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Gail Simmons says canned tuna is perfect for summer recipes

Gail Simmons says canned tuna is perfect for summer recipes

Gail Simmons says she tends to eat a Mediterranean diet in the summer, which includes grilled vegetables and high-quality canned tuna. (Photo: Genova Premium Tuna; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

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It’s almost summer, and when the weather warms up, top chef Judge Gail Simmons keeps it cool in the kitchen with a Mediterranean diet.

“Mediterranean food is so diverse and versatile,” Simmons tells Yahoo Life. “It’s heavy on fruits and veggies and eats more plant-based, fish and seafood based. That’s how I want to eat in the summer anyway. I don’t have to stand by the stove and braise for two hours.”

Simmons spoke to Yahoo Life as part of her work promoting Genova Premium Tuna, but her appreciation for high-quality canned seafood dates back to her college days. “It was an eye opener for me when I was in college and spent a year in Spain,” she says, “to understand what they mean when they talk about preserved seafood and its high quality: Seafood preserved in its freshest and really served just, that’s not what we’re talking about [canned tuna] product from our youth – we’re talking top quality ingredients that really take your cooking to the next level.”

Simmons says that if she could only eat one cuisine for the rest of her life, she would choose simple, flavorful Mediterranean dishes.  (Photo: Genova Premium Tuna)Simmons says that if she could only eat one cuisine for the rest of her life, she would choose simple, flavorful Mediterranean dishes.  (Photo: Genova Premium Tuna)

Simmons says that if she could only eat one cuisine for the rest of her life, she would choose simple, flavorful Mediterranean dishes. (Photo: Genova Premium Tuna)

With her Genova Premium Tuna, which she describes as “large fillets of yellowtail or albacore tuna”, packed only in olive oil and salt, Simmons has developed a summer staple, her tuna romesco salad plate

“Romesco is a Mediterranean, Spanish seasoning,” she explains. “Like a spread or dip with roasted red peppers and almonds and cherry tomatoes and olive oil, all thrown in a blender. This allows me to grill some simple veggies and some marinated artichokes and some nice olives and really good cheese and make a tuna salad plate.”

Even one of her kids, who are 4 and 8, loves this colorful dish. But how did the author of Take home: favorite recipes from a life of adventurous food grab her children are adventurous eaters?

“I find that, especially with my daughter who is a little older, they really take ownership of the foods they make and are more open to eating new things once they’ve had a hand in it,” Simmons says. “I think they are better eaters because they like to get their hands dirty in the kitchen and then appreciate the fruits of their labor.”

As a child growing up in Toronto, Canada, Simmons says she learned to appreciate food from her parents, who loved both traveling and cooking in their own home.

“My mom was a great cook and always did her shopping in Chinatown,” she recalls. “There was all the freshest food there, whether it was seafood or fresh vegetables. It was really ahead of her time to do that and she befriended many of the grocers and restaurants there.”

“As kids, we liked going to a few restaurants in Chinatown,” she adds. “I always remember knowing the owner of this place so well that we knew not to order from the regular menu because that’s what all tourists would order. My mom ordered directly from him what he and his family ate and That’s how we learned to eat too.”

As a teenager, Simmons recalls visiting a “dive site” in Toronto where she ordered chicken wings. “They made the best chicken wings ever and I was completely addicted to them,” she says. “They had this really good ranch sauce… I can make a good chicken wing, but nothing quite like theirs — there’s just something about it.”

Now in charge of her own kitchen, Simmons says she would eat “dark chocolate and eggs” if she could only choose one food for the rest of her life. “But not together,” she adds.

“If I could choose a cuisine…I would go for the Mediterranean because it reminds me of sunshine and summer, seasonality and simplicity,” she says. “This is how I want to eat: heavy on the fruits and vegetables and whole grains, but also lots of good quality olive oil and endless ingredients.”

Genova Tuna Romesco Salad Board

Thanks to Gail Simmons and Genova Premium Tuna

(Photo: Genova Premium Tuna)(Photo: Genova Premium Tuna)

(Photo: Genova Premium Tuna)

“A philosophy I’ve always believed in,” Simmons says, “is cooking with some really high-quality ingredients. You don’t have to do much to make them shine, they’re good for you, they’re versatile and give really boost your cooking, whether you’re cooking at home for your family on a Wednesday evening or hosting a dinner party for friends.”

Ingredients:

Romesco Ingredients

  • 3 large Roma tomatoes

  • 1 roasted red bell pepper (skin removed and seeds removed or from jar), roughly chopped

  • 1/2 cup roasted salted almonds or Marcona almonds

  • 1 garlic clove, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Tuna Board Ingredients

  • 2 cans of Genova Yellowfin Tuna in Olive Oil

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

  • 1 bunch scallions or spring onions, ends trimmed

  • 1 lemon, halved crosswise

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 yellow or green zucchini, cut diagonally 1/2-inch thick, halved lengthwise if large

  • 1 bell pepper, cut lengthwise into 1-inch pieces

  • 1/2 cup roasted salted almonds or Marcona almonds

  • 1/2 cup marinated artichokes halved, drained and patted dry

  • 1 bunch small radishes, halved

  • 1/2 cup green olives

  • 1/2 cup black olives

  • 4 ounces Manchego cheese, cut into triangles

  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the grill. Cover a baking tray with baking paper or foil. Place the tomatoes on the baking sheet and roast until well charred on both sides, two to four minutes per side. Place the tomatoes in a bowl, let them cool slightly, then remove the peel, core and seeds and roughly chop. Save the seeds and inner pulp for another use (see note below).

  2. In the bowl of a blender, combine the tomatoes, roasted red pepper, almonds, garlic, vinegar, paprika, chili flakes if using, salt and pepper until a thick paste forms. With blender on high speed, slowly drizzle in oil, scraping sides of blender as needed, until well incorporated but still has a rustic texture. Transfer the romesco to a bowl and taste for taste. Let the romesco stand covered at room temperature for an hour before serving.

  3. While the romesco rests, prepare the plate. Start by draining the tuna and set aside in a bowl. Place a grill or grill pan over medium heat and brush with olive oil. Grill the scallions or spring onions until charred and just tender, about four minutes per side. Grill the lemon halves, flesh side down, until grill marks appear, about three minutes. Remove onions and lemon to a large plate and season with salt and pepper.

  4. Toss the zucchini and red pepper into the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until charred and just tender, about three minutes per side. Remove to the same plate to cool slightly.

  5. Just before the dinner guests arrive, assemble the plate. Using a large spoon, scoop a generous amount of romesco into the center of your plate. Use the back of the spoon to spread the romesco out in a wide circle with a well in the center. Carefully stack the Genova yellowfin tuna in olive oil in the well. Arrange the grilled, marinated and raw vegetables, cheese, charred lemon halves and almonds around the romesco and tuna. Sprinkle the tuna with the chopped parsley just before serving.

  6. Note: Romesco can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

  7. Tip: Seeds and the inner pulp of charred tomato can be used to thin out the Romesco later, if necessary, as well as for traditional Spanish pan con tomate (toasted bread rubbed with garlic, topped with chopped tomato, salt and olive oil).

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