GRILLED MACKEREL WITH SPICY CUCUMBER SALAD courtesy of Steve Johnson Rendezvous, Central Square, Cambridge
This preparation takes advantage of a delicious and abundant local resource, Boston mackerel, which swim along the coast of New England. I like to grill them whole, which gives you the benefit of the extra flavor and moisture. Their small size (average 1 pound whole) makes them perfect for this use. The light oily flesh is full of omega-3 fatty acid and they are relatively low on the food chain—making them one of the best choices for a healthy seafood diet. Only buy superfresh mackerel, whole fish intact, the same day you plan to use them. Ask the fishmonger to scale and gut them for you.
I recommend one fish per person.
The cucumber salad is inspired by a traditional Vietnamese accompaniment for grilled fish, and it can be used also with bluefish, salmon, etc. It has the unique feature of being moderately spicy, yet cool and refreshing at the same time—perfect for summertime dining. I always cook jasmine rice with minced ginger to go along with this.
Make 4 servings.
4 whole small mackerel (scaled and gutted)
4 tablespoons olive oil
Prepare a moderately hot charcoal fire. Brush the fish lightly with good olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Grill them on each side for about 4–5 minutes. When properly cooked, the flesh comes easily off the bone. Serve alongside the Vietnamese cucumber salad.
Vietnamese Cucumber Salad
1 cucumber, peeled seeded and sliced into quarterrounds
1 small red onion (or 2 large shallots), peeled and sliced thin lengthwise
1 cup lime juice
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons sambal oelek (chili garlic sauce)
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon nuoc cham (fish sauce)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped mint
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium-size bowl and toss gently. Let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before serving.