Friday, January 6, 2012

Opah with Coconut, Ginger, and Cilantro

Consider the impeccable timing: just weeks before our long-awaited Kaua'i trip, I fall deeply, obsessively, madly in love with fish. The result? A delightfully fish-filled vacation, brimming with everything from fresh ahi poke to a panoply of new (for us) fish discoveries primarily involving the letter O—ono fish wraps from the Kilauea fish market, sauteed opakapaka with garlic and scallions; succulent opah simmered in a mouthwatering medley of coconut milk, ginger, and cilantro.

Speaking of which, if you can find opah (also called moonfish, and sometimes available at the Sacramento Co-op and no doubt other west coast fish markets at least), make this. If you can't, find a substitute fish (thick enough to be cooked for a little while, relatively firm, buttery flavor) and make it anyway. And if you can snag ripe mango or papaya, try combining a bite with the fish, closing your eyes, and enjoying your taste buds' tropical vacation.

2 thick opah fillets (or one that you cut in half later; we used one .6 lb fillet for two people)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 1/4 tsp grated ginger
Small handful cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/3 can light coconut milk
4 baby bok choy, sliced crosswise (or sub tatsoi)
1 ripe mango or papaya, sliced (optional)
Black Forbidden rice (or sub brown rice)
1 medium shallot, chopped

Rinse a cup of black rice and let drain. Saute the shallot in a little olive oil until soft, the add the rice and saute for another minute or so. Stir in 1 cup of water, cover, bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to low. Simmer 25 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the rice tender. (If substituting brown rice, adjust liquid and cooking time accordingly.)

Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Stir-fry the bok choy with a pinch of salt and a pinch of grated ginger until just tender (we like it when some of the pieces brown a little, too). Set aside.

Sprinkle the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. When hot, add a little olive oil and swirl to coat. Add the fish, shake the pan to prevent it from sticking, and then pan fry until golden on both sides. Add the coconut milk, the rest of the ginger, a pinch of salt, and the cilantro, and the bok choy. Turn the heat down a bit to simmer gently until the fish is just barely cooked through (here's why I like using one fillet for two people: it gives you an excuse to cut the fish in half at this point and check whether it's almost done). Turn off the heat just before the fish is cooked to your liking -- it will keep cooking a little on your plate, as well.

Serve the fish on a bed of black rice. Spoon the bok choy and coconut sauce over the top of both, and garnish with fresh mango or papaya and a sprig of cilantro.

Serves 2.

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