Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Robin's Lebanese Mackerel

At a dinner party with friends a few weeks ago, we were surprised to be served the oily sea fish, mackerel.  Now mackerel is one of my favorite fish, but you don't often get exposed to it - outside of restaurants - because of its dense, pungent flavor (which I adore). 

This recipe, taken from a gorgeously illustrated cookbook by a famous Lebanese master chef, puts a middle Eastern spin on the workaday mackerel, fusing sweetness and saltiness in a divine combination.  Thanks to Ottolenghi: The Cookbook for inventing the recipe, and our host, Robin, for presenting this with an equally impressive Camargue red rice and quinoa salad with orange and pistachios.  Now that was one helluva meal.

Not only is mackerel delicious, it is also extremely good for you.  As one of the so-called "oily" fish, mackerel is rich is fatty fish oil and the wonder vitamin Omega 3.  As researcher Michael Byrd argues, "fish oil benefits are downright amazing...If you haven't already been swept up in the net yet, here are 7 proven Omega 3 benefits you should know about..."  He goes on to list how fish oil helps to:
  1. Manage Pain and Inflammation
  2. Improve Cardiovascular Health
  3. Reduce likelihood of a stroke or heart attack
  4. Improve Brain performance
  5. Reduce depression
  6. Lower the incidence of childhood disorders
  7. Reduce incidence of colon, prostate and breast cancer
Just one of the above is reason enough to increase the amount of oily fish we consume.  Why not try this recipe today?  It takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

Grilled mackerel with green olive, celery and raisin salsa

    8 mackerel fillets, pin bones removed
    2 tbsp olive oil
    coarse sea salt and black pepper

    For the salsa:
    125g celery stalk, thinly sliced
    60g good quality green olives, stoned and thinly sliced
    3 tbsp good quality plump raisins
    1 ½ tbsp sherry vinegar
    4 tbsp olive oil
    3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
    1. Stir together all the salsa ingredients.  Taste it; it should be sweet, sour and salty.  Season with salt and pepper and leave to sit for at least 15 minutes for the flavours to evolve.  (At this point, the salsa can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours, if necessary. Before serving, allow it to come to room temperature, refresh with extra chopped parsley and adjust the seasoning.)
    2. Set an oven grill to its highest setting.  Toss the mackerel fillets gently with the oil and some salt and pepper.  Lay the fillets on a flat oven tray, skin side up, and place under the hot grill for 3-4 minutes, until just cooked.
    3. Serve the fish hot or at room temperature, with a spoonful of salsa on top.
    Our friends at Philly Wine Finders, suggested the following wine pairing for this dish: 

    "For an oily fish like mackerel you'll want to pair this with a high acid white wine.  A good one that we had recently is Sella & Mosca Vermentino from the Italian island of Sardinia.  It is similar to Pinot Grigio but has stronger aromatics and a little more zip. It's medium body and high acidity will hold up well to the mackerel and the olives. At this moment it is widely available in the state stores in Philadelphia.   If you want to get daring and go Lebanese you could try Massaya Classic White, a blend of sauvignon blanc and clairette.  There are a few bottles available at the Society Hill store, the PA code is 25517."

    Thanks for the suggestion! 

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