca and currently the principal in Republic Restaurant Consulting.