NOVEMBER 5, 2012



"My mom is a hell of a cook," says Manny Cisneros, chef de cuisine at Urbano Pizza Bar in downtown Los Angeles. In fact, Cisneros comes from a long line of cooks. His grandfather owned three restaurants in Mazatlán, Mexico, and when the family relocated to Los Angeles, he opened El Parian, which is still open today, 44 years later.

The recipe Cisneros shared with Sous Chef Series, swordfish topped with a red chile pesto, reminds him of his Mexican roots. The pesto, made with dried guajillo and ancho chiles, citrus juice, garlic and pumpkin seeds, is bold and spicy, the perfect counterpoint to the mild fish. "This is exactly what I would feed my family or company," he says.


Manny Cisneros's:
See Recipe See the recipe for Manny Cisneros's Swordfish with Chile Pesto



Switch the Fish

If you can't find wild, line-caught swordfish, Cisneros says that any firm, white fish, such as mahimahi, albacore or a whole, small red snapper, can be substituted. The fish can be cooked on the stovetop in a grill pan, as instructed, or you can grill it on a gas or charcoal grill.

Know Thy Chiles

To make his pesto, Cisneros uses a combination of dried guajillo and ancho chiles. Guajillos are moderately spicy and slightly bitter; anchos are fruitier and more mild. The chiles must be soaked in hot water for 15 minutes to soften them before blending.

Swordfish with Chile Pesto
Swordfish with Chile Pesto


4 servings (8 tacos)


Chile Pesto

Dried guajillo chiles, 5 (stems removed and seeds discarded)

Dried ancho chiles, 3 (stems removed and seeds discarded)

Water, 1½ cups (boiling)

Extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon

Pumpkin seeds (pepitas), ½ cup

Limes, 3 (2 juiced and 1 sliced into wedges for serving)

Cilantro leaves, ¼ cup

Red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon

Garlic cloves, 3 (roughly chopped)

Kosher salt, 1 teaspoon

Finely ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon


Swordfish, two 8-ounce steaks

Extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Corn tortillas, 8 (warmed for serving)

Avocado, 1 (halved, pitted and thinly sliced)


Kettle for boiling water

Mixing bowls

Plastic wrap


Paper towels

Large plate

Measuring cups and spoons

Chefs' knife

Small skillet

Wooden spoon

Blender or food processor

Rubber spatula

Grill pan (or a medium nonstick skillet)

Cutting board

Serving platter


1. Make the pesto: In a medium bowl, add the

  • Guajillo chiles
  • Ancho chiles
  • Boiling water

Cover the bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes. Use the tongs to transfer the chiles to a paper towel-lined large plate. Reserve ½ cup of the chile water and discard the rest.

2. In a small skillet set over medium heat, add

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pumpkin seeds

Cook, using the wooden spoon to stir frequently, until the pumpkin seeds are golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pumpkin seeds to a blender or a food processor and add the reserved, softened guajillo and ancho chiles, ¼ cup of the chile water and the

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Lime juice
  • Cilantro leaves
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Roughly chopped garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Process until the pesto is smooth, adding more of the remaining ¼ cup of chile water if needed to thin and smooth the mixture. Use the rubber spatula to scrape the mixture into a medium bowl and set aside.

3. Make the swordfish: Season both sides of the swordfish steaks with

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Place a grill pan over medium heat and add the swordfish. Cook until marked from the pan, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the swordfish steaks over, cooking the other side until the fish is cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a cutting board and rest the swordfish for 5 minutes before slicing crosswise into 1-inch-thick pieces. Arrange the swordfish on the serving platter and serve with the chile pesto and the

  • Warmed corn tortillas
  • Avocado slices
  • Lime wedges
ASK A CHEF Need help with this week's recipe? Get advice and tips from our Tasting Table Test Kitchen about this week's recipe. Talk now