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Recipe of the week: Beyond tapas: Small plates with Mediterranean flavor

Sasa Mahr-Batuz and Andy Pforzheimer offer recipes for swordfish and mussels from <em>The Barcelona Cookbook.</em>

Tapas have become increasingly popular in the U.S. in recent years, as small plates topped with hundreds of different inventive dishes have gone mainstream. But it was back in 1996 that Sasa Mahr-Batuz and Andy Pforzheimer, who called themselves “two guys with a dream,” opened their first restaurant, Barcelona, in South Norwalk, Conn. That dream was to offer tantalizing tapas that could easily be eaten at a bar.

In The Barcelona Cookbook (Andrews McMeel), Mahr-Batuz and Pforzheimer recommend using high-quality day-old bread for their Swordfish With Panzanella. They also advise cooking the swordfish all the way through. “Rare swordfish is not tasty.”

Recipes of the weekSwordfish With Panzanella

Basil Oil¾ cup olive oil2 cups whole fresh basil leaves1 clove garlic¼ tsp kosher salt

Panzanella2 lbs ripe tomatoes, halved horizontally and seeds squeezed out½ red onion, thinly sliced½ jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded, cored, finely diced8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced2 tbsp thinly sliced fresh flat-leaf parsleyPinch hot red pepper flakes¾ cup tomato juice, or more as needed3 teaspoons sherry vinegarKosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper½ pound day-old or slightly stale country-style bread, crust removed and cut into 1-inch cubes2 cloves garlic, chopped3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Swordfish2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil4 sprigs fresh thyme4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsleyKosher salt and freshly ground black pepperFour 6-oz center-cut fillets of swordfish, no thicker than ½ inchFresh basil sprigs, for garnish

To make basil oil: In blender, process olive oil, basil leaves, garlic, salt about 2 minutes, until smooth and emulsified.

To prepare panzanella: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Core tomatoes, cut into 1-inch dice. Transfer to bowl; add sliced onion, jalapeño, basil, parsley, pepper flakes, tomato juice, vinegar, about 1 tbsp salt. Toss well; adjust seasoning with pepper and more salt. In another bowl, toss together bread cubes, garlic, olive oil, parsley. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Spread on baking sheet; bake 15 to 20 minutes, stirring and turning until lightly browned and crisp. Remove from oven; transfer to large plate to cool; set aside.

To prepare fish: In shallow nonreactive dish, mix together extra-virgin olive oil, thyme, parsley. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add swordfish fillets; turn several times to coat. Cover; set aside at room temperature up to 2 hours or in refrigerator for 8 hours. Prepare charcoal or gas grill to medium-hot. Very lightly spray grates with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. Alternatively, preheat broiler. Lift fish from marinade; let it drip off; season on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill 4 to 5 minutes on one side. Turn over and grill 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until fish is opaque nearly all the way through.

Just before fish is done, add croutons to tomato salad; toss well. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Put salads on plates, allowing juices to flood plate. Rest a fillet on top of each salad; garnish with sprig of basil; drizzle with basil oil. Serves 4.

Mussels al DiabloThis dish, Pforzheimer and Mahr-Batuz admit, is “Italian through and through.” It’s served at Barcelona with a large crouton.

40 Prince Edward Island mussels or other high-quality mussels1 cup olive oil¼ baguette, sliced on the diagonal into eight ¼-inch-thick pieces2 tbsp chopped garlic2 cups canned tomatoes with their juice, crushed1 tsp hot red pepper flakesKosher salt1 cup dry white wine½ bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, stems removed and leaves slivered, plus more for garnish2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Clean mussels by scrubbing well under cold running water and removing any beards. Drain well; transfer mussels to large bowl and refrigerate. Pour ½ cup of olive oil into shallow baking dish. Lay bread slices in the oil, turning once to coat both sides. Toast bread for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once or twice, or until golden brown and crisp. Transfer croutons to a plate to cool. Pour remaining ½ cup olive oil into large sauté pan; heat over medium heat. Add garlic; cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Add mussels, tomatoes, pepper flakes, and season with salt to taste. Stir well; cook for about 15 minutes. Add wine and parsley; cover; cook for about 3 minutes, or until all the mussels open (discard any that do not open). Pour mussels and sauce into large serving bowl. Garnish with parsley; drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Stud bowl with croutons and serve. Serves 4.

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