This recipe is inspired by my recent trip home to British Columbia. The generosity of a Haida fisherman we met along the way in Masset, coupled with the late-summer bounty that welcomed us at a good friend's new home in Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast, made for a delicious coastal-driven feast.
Smoked eggplant may seem daunting at first, but the whole other level of depth it brings to the ratatouille, a classic late-summer Provençal favourite, is worth it, trust me. Keep a keen eye on the butter as it is browning so it doesn't get too dark. The rich golden flavour is the perfect complement to naturally lean halibut.
HALIBUT WITH EGGPLANT RATATOUILLE
Smoked eggplant ratatouille
6 pieces smoked eggplant, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks
2 medium sized yellow zucchinis, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks
1 medium-sized green zucchini, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks
2 medium-sized red onions, cut into wedges
10 baby heirloom or cherry tomatoes, whole, stems removed
1 Fresno chili, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
Salt and pepper
1 sprig rosemary, removed from stem and finely chopped
½ bunch basil, larger leaves roughly chopped, stems thinly sliced, smaller leaves and buds picked and set aside in fridge in between moist paper towels (to be used later for garnish)
1 ½ cups passata di pomodoro (seeded, uncooked tomato purée)
½ cup Bragg liquid soy seasoning
6 pieces small Japanese eggplant, cut in half lengthwise and scored to better soak up the marinade
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon fleur de sel
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Smoking the eggplant
¹/³ cup long-grain rice
¼ black loose-leaf tea
1 teaspoon white sugar
4 halibut filets, boneless (approximately 400 grams total)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fleur de sel and fresh cracked black pepper to season
2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons lightly toasted sliced almonds, rough chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white sugar
Zest of one lemon, plus 2 tablespoons juice
8 tbsp butter, browned
Smoked eggplant ratatouille
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Combine the smoked eggplant, zucchini, onion, tomatoes, sliced chilli and garlic, and toss together on a parchment-lined baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 20-30 minutes until just starting to brown, but not fully cooked.
Remove from oven and transfer the veg and juices to a medium-sized casserole along with the rosemary, basil stems, passata and Bragg’s. Stir to combine and simmer for 35 minutes over low heat until reduced and sweet.
Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper as desired. Keep covered and warm on the back of the stove until fish is cooked and ready to plate, reserving the roughly chopped basil leaves to add at the last possible moment. This will help preserve their bright green colour.
Mix together in zip-lock bag, massaging the marinade into the eggplants. Let sit in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
Smoking the eggplant
To set up a stovetop tea smoker, you will need: Wok, with a lid if possible; aluminum foil; Metal rack, large enough to sit flat at top of wok, without obstructing the lid or being too close to the bottom
Line inside of wok with 4 layers of aluminium foil. Combine the rice, tea and sugar and place in the bottom of the foil-lined wok. Place metal rack at top of wok and place the marinated eggplants on the rack. Cover wok with lid of tent with aluminum foil as necessary. Turn exhaust fan on full above the stove and open your kitchen windows. Over high heat toast the tea mixture for 3-5 minutes until wisps of smoke begin to emerge from the wok. Continue to toast for 5 minutes without burning the tea and then remove the wok from the heat. Allow eggplants to sit covered in the smoke for another 10 minutes. Remove the lid and allow to cool. Eggplants should be smoky and only slightly cooked.
Preheat your oven broiler to its highest setting. Brush the halibut filets with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on an aluminum-lined tray and cook under broiler for 3-4 minutes, or until almost cooked. Remove seed crust from the parchment and lay a piece over top of each filet. Return to the oven and cook for another 1-2 minutes until butter is melted and seeds are golden brown. Remove and serve immediately.
To plate, stir the roughly chopped basil into the warm ratatouille and place a big scoop into the bottom of 4 medium-sized bowls. Place the broiled fish on top in the middle and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish each dish with the small, fresh basil leaves you put aside earlier. Serve immediately.
Place pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chopped almonds, salt, sugar, lemon juice and zest in a small heatproof bowl.
Melt butter over medium-high heat in a small, light-coloured casserole dish (which will make it easier to see as it starts to brown). Stir and cook until water releases and butter reaches 212 F. Continue stirring, ensuring not to burn any of the milk fat on the bottom of the casserole dish. Cook until butter starts to foam. It should smell nutty and have a golden brown colour. Remove from heat and pour directly over the seed mixture. Stir to combine. Spread flat over a small parchment-lined tray creating (approximately) a 6-inch x 8-inch rectangle. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to allow the butter to harden around the seeds. Cut the larger rectangle into four smaller ones. Keep these in the fridge until ready to use on the halibut.