Opah-- apparently -- is the name of a fish and not a Greek expression, like I previously thought. I was talked into buying it for the fish guy at the store, who then cut it into chunks. Seriously -- they were like four inch by four inch chunks. I was wandering around the rest of the market and when I went back to the fish counter, they were packaged up and priced. There was no going back from the opah chunks.
Apparently, the opah has historically been an incidental catch of longline gear in Hawaii and only recently has it become commercially important. It was viewed as a good luck fish by fishermen, who would give it away as a goodwill gesture rather than sell it. Also referred to as a moonfish, the opah's flesh is rich and fatty and good for sashimi, broiling, and occasionally smoking.
However, I was working with chunks rather than normal fillets, and I didn't like the results so much. I made a Coconut and Lime Sauce to go over it but basically the fish was a bit tasteless. I wasn't impressed. Of course, I would be willing to try it again. I think it would respond excellently to marinating, a route I wish I had gone. But the rest of the meal was still good: Cilantro rice -- basically you make a cilantro pesto and stir it into the hot rice (very good, very easy), sauteed opah with a coconut and lime sauce (pretty good) and tomatoes topped with corn and bacon.
(Cilantro Rice was the first recipe from a cookbook purchased while I was in Santa Fe -- "Cooking with Cafe Pasqual's." We went there for breakfast twice, one of which times I ordered this cornmeal mush with chorizo gravy -- basically, it is a New Mexican version of grits and gravy. I don't know many people who put sausage gravy in their grits (besides me!) but it's a winning combination. )
2 3/4 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ cups long-grain rice
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro sprigs
1/4 white onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped green onions, green part only
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
½ jalapeno, stemmed and seeded
1 teaspoon olive oil
Put the water and salt into a heavy-bottomed, lidded 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then add the rice, cover and lower the heat to very low. The rice should be ready in 20 minutes. Remove pan from the stove, keep covered and let it rest for 5 more minutes.
In the container of a blender, put in the cilantro, white onion, green onion, lime juice, jalapeno and olive oil. Whirl all the ingredients until incorporated, adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of water to help move the blades if necessary.
Use a fork to stir the cilantro mixture into the rice. Serve immediately.
Coconut-Lime Sauce (for sauteed fish). I found this on www.centralmarket.com. I think lemon grass is a pain to deal with, so I omitted it.
2 stalks of lemon grass (optional)
1 cup canned coconut milk
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
8 thin slices of peeled ginger root
1 Serrano chile, thinly sliced into rounds.
Peel the lemon grass and trim the white part. Bruise the white parts of the stalks with the back of a knife. Combine lemon grass, coconut milk, lime juice, lime zest, ginger root, chile and 1 teaspoon salt in the skillet. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for 5 minutes to reduce the sauce slightly and blend the flavors, stirring occasionally.
The recipe instructs to slide the browned opah into the sauce, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Or you could just pour the sauce over the fish, like I did. Be careful not to boil the sauce for too long or your sauce will break (another thing I did).
Tomatoes Topped with Bacon and Corn
I completely stole this idea from The Amateur Gourmet. Slice a few ripe tomatoes and place on platter. I used leftover corn I had from the corn fritters (about 3 ears of corn) and mixed with chopped bacon. You can put some scallions in there or not -- I love scallions and add it to everything, but I felt it almost overwhelmed the corn flavor.
This is where it gets tricky. I removed the bacon from the skillet, leaving just the fat. I let it cool for a few minutes and then added a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the pan. BEWARE: The pan will sizzle, which is why I do it off the heat. This is called deglazing a pan. You're going to take a wooden spoon (or spatula) and scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Taste it (but don't burn yourself). How much vinegar you put in depends on how much bacon fat you have, so taste it and add accordingly. Spoon the corn and bacon mixture over the cut tomatoes and drizzle the warm bacon dressing over it.