I am very excited to be sharing this grown-up, more refined version of the tuna fish salad today. Growing up, my mother used to pack my lunchbox with tuna fish sandwiches. The salad itself was the typical tuna fish and mayonnaise mixture, which was topped with iceberg lettuce, ketchup, a few slices of American cheese, and finally, sandwiched between slices of white bread. If time was available, she would add a fried egg in the sandwich. By the time lunch came around, half of the sandwich would be soggy from the mayonnaise and ketchup soaking through, but the sandwich was hearty and delicious nonetheless. To this day, that sandwich remains nostalgic for me. Whenever I make it, I am briefly transported back to the second grade, sitting amongst my 7-year old friends on picnic tables under a large awning that converted an outdoor space into an outdoor cafeteria.
Today’s recipe is a little more precocious than a second grader’s lunch, being served in a bowl over a bed of rice and all, but just as fun since the bowl is edible and made from pita bread. To be even more civilized, you can use a fork, but if you want to preserve the nostalgic quality of a tuna salad, go ahead and use your hands to eat the bowl with the salad, avoiding the need to wash another utensil.
Let’s start by making the lemon-cilantro rice. Rinse white rice until the water runs clear. To save time, I place the rice in a sieve and hold it under running water until I see the water running clear.
Then, add the rice into a rice cooker with water, chopped cilantro and lemon juice. To maximize juice output and to catch any seeds, I squeeze the lemon over a sieve straight into the rice cooker using the upper portion of tongs. Give it a stir, set it to cook, and forget about it. If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can bring all the ingredients to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover for 20-25 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
Now, on to the pita bowls. Place store bought pita onto a microwave-safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave in 20-30 second intervals until the pita bread becomes pliable. It took me about 2 minutes.
Split the halves of the pita bread by running a paring knife along the outer edge of the pita.
Then, line the inside of oven-safe soup bowls with aluminum foil and line a pita half along the foil, folding and creasing where necessary to take the shape of the bowl. Bake the bowls at 425°F for 8-10 minutes.
Make the dressing by whisking together olive oil, Dijon mustard, diced onions, chopped garlic, fresh lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Set aside and work on assembling the salad.
Throw together diced tomatoes, chopped Kalamata olives, and flakey tuna.
Pour the dressing over the salad and mix to combine.
Build the bowl by scooping the cooked rice into the pita bowl, adding a layer of fresh spinach leaves, and topping off with the tuna salad.
What’s your trip-down-memory-lane recipe?
- 1 cup white rice
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Juice from 1 whole lemon
- 4 pita bread rounds
- 1 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 (7 oz.) can white tuna, drained and flaked with a fork
- 1 tomato, seeded and diced
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
- 1 cup fresh spinach
- Rinse white rice until the water runs clear*.
- Add the rice into a rice cooker with water, cilantro and lemon juice**. Give it a stir and set it to cook***.
- Preheat oven to 425°F
- Place pita rounds onto a microwave-safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave in 20-30 second intervals until the pita bread becomes pliable. It took me about 2 minutes.
- Split the halves of the pita bread by running a paring knife along the outer edge.
- Line the inside of oven-safe soup bowls with aluminum foil and line a separated pita half along the foil, folding and creasing where necessary to take the shape of the bowl.
- Place the bowls on a cookie sheet and bake the bowls for 8-10 minutes.
- Allow the pita bowls to cool in the bowl before removing.
- In a small bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the oil, onion, lemon juice, garlic, and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- In a medium bowl, combine the tuna, tomato and olives.
- Pour the dressing over the tuna and stir to combine.
- Evenly portion out the rice between the pita bowls.
- Add about 1/4 cup of fresh spinach to each bowl.
- Top each bowl evenly with the tuna salad.
- *To save time, place the rice in a sieve and hold it under running water until the water runs clear.
- **To maximize juice output and to catch any seeds, squeeze the lemon over a sieve straight into the rice cooker using the upper portion of tongs.
- ***If you don’t have a rice cooker, bring all the ingredients to a boil in a medium pot, reduce to a simmer, and cover for 20-25 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.