Known as an oily fish with an assertive flavor, mackerel can handle other big flavors that would steamroll over more delicately flavored fish, like capers, olives, and fennel. Grilling the vegetables for the sauce and then grilling the fish adds an extra smoky essence to this dish.
Special equipment: You will need a pastry brush for this recipe.
Game plan: To keep the fish from sticking to the grill, once the grill is hot, use the scraper to remove any residue from previous grilling sessions. Then follow the instructions for oiling the grill right before cooking.
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 medium lemon)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
For the fish:
6 medium tomatoes (about 2 pounds), cored, halved, and seeds removed
2 medium fennel bulbs (about 1 pound), stalks and fronds removed, quartered through the roots
3 tablespoonsolive oil, plus more for oiling the grill
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fish broth or clam juice
2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 (6-ounce) mackerel fillets
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
12 caperberries or 2 teaspoonscapers
For the tapenade:
Place all of the ingredients in a small, nonreactive bowl and stir to combine; set aside.
For the fish:
Heat a grill pan or outdoor grill to medium high (about 375°F to 425°F).
Meanwhile, brush the tomatoes and fennel all over with half of the measured olive oil and season with salt and pepper; set aside.
When the grill is ready, place the tomatoes and fennel on the grill and cook uncovered until grill marks form, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the vegetables and cook until grill marks appear on the other side, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove to a cutting board.
When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, cut and discard the cores from the fennel. Chop both the fennel and tomatoes into 1-1/2-inch pieces and place in a medium saucepan. Add the fish broth or clam juice, garlic, and saffron and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the vegetables have softened, about 20 minutes. Keep warm while you grill the fish. (If you’re using a grill pan, use several layers of paper towel to wipe the pan clean before grilling the fish.)
Heat the grill to medium high. Rub the grates with a towel dipped in olive oil.
Pat the mackerel fillets dry with paper towels. Brush both sides with the remaining measured olive oil and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place the fillets on the grill skin-side down and cook until grill marks appear, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fillets with a flat spatula and cook until grill marks appear on the other side and the fish is cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Remove the fillets to a plate and tent with foil.
Add the parsley to the warm tomato-fennel mixture and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Divide the tomato-fennel mixture among 4 rimmed serving plates or shallow bowls and top each serving with a piece of mackerel. Top the fish with about 1 tablespoon of the tapenade (you will have some left over), sprinkle with the caperberries or capers, and serve immediately.