I know, all I write about these days is eggplant. It’s the season. And besides I’m in love with eggplant. It comes in the most gorgeous colors, it wears its fat, bottom heavy shape with pride and when grilled, it turns to seductive pudding. How can this vegetable (which is technically a fruit) not be an object of love?
And another thing about eggplant. It loves everyone and everything. Which makes it the vegetable you always invite for dinner, no matter what else you’re serving.
Last night was another scorcher in a long series and cooking in the kitchen was not on, so I turned to my blessed grill in my blessed courtyard.
I had eggplant from Baptiste’s fields, which impart sweetness and flavor into everything that grows in them. I included a few zucchini, some cherry tomatoes that I skewered, purple onions which I cut in half, leaving the skin on. And I had a handful of mackerel which had come to me unexpectedly. Somehow when you’re in the food world, food gifts fall into your life like mail falling through the postal slot, the case with the mackerel. I was happy. Mackerel hits all the “perfect food” buttons for me – it’s abundant, it’s not expensive so everyone can enjoy, and its forgiving, the fishery is well managed so there is ample supply. Finally, it rivals any other fish in the sea for elegance and flavor.
I grilled all of this abundance at the same time. To make this possible, I sliced the vegetables to roughly the same thickness – about 3/4-inch. I stuffed the mackerel with bay leaves. I heated the grill to about 450F which means all three burners were on. I painted the vegetables and rubbed the fish and a branch of bay leaves with oil, sprinkled everything with salt, and arranged everything on the grill. I closed it, walked away for 8 minutes so that I could make pesto, and returned. I turned everything, walked away for five minutes, and came back and the mackerel were cooked, so they went on a platter and I covered them with the now blackened leaves from the bay branch, which impart a gorgeous perfume into the fish. The zucchini were grilled so they went onto the platter, with the cherry tomatoes which slid nicely off the skewers. I turned the eggplant, went inside to slice the bread which I painted with oil, and I opened the rosé.
The eggplant were almost ready. I put the bread on the grill and examined each slice of eggplant. Two needed more cooking, the others went onto the platter with the zucchini and tomatoes. I covered the grill, salted the fish and vegetables again, opened the grill and removed the toasted bread and the eggplant and arranged both on the platter.
It was too hot to eat outside, so we ate inside, sipping rose, dolloping with pesto, and enjoying such wonderful summer bounty.
(If you cannot find mackerel (ask and beg your fishmonger), then substitute with whole trout, or salmon, or the fish of your choice. if your fish is skinless, then you need to wrap it with something like bacon, or cook it on an oiled, preheated plancha to protect it from direct heat).