I like to change it up in the kitchen, and we definitely eat fish at least once a week (usually I aim for 3 times). Opah is a fabulous fish. It's meaty like swordfish, but has a much more delicate flavor (reminds me of Mahi Mahi). Plus, if you're a bit new with working with fish or aren't that comfortable, it's a super easy fish to work with. Minimal preparation required and yielding itself to a variety of cooking methods, the fish will turn opaque white as it cooks, clearly marking for you when it's done. It does not get any easier than that.
Opah, aka Moonfish, comes for us in the US courtesy of Hawaii. Raw, the color of the flesh is a rosy pink but when cooked, turns white. The skin is this beautiful, shiny polka dotted patterned that gives off a rainbow when exposed to the light. Not usually sought out by fisherman, they are usually caught as by-catches when fishermen go for tuna. Which is why you won't steadily find opah in the markets. But when you do, be sure to pick up this special fish!
The simplest way to prepare opah is with a good seasoning of salt and pepper, and a nice sauté in a hot pan. It compliments pretty much anything. I chose to do an orzo with spring vegetables -- English peas, asparagus, and spring onion mixed with a little baby spinach for a healthy and tasty side dish. A well seared opah fillet right on top perfects this healthy low cal meal.
Opah with Spring Vegetable Orzo
4 opah filets, skin removed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups orzo pasta
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup cooked English peas (can sub with regular peas)
2 spring onion, trimmed and finely sliced
2 cups baby spinach, rough chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
good quality extra virgin olive oil
Make the orzo first. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and transfer orzo to a large mixing bowl. While the orzo cooks, heat another pot of water and add the asparagus. Cook until turns bright green, then remove from water. Toss the orzo with the cooked asparagus, peas, spring onion, spinach, and garlic all while the orzo is still warm. The warmth will help wilt the spinach and absorb the vinaigrette. Season the orzo with salt and pepper to taste, then add about 1 tsp's worth of zest from the lemon, the juice of the entire lemon, and a good drizzle of olive oil. Toss very well to combine. Set aside while you make the opah.
Let opah stand on counter to get to room temperature -- this will ensure even cooking and a nice crust. Season both sides of the filets with salt and pepper. Heat a sauté pan to high heat. You want the pan quite hot to develop the proper sear. You know it's hot when you can hold you hand over the top, about 5 inches away from the bottom of the pan for about 2-3 seconds before you have to remove your hand. Add a little olive oil to the bottom of the hot pan -- just enough to thinly coat the bottom -- and place your fish into the pan. Depending on the pan's size, you'll need to do them two at a time or all 4. The oil will jump when the fish is introduced, so be careful and work confidently but quickly.
Sear the one side of the fish. You'll start to see the fish turn white from the bottom; when it's about halfway up the thickness of the filet, it's ready to be flipped. Flip and finishing cooking the fish on the other side. Add more oil if you need to. When the fish totally becomes white, it's ready. Remove promptly from pan and serve with the orzo.