The Santa Barbara Fish Market is something I could become addicted to. Firstly, they usually stock at least a couple different types of locally caught fish, and secondly, they remind me why I want a job: so I can afford expensive fish. The fish of today, opah, is not constantly stocked at the Fish Market because it doesn’t school and thus is only caught as by-catch. Peter and I had the good luck to try it two Thanksgivings ago when we brought it to his parents’ house as the meat of honor. I don’t quite remember the details of what we did to our first opah, other than that we marinated it in fresh lemon and lime juice and it was delicious. By chance, we ran into it again today (I think we’ve visited the Fish Market less than 5 times while living here for over 2 years) and, of course, had to try it again. It didn’t hurt that opah was the cheapest locally caught fish on the menu, but more than that, I was in the mood for a hearty fish. The following is a very simple way to bake opah with lime juice, fennel stalks, and leeks. We also had deliciously sweet caramelized carrots, which are so easy and so good that they really deserve to be cooked much more often.
Baked Opah with Citrus Marinade
(Serves 2 folks with plenty of other veggie dishes)
1 pound opah
Juice of 1 lime
A couple fennel stalks
1 leek, cleaned carefully and cut into long ribbons
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Marinate the opah by letting it sit in the baking dish covered in the lime juice for about 30 minutes. The color of the opah flesh may change slightly, but that’s ok (we are essentially dousing it in acid after all). Take the opah out of the baking dish (keeping the lime juice in the dish) and lay down the fennel stalks to line the bottom of the dish. Put the opah on top of the fennel stalks and surround it by the ribbons of leek. Drizzle olive oil over the fish and leeks. Season with salt and pepper. Bake the opah until the flesh turns a lighter color and is flaky; the specific time will depend upon the thickness of the cut, but our rather thick cut took about an hour. Serve the opah with the deliciously citrusy leeks.
(Serves 2 people as a side)
5-6 carrots, washed and cut into diagonal slices
1/2 tablespoon butter
Drizzle of honey
Salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a small pot. Add the carrots and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water, or enough to come up to half the height of the carrots. Let the carrots cook, uncovered, stirring every once in a while, until the water evaporates. Once only the butter is left, keep a careful eye on the carrots, stirring frequently again. Once they begin to brown a bit, add a drizzle of honey, salt, and pepper, and continue to stir frequently. When the carrots have cooked another 5 minutes or so, turn off the heat and serve the carrots warm or hot.