Arroz con Pollo (Rice and Chicken)

The inspiration: A trip to the local market

I went to the local market down the street from my house for one thing. Just one! Does that ever happen to you – you need one thing and walk out with a whole cart load of stuff you have to have? That’s what happened here. I saw the corn and peppers outside, and I had to have them. Then of course I needed everything else I bought too… Anyway, I came home with a whole box of delicious produce and now had to decide what to make.

 

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The innovation: not using onions or garlic for flavor, but still managing to get a delicious, well-rounded flavor

Since starting the FODMAP diet, the biggest challenge I have is to get intense flavor without using garlic and onions ( big no-nos on the diet) It has led me to start exploring with different herb and spice combinations I normally wouldn’t use. In this case, the strong herbal flavor from the parsley (you can use cilantro but I am not a fan) leaves AND stems plus the addition of red chilis added great flavor – not too hot, but with a definite kick. The use of vine tomatoes (more expensive but more flavorful) also boosted the flavor as well.

My reinterpretation: Arroz con Pollo

 

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless dark chicken meat

3 ears fresh corn, kernels cut from the cob

2 red bell peppers, sliced

2 orange bell peppers, sliced

3 vine tomatoes, diced

2 red chili peppers, minced fine or ground with a mortar and pestle (I prefer a mortar and pestle)

half a bunch of fresh parsley (about 1 cup), minced fine

2 C water

1 C white rice

Salt and pepper

 

To Prepare:

1) Get a large stockpot (at least 6 qt) very hot, and add your chicken. Sear on both sides, each side about 7 mins, adding salt and pepper while you sear. Remove from pot and set aside.

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2) Lower flame to low, and add the corn as well as the red and yellow peppers. Cover and let sweat til vegetable soften, about 15 mins.

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3)Add the tomatoes, chilies, and parsley, stirring well to incorporate. Cover again and let sweat for about 5-7 mins, or til tomatoes start to soften.

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4) Add the seared chicken meat, mixing into the vegetables, and lower flame. Add a bit of salt and pepper and taste. Cook for about 15 mins, or til chicken is mostly cooked through.

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5) Add the water and the rice, stir well, and bring fire to a low simmer. Simmer for 20 mins, or until the rice is soft but not mushy. Serve immediately.

Baked Apple-Sesame Seed Chips

The inspiration: apples from a friend

Confession time: I don’t really eat that many apples. With few exceptions, I follow the FODMAP diet (although my family does not) and apples are considered a fruit to avoid because it has a lot of fructose naturally.  So are lots of other types of fruits as well, which make me sad because I love fresh fruit!  Most of my favorite fruits (tree fruits, like cherries, pears, apricots, apples, peaches and plums) are on the ‘ to avoid’ list.

So what do you do when your friend tells you she bought too many apples (they were on sale) and she needs your help to use them up? My husband likes apple chips ( I usually reserve this treat for Passover, minus the sesame seeds) and my kids will eat them sometimes. They are simple enough, and take longer to bake than to prepare. Win-win if you ask me.

The innovation: baking with sesame seeds to give a little nutty flavor

Before I started FODMAP, this was a snack I loved. It’s got sweetness, it’s a little crunchy, and I didn’t feel guilty for eating them! One of the things I like to add is sesame seeds – they are very healthy for you, and give a bit of extra flavor and crunch. I also switched from using regular cane sugar to coconut sugar to make the recipe a bit healthier as well.

My interpretation: Baked Apple Sesame Seed Chips

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Ingredients:

5 Macintosh apples, cored and halved, then sliced thin

1/2 C coconut sugar

1/2 C sesame seeds

1/3 C  ground cinnamon

olive oil spray

To Prepare:

1. Preheat oven to 350F

2. Arrange the apple slices on two full size baking sheets. Spray a light coating of olive oil spray over the slices. 

3. Sprinkle first the sesame seeds, then the coconut sugar, then the cinnamon over the apple slices. It works best in this order because the oil helps anchor the sesame seeds to the apple slice, and the sugar stays on better this way.

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4. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, then shut off oven. Leave oven closed and allow apple slices to cool completely before removing . Using a butter knife, carefully remove them from the tray. These chips are best if eaten right away, or left in a Ziploc and eaten within a day or so. 

Roasted Mixed Nut Flour

The inspiration: 5 containers of freezer burnt nuts

I always meant to use them, but I never got around to it. I had bought several containers of nuts after they were on sale, and stashed them in the freezer so they wouldn’t get rancid. So a few months later as I am re-organizing my freezer, I find them all the way in the back, and very much freezer burnt. It made me really sad- my carelessness led to food and money being wasted. I wanted to find a way to solve this, but wasn’t sure how.

The innovation: Roasting them to remove the stale freezer taste

My first thought was to roast the nuts to try to restore the flavor.  After a quick Facebook chat with a good friend (thanks, Simone!) I figured this would be the best course of action. I also figured that even after roasting the flavor would still be pretty tame, and wanted to help it out a little. Salt and sugar work wonders – add a bit of salt to chocolate, or a bit of sugar to tomato sauce and you will see exactly what I mean. The logic was that an equal measure of both would restore a bit more of the lost flavor. Since going mostly gluten free, GF flours and flour mixes are expensive, so I figured a way to use the nuts would be to grind them into flour. This way, it would never be the star of the show, so to speak, and I could add as I needed as I went depending on what I was making.

My reinterpretation: Roasted Mixed Nut Flour

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Ingredients:

2. 5 to 3 lbs of raw nuts ( I used a mix of almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pecans, but you can use a single kind)

2 handfuls of salt

2 handfuls of organic turbinado sugar

 

 To prepare:

1) Lay the nuts out in a single layer on a cookie sheet or sheet pan. I needed two full size sheet pans

2) Sprinkle the salt and sugar lightly over the nuts

3) Roast in the oven at 350F for about 15 -20 minutes. The nuts will be lightly brown and smell roasted but not burnt.

4) Let nuts cool completely before grinding.

5) Grind nuts in the food processor using the shredder blade at a medium setting, making sure to include the salt and sugar.

6) When all the nuts are ground, sift through with your fingers to remove any clumps. Store in airtight container or Ziploc in the fridge. Use sooner rather than later.

 

Salmon Pan Bagnat

The inspiration: Leftover salmon, gorgeous mixed greens, and wanting to make a quick and easy meal

Leftovers- you have to love them or hate them. Every Shabbat, I prepare baked salmon for my family and there is always some leftover on Sunday. But I was tired of making my usual salmon-with couscous, salmon-with-rice, or salmon-with-pasta using the leftovers. I wanted something with bold flavor, something that would use my leftovers and I wouldn’t have to do more than make a knife (or my hands) dirty.

The innovation: Substituting salmon for tuna, gherkins for cornichons

Pan Bagnat is the classical tuna and vegetable sandwich of southern France. Traditionally, it has hard-boiled eggs, mixed greens or romaine lettuce, roasted squash or peppers (maybe both), cornichons or Nicoise olives and canned tuna. However, like much of Provencal cuisine, the one hand and fast rule is to use whatever is the freshest, the best tasting – and what you have on hand. Works for me! I had salmon to use up, as well as some delicious vegetables and greens. Cornichons add a slightly sour/tart taste that works in perfect contrast to the Dijon in the vinaigrette, but since I was using mixed greens that were slightly bitter and the Dijon together, I was sure the gherkins would add a welcome sweet/tartness to the pan bagnat. You can always omit the gherkins, but I wouldn’t recommend substituting pickle spears or sour pickles. If anything, if you don’t like pickles, add Nicoise or Kalamata olives or capers for a similar taste profile.

My interpretation: Salmon Pan Bagnat

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Ingredients: 

For the vinaigrette:

2 heaping tsp genuine Dijon mustard 

1 and 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar 

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together, set aside in fridge to chill 

For the pan bagnat:

1/2 of a French baguette

1 baked or grilled salmon fillet, about 6 oz, already cooked and cooled

large handful of mixed greens

1/2 cucumber, peeled and cut into slices

1 Roma (plum) tomato, cut into slices

2 gherkin pickles cut in half lengthwise 

Olive oil to brush on baguette

Sea Salt 

Black Pepper

To prepare:

1) Brush the insides of the baguette with a light layer of olive oil and sprinkle a tiny bit of sea salt and black pepper on top

2) Mix the vinaigrette with the mixed greens til coated very lightly and add to the baguette. You may have extra dressing – that is fine, save it.

3) One layer at a time, add in the cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles.

4) Flake the cooled salmon into large pieces and add to the baguette. 

5) If desired, add the remaining vinaigrette. At this point, it is traditional to wrap the sandwich tightly in foil and refrigerate for an hour.  However, if you are hungry- bon apetite!  

 

 

 

Salmon Salad with Donut Peaches and Pistachios

The inspiration: a long Shabbat afternoon spent with a friend

Shabbat afternoon is the time I use to catch up with my neighbors (who also happen to be good friends of mine).  I live in an apartment building in Brooklyn that is home to about 30 families, and we are all like one big extended family. So many a late Shabbat afternoon (about 2 hours before nightfall on Saturday afternoon) you will find my kids and I visiting a neighbor and sharing a light meal with them.  One of the foods we enjoy at that time besides challah is salad – something light to offset the heavy Shabbat lunch from several hours earlier. I will usually go to visit a friend with fresh produce or some sort of fish and between the two of us we make a couple of salads.

The innovation: pairing a fish with a stone fruit

Salads are fun – you can add so many different combinations. So one Shabbat afternoon I showed up to my friend’s house with donut peaches, leftover baked salmon, and roasted pistachios. It had been a last minute invite, and I was basically making it up as I went. This salad was originally made that Shabbat afternoon with iceberg lettuce, but the flavor of the peaches with the salmon and pistachios stuck with me. Donut peaches are not as sweet as regular peaches – they remind me of more of white peaches – and I find they work really well with salmon.

My interpretation:  Salmon Salad with Donut Peaches and Pistachios

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Ingredients

8 oz fresh, boneless/skinless salmon fillet, baked or grilled

10 to 12 oz spring greens or mesclun mix (you want a mixture that has both sweet and  bitter greens)

3 donut peaches, pitted and sliced

large handful of roasted pistachios, crushed

a scant drizzle of best quality light olive oil

a two-finger pinch of sea salt (if desired)

1) Make sure the salmon is completely chilled if you are preparing it fresh. I have used leftover salmon as well – warm fish will wilt your greens.

2) Carefully flake the salmon, and mix the fish, peaches, and olive oil into the greens with your hands delicately.

3) Taste and add sea salt now if desired. If not, top with pistachios.

 

Recipe for a simple baked salmon

In an aluminum tray or pan,  place your salmon skin side down. Add a sprinkle of salt and squeeze half of a fresh lemon over the fish. Cover tightly, bake at 350 for about 15mins. Fish is done when glistening and completely cooked through.

 

Sour Cherry Lemon Iced Tea

So one of the perks of my job, besides being surrounded with the most current and amazing things for a kitchen, is the ability to purchase what I’d like for my kitchen at a significant discount. For now, I have a whole list on order. That’s because what I want, (Wusthof knives, Staub Dutch ovens, a Wellness gel floor mat, a full set of All-Clad stainless steel pots and pans, and that is just the start of the list) I need serious money. But every now and then we get in something that I just have to have. I try not to indulge too much – good thing too, as we get new merchandise in at least once a week. But I had my eye on a Primula Flavor It 3 in 1 system. It comes with a fine mesh insert for loose-leaf tea, a filter for infusing fruit into the water, and even a freezable insert that you can put inside the pitcher to chill the drink without ice cubes. I had to get this, and when I did, one of the first drinks I made was this sour cherry lemon iced tea.  Super refreshing, not too sweet – this iced tea is perfect anytime you can get fresh sour cherries. This was my first time using this fruit, and I know I will be using it again. 016 Ingredients (this makes about 3/4 of a gallon) 16 sour cherries, stems removed and squished between your fingers 4 tea bags 2 and a half lemons cut into quarters 3 to 5 oz of honey  (I find that blueberry, or wildflower varieties work best. ( Clover honey I found to be too sweet for my liking)   018 1) If you have a pitcher like mine, make a layer of cherries, then lemons, then teabags, then the remaining lemons. Add the honey over the fruit and teabags, and fill pitcher with boiling hot water.  If you don’t have a pitcher, use a pot, add all the ingredients, then fill with water. 2)Leave the fruit and tea in the water til the water cools to just above room temperature. Stir the insert inside the pitcher or stir your ingredients once or twice. I like to leave my insert in for about an hour, but for weaker iced tea leave the fruits and tea in the water for less time. 3) Remove the insert, or strain your tea mixture into a pitcher. Make sure to press down gently on the fruit and tea so you get as much liquid from it as possible. Chill and serve. 

Red Currant Coulis

To say that this summer has been insanely busy is an understatement.  In June, I started a new job – I’m the shipping manager of a high-end kitchen utensil store in Boro Park called Kitchen Couture.  It’s a candy store for foodies like me – all the best brands, anything you’d could want for your kitchen.  It’s a fantastic job, and I love it – it’s just a lot of hours.

Starting in September, I’ll be working even more hours. The weather will be getting cooler as well, and soon I’ll also be filling orders for chocolates again.  So while I will definitely still continue to blog, I cannot promise how often it will be.  Right now I am hoping to get back on schedule and blog weekly, but if I blog two or three times a month, I will be happy as well.

One recipe I did make (and I was really happy to do, because I never worked with this fruit before) was a red currant coulis. I have plans with this as a base for a filling for chocolates, so stay tuned to find out if I am successful.

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In the meantime, let me give you the recipe for the coulis. If you want it sweeter, add more sugar – since I plan to mix it with fondant, I intentionally added less sugar.

Ingredients:

2 lbs fresh red currants, stems removed and rinsed 

enough cold water to just cover over the fruit

2 cups of sugar

2 tablespoons of kirsch

1) In a large non-reactive pot, add all the currants and water and bring to a boil until the fruit is soft and wilted.

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2) Drain the currants and reserve the liquid. 

3) Pass the currants through a food mill or pour the fruit into a strainer and press firmly against the sides of the strainer, scraping the bottom to get the fruit puree. Incorporate this with the reserved liquid. 

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4) Bring the puree to a boil and add the sugar and kirsch. Boil for five minutes, then remove from the fire and let cool.  

Meeting Chef Jehangir Mehta: Blendability at Broadway Bites

Many thanks to Sarah Davis and  Ellina Stein for coordinating this interview with Chef Mehta. For more information on Blendabilty, please visit The Mushroom Channel 

It all started with a simple email: ‘How would you like to meet Chef Jehangir Mehta? He’ll be at Broadway Bites promoting Blendability. You can also email us questions to have him answer.’  After I got over my initial reaction ( that perhaps they confused me with some more famous blogger)  I immediately said yes and started working on the logistics. This interview/meeting almost didn’t happen – it turned out at the last minute that the blogger event was scheduled on Shabbat. However, Sarah and Ellina graciously worked it out that I would be able to meet Chef Mehta on Friday morning, the day before the event!

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Chef Jehangir Mehta is famous across the world – I’ll explain more about that in my second post, where I get the answers to the questions I emailed him. For now, I want to focus on Blendability and the event at Broadway Bites.

Blendability (as I understand it) is the art and science of taking mushrooms and using that to replace a percentage of ground animal protein (such as turkey, beef, chicken) – without impacting the original ingredient in any negative fashion (in terms of mouthfeel, consistency or taste).  How is this art and science? I asked Chef Mehta how he would use this in a real-life scenario. He explained to me that the Angus Blended Burger took a lot of experimenting to get right, ensuring the ‘whole burger experience – the char on the outside, the juiciness, the flavor.’  While he experimented with ratios of meat to mushroom as high as 70/30, he found his ideal blend at 80/20.

Broadway Bites is a twice yearly pop-up event located at Greeley Square Park (33rd and Broadway)  that showcases a cross section of the awesome food scene that makes NYC one of the foodie capitals of the world.  My designated foodie (DH’s aunt, who has an exceptionally refined palate, definite opinions and impeccable manners and taste) and I met up with Chef Mehta at his popup for Graffiti  and his newest venture Me and You (I will DEFINITELY be discussing this more in detail in the next Chef Mehta post!)

As my designated foodie keeps kosher as well (‘completely kosher in the house, kosher-style outside the house, and no meat or obvious treif’- her words, not mine) she sampled the vegetable mushroom dumplings.  While I marveled at the smell (a spicy blend of Asian and Indian, and simply mouthwatering) and the presentation ( there were bits of tiny crunchy garnish that had been made by with garbanzo bean flour and water using a spaetzel -style technique of forcing the batter through a sieve) she gave me a low down on the taste.

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”  Very good. Wow. Oh.  Are you sure there is no meat in here? It’s spicy, and there is something I can’t place, but very good. I’d definitely pay money for this. Look, I cleaned my plate. ”

Consider that this woman has dined aboard the Queen Mary II cruise liner, has traveled the world, and regularly dines with friends in the best restaurants (kosher as well as non kosher), I feel I can say that this was not your standard vegetable dumpling.

While DH’s aunt enjoyed her dumplings and chatted with Ellina and the cook behind the counter, I was able to get nearly an hour, uninterrupted, to speak with Chef Mehta. What did we talk about? I’ll give you a little teaser – the conversation spanned from how to get children to try new foods, the importance of teaching them as young as possible to know their palettes, how to shift the tastes and food preferences of an entire generation.   We touched on religion, compared cultures, and even considered that an newer form of cooking technology could possibly revolutionize how to cook for Shabbat and Yom Tov. We also talked about eating gluten free for necessity versus eating that way as a diet or out of the perception it is healthier.

But for all that…well, there will be another post!

 

For a cooking video from Culinary Institute of America’s Chef Bill Briwa demonstrating Blendability, click here 

For everything you need to know about Chef Jehangir Mehta, his restaurants (Graffiti, Mehtaphor, and his new venue Me and You) click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lazy Leftovers Make Super Summer Suppers: Roasted Chicken Salad with Provencal Style Tomatoes and Dijon Dressing

The inspiration: Leftover roasted chicken breasts, garbanzo beans that needed eating, fresh tomatoes, and a need for something to feed my family for lunch.

Leftover chicken breasts can be delicious, but they usually need something to accompany them to really make them taste their best. Rummaging around my fridge, I found some leftover garbanzo beans, and I had tomatoes that needed to be used up.  It was far too hot to stand over a stove to cook, and when I am feeling lazy I usually make some sort of salad. This way I feed my family quickly and it’s not too much work!

The innovation: Giving the whole salad a boost by adding seasoned, roasted tomatoes and a bit of Dijon-red wine vinegar dressing.

I had wanted to make Provencal style tomatoes for a while. I have a cookbook that I read to get inspired (The Provencal Cookbook by Gui Gedda and Marie-Pierre Moine) and I kept coming back to this recipe.  Even so, the salad still needed a kick, something to make it really delicious. I love a good Dijon dressing, and after dipping pieces of cold chicken into some Dijon mustard, I had the idea for this dressing.

This salad is full of flavors and textures – the softness of the salad greens, the bite from the Dijon and the red leaf lettuce, the smooth creaminess of the garbanzo beans, the silky texture and sweetness from the tomatoes, and the roasted flavor and heartiness of the chicken. I think that is what makes it a great salad – no two mouthfuls are indentical.

My Interpretation: Roasted Chicken Salad with Provencal Style Tomatoes and Dijon Dressing

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This recipe is a entree size portion for 2-3 adults.

Ingredients:

3 large boneless/skinless chicken breasts (already cooked and cooled completely)

2 cups already cooked garbanzo beans

4 beefsteak tomatoes

1/4 tsp of the following spices: sugar, fine sea salt, oregano, and garlic

1 (12oz) bag of butter lettuce/red leaf lettuce mix (or 12 oz of your preferred salad greens)

3 tblsp of Dijon mustard

2 tblsp of capers

2 tblsp of juice from the capers

2-3 oz of red wine vinegar

A three- finger pinch each of  sea salt and black pepper

Olive oil 

To Prepare:

1) Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the tomatoes in half, and with a spoon carefully scoop out the seeds and white interior (set aside for another use or dispose). Turn upside on a sheet tray and leave sit for at least 30 minutes to remove excess liquid. 

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2) Oil a oven-safe baking dish with a light layer of olive oil, and arrange tomatoes in dish cut-side up. Sprinkle insides with the sugar, fine sea salt, oregano, and garlic. Bake at 400F for about 45 mins, then remove and let cool to just above room temperature.

3) Cut the tomatoes into slices – you may notice that the skin comes away as you cut, and that is ideal. Whatever skin remains after cutting, carefully peel away. Refrigerate and chill completely.

4) While you wait for tomatoes to cool assemble the dressing. Using a stick blender, blend together everything except the olive oil.  Very slowly and in a thin stream add the olive oil til mixture looks a bit fluffy and is a very pale yellow.Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. 

5) To assemble, slice the chicken breasts on the bias, then cut in half down the middle (for a fancier presentation leave in strips) Add the garbanzo beans, and roasted tomatoes to the salad greens. To avoid over-dressing the salad, dip the fingertips of one hand into the dressing, then fold the dressing onto the salad, gently mixing the ingredients at the same time. Save leftover dressing for another use. 

 

 

 

 

Nicoise Salad with Potatoes – May Kosher Connection Challenge

Shavuot is about two weeks away, and I am already planning my menu. Especially for the last meal, on the second day of the holiday. In our Hasidic group the men and boys gather in the synagogues to observe the passing of a previous Rebbe (Grand Rabbi) on that day. They are away from early morning til very late in the afternoon, and even eat the festive holiday meal in the synagogue. These yahrzeit seudot (meals to commemorate the passing of a holy person) take place twice a year – once on Shavuot and once during Sukkot. We women take these times to eat with friends – groups of women co-ordinate and get together and eat in each other’s homes. Just as the men and boys bond together in the synagogues, the women and girls bond together over a delicious Yom Tov meal. It is also a chance to relax the menu a bit – it is our custom to eat meat at every Yom Tov meal except these. nicoise This is a more modern interpretation of a Nicoise salad – it features seared tuna, as well as green beans and baby red bliss potatoes. Instead of a vinagrette, it is merely dressed with fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.  This is a recipe for one large, main course salad, and is easy to multiply for larger amounts.

Ingredients:

1 tuna steak,about 6 oz

4 baby red potatoes, cut in half lengthwise

4 black olives (with pits)

1 Romaine heart (I use Andy Boy), torn into bite size pieces by hand

1 hard boiled egg

8-10 fresh green beans, ends trimmed

Juice from one fresh lemon

3 oz extra virgin olive oil

Table salt for salting water

Sea salt for seasoning

Olive oil spray for grilling

To Prepare: Fill a large pot at least halfway with water, and add table salt to the water, enough so there is the finest layer on the bottom of the pot Add your egg and when the water is at a full boil, add your green beans and potatoes set a timer for 8 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove egg with slotted spoon and set into a bowl of cold water to cool.  Boil for a few minutes more, testing once midway. The beans are done when still crispy and green but not hard. Use a slotted spoon to remove green beans and set aside. Boil for another 10 mins or so, then check potatoes by gently poking with a fork – if they are soft but not mushy, they are done. Drain and remove, setting aside with the green beans. Put a grill pan on the stove, and get it very hot. Spray the pan lightly with olive oil spray. Place the tuna steak into the pan for 2- 3 mins, depending on thickness. Flip once, cook another 2 mins on the other side, then remove from pan, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and set aside. Roll the lemon on a cutting board or counter and cut in half, squeezing into a bowl and removing the seeds. Add the olive oil a tiny pinch of sea salt. Mix well. When all ingredients are cool but not cold, take everything except the tuna, egg, and olives and combine. Garnish with the remaining ingredients and serve immediately.