Mackerel with Tomatoes, Fried Leeks and Dill Yogurt Sauce

It’s been as dreary and rainy as you’d expect from a Portland winter. I’m all about eating in season and locally, especially because I live in an area that is lousy with abundance. But when I walked by the fish counter at my local market and saw those glassy mackerel eyes staring back at me from under the cooler lights, I decided to hell with winter eating. I’m going to take a summer vacation on my plate.

Anyone who hates mackerel because they think it’s too “fishy” needs to go toe-to-toe with me in a dark alley. I will bring a portable cooking stove and a light so we can see what we are doing, and there I will introduce you to the delights of this assertive wonder from the sea.

In this recipe, mackerel and tomatoes make good friends and the dill yogurt sauce brings its citrusy zing to the party. I added the fried leeks for two reasons. One: I hate wasting leek greens after using the white bits up, so this is a good way to put them to work. Two: fried leeks taste amazing. It’s mostly because of the second reason.

Do not, I repeat, do not remove the skin and just eat the fillet. The crispy mackerel skin is magic and it’s beautiful. I know it’s a basic thing to say, but it’s a feast for the eyes and the tongue. You can remove the head and tail if you aren’t into those rows of deadly teeth and spikes threatening you while you eat, but I will find you if you remove the skin.

Whew, something about cooking up a predator is making me violent.

Ingredients for Mackerel with Tomatoes

  • 2 whole mackerels
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 leek
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus some for oiling the pan
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 tsp caraway
  • Salt
  • Pepper


Preheat the oven to 350°F and place the rack in the middle.

Drizzle olive oil into a baking sheet or pan. Slice the tomatoes and the lemon. Wash and slice the whites of the leek. Cut the greens of the leek into thin, long strips.

Lay the tomato and leek whites into the pan in a single layer. Salt and pepper the interior of the mackerel and stuff with lemons. You don’t need to add any fat inside the fish because mackerel is oily already. Put a lemon slice or two on top of the fish.

Bake for 30 minutes or until flaky.

Meanwhile, fry the leek greens in a pan with vegetable oil. Heat the oil up to about 350°F and lay the leek pieces in a few at a time. Remove when they are crispy and place on a paper towel to drain. Repeat until all of the greens are fried.

Just before removing the fish from the oven, blend together the yogurt, 1/2 cup of olive oil, the juice from one lemon and caraway. Salt and pepper to taste.

Top the fish with the yogurt dill sauce and fried leek greens.

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