Frost Warning! A Recipe to Celebrate & Mourn
The garden has peaked, and is starting its downward slope. This is a cycle of the gardening season that I dread.
Tonight we have been issued our third frost warning; considering we are well into October it’s a bit of a miracle that we haven’t lost the garden yet. I grab my warmest sweatshirt and tall rain boots and head outside to cover the last of the tomatoes, the tender lettuces, chard, and other greens with thin sheets of plastic that may help them survive. I pick the last little baby eggplants, a few ripe yellow tomatoes falling off the vine, several fat leeks, and a big handful of herbs. Frost warnings make me nervous.
This past week I’ve noticed postings on Facebook and in emails from fellow New England gardeners, bemoaning the end of the season. It’s so hard to say goodbye to gardening. I often wonder what it would be like to live in another part of the world where the climate allows year-round gardening. Would the excitement that marks the spring season (the planning of the garden and the planting of seeds), the summer season (with all the vegetables and fruit) and then the fall (harvest time) feel like every gardening day was just the “same-old-same-old?” Or would the joy simply be spread throughout a whole year? Hard to know for those of us who garden here and call Maine home.
Earlier in the day I was in downtown Portland and stopped by Harbor Fish Market. It’s always hard choosing from that assortment of fresh fish and seafood, but I couldn’t resist the swordfish that had just arrived. I drove home with a pink-streaked, glistening one-pound steak.
I chopped the leek and eggplant and some of our garlic into very small, almost diced pieces, and sautéed them in olive oil over a low heat until they were just tender. Then I added half the yellow tomato and let it cook in with the other vegetables until I had something that looked vaguely like ratatouille. I added the remaining half tomato off the heat and let it all settle in while I went out to cook the fish.
It was pitch black at 7 p.m. (Oh, how I miss those summer evenings when it seemed that it would never, ever get dark.) There was a gorgeous crescent moon and a nip in the air that startled me. Once the swordfish was fork tender –about 4 to 5 minutes on each side — I placed it in a copper skillet and poured the hot leek-eggplant-tomato mixture on top.
If summer and the gardening season have to fade, trust me, this is the way to watch it go.
Harvest Swordfish with Sautéed Leek, Eggplant and Tomato Topping
Serve the swordfish with pasta, rice, orzo, or roasted potatoes. A salad made from fall greens with lots of arugula goes really well with the fish.
1 pound swordfish steak
1 teaspoon olive oil, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large leek
2 baby eggplant, or 1 medium eggplant
1 clove garlic, very thinly sliced
1 large yellow or red tomato, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Place the swordfish in a non-reactive bowl or pan and top with the teaspoon of olive oil and a generous grinding of pepper.
Heat the grill over high heat to about 425 degrees. Alternately preheat the broiler.
Cut the leek down the middle and wash away any dirt under cold running water. Dry thoroughly and finely chop the white section and about 1 inch of the green. Discard the tough upper green section. Chop the eggplant with its skin into small, almost diced pieces.
In a large skillet heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the leek and sauté about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the eggplant and raise the heat to moderate and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The eggplant should be almost tender and just starting to turn golden brown. Add half the tomato and half the rosemary, parsley, and basil; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook 2 minutes and remove from the heat.
Place the swordfish on the hot grill and cover. Grill 4 minutes. Gently flip the fish over and grill another 4 to 5 minutes or until the swordfish is tender when you press in the center with your fingers or a fork.
Heat the topping over moderately high heat; add the remaining tomato and herbs and cook 2 minutes. Spoon the topping down the middle of the swordfish and serve hot. Serves 2.