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).
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- fine sea salt
- 3 medium zucchini trimmed, sliced lengthwise into ¾-inch slices
- 4 medium purple or yellow onions rinsed, sliced in half, skin left on
- 1 big fat eggplant or 2 medium eggplant, cut in ¾-inch slices
- 20 cherry tomatoes
- 4 medium mackerel or other fish cleaned
- 4 to 6 thick slices of bread
- Many fresh or dried bay leaves
Place the oil and the salt on a flat platter, mix.
Paint the zucchini, the cut side of the onions and the eggplant slices with the oil and salt mixture.
Skewer the cherry tomatoes, then paint them with oil and salt.
Rub the mackerel with the oil mixture, and rub oil onto the bay leaves.
Light all the burners on the gas grill. When it has reached 450F, place all the ingredients on the grill. Cover the grill and let the ingredients cook for 8 minutes.
Return to the grill and turn everything. Close the grill. After 5 minutes check the ingredients. The fish will be cooked, so carefully transfer it to a platter. It will leave its skin on the grill. Transfer the zucchini and the tomatoes to the platter that held the oil and the salt.
If the bay leaves are nice and dark, remove them from the grill.
Turn the eggplant slices, cover the grill.
Paint the bread with olive oil.
After 4 minutes, place the bread on the grill directly over the flames. Check and remove any eggplant slices that are grilled to your liking. Close the grill for about 2 minutes and remove the bread, which will be perfectly toasted on one side, and crisp on the other, and the remaining eggplant slices.
Roll the vegetables around in any remaining oil and salt. Serve all.