There is the same tension with fresh bread as there is with fresh vegetables—one romantic window of time where all is perfection—the now of flavor— on the other fragile side of which looms certain decay. When with my bread the rose window begins to fog, I consider two end-games: bread pudding, or toast. This recipe for toast is dazzling because with simple addition it sums up my favorite ingredients of the season: avocado, jalapeño, and white fish (pancetta is my favorite in any season). What’s more, I have got a small tree out back rife with jalapeños, so this recipe allows me to be a good steward of my backyard blessings. Everything I have eaten in the last week has been sprinkled with the diced green spice, not one morsel will go to waste!
I never do seem to wash my hands thoroughly enough after handling these peppers, and yesterday, when I was scheduled to take the portrait that will be included with my residency application, of course, I touched my eyeball with jalapeño finger. Dear residency admissions committees: please don’t throw me into the Pass pile because I look like Bob Costas at the Olympics. It’s not pink eye. I don’t smoke weed. I swear it’s jalapeno conjunctivitis.
Grilled Mackerel with Pancetta, Avocado and Jalapeño on Toast
Adapted from Food and Wine
1 Hass avocado, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño—halved, seeded and very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon marjoram leaves, plus more for garnish
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, (Mignonette from Penzeys, my new fave!)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
Four 1/2-inch-thick slices of peasant bread
several garlic cloves, roasted in olive oil and halved
Two 8-ounce Spanish mackerel fillets, halved crosswise at an angle
8 very thin slices of pancetta
In a medium bowl, combine the avocado slices with the jalapeño and the 1 teaspoon of marjoram; season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and toss gently.
Light a grill and brush the grates with oil. Brush the bread with olive oil and grill over high heat, turning once, until lightly charred in spots. Rub the bread with the cut sides of the garlic clove. I used one whole garlic clove per slice of bread.
Brush the mackerel with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill skin side down until lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip the fish and grill until cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Arrange the fish on the bread, skin side up. Top with the pancetta and avocado salad. Accidentally touch your eye with your jalapeno chopping finger, take a fifteen intermission while your husband rinses your on-fire eyeball out in the bathroom sink, then enjoy!