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Volume 39 Issue 8 • June 25-July 1, 2009
now in our 39th season

Perfect Beach Sandwiches

by Jenn Farmer
Sous Chef at Bartlett's Farm

It is beach season again, and who doesn’t love a good picnic on the sand? My favorite beach picnic was crackers and chips, with good cheese, pates, olives, hummus, and fresh fruit.  Don’t forget some tiny cookies or candies, and ice-cold beverages.  I love foods that are rustic in their simplicity and elegant in their flavor, all at the same time.  Spending the day in the sand, surf and, sun always makes me alternate cravings between salty, sweet, and fresh flavors (which incidentally go really well with cocktails and wine).  I would spend an hour trying to find all the foods at the market that would fulfill my cravings and make my beach experience perfect.

Now times they are a changing!  I have a two-year-old.  Time to toss all that sophistication right out the window.  I have found that motherhood, though wonderful, is not elegant.  Simplicity and portability has become key. I have gone from taking a towel and a bag full of snacks and beverages to packing sunscreen, towels, pails, shovels, umbrellas, blankets, diapers, dry clothes, hats, extra dry clothes, and juice.  Now I welcome and appreciate an easy, self-contained snack or meal.  This is how I have grown to love the sandwich.

My favorite is not just any sandwich, but a real weighted or pressed sandwich.  Please don’t confuse this with the weighted and grilled sandwich like a Panini, which are delicious, but don’t stand up as well on an outing.  The pressed sandwich is made from a loaf of day old French or ciabatta bread, fillings and spreads are added, then the whole loaf is placed between two pans.  This top pan is then weighted and the ingredients all infuse the bread with flavor and moisture.  It is a delicious, simple, yet elegant meal.  Best of all it goes with a nice glass of wine about as well as it goes with a juice box. How beautiful!

One traditional style of pressed sandwich is the Pan-bagnat.  It is a sandwich that is a specialty of the region of Nice, France.  The sandwich is composed of a round loaf of crusty white bread sliced and filled with the classic Salade Niçoise.  This is a salad composed mainly of blanched green beans (or haricot vert), other fresh vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, anchovies, tuna, and olive oil.  The name of the sandwich means, "wet bread" after the dressing that is allowed to absorb into it giving it the characteristic flavor and texture.

Pan Bagnat

Serves 6

  • 1 baguette
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup black Niçoise olives
  • 4 tablespoons capers
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces Italian tuna in olive oil, drained and broken apart
  • 2 small boiling potatoes, boiled, cooled and sliced thinly
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 2 small vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 cup arugula

Halve the bread lengthwise and scoop out a little of the interior of both sides with your fingers.  In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper until combined.  Whisk in the olive oil until emulsified and set-aside.  Coarsely chop the olives and capers, then combine in a small bowl with the minced garlic and set aside.  Fill the bottom part of the baguette with the olive mixture, spreading it evenly across the hollowed-out baguette. Layer the tuna over the olives, then, in even layers, add the potatoes, eggs and tomatoes.  Drizzle the vinaigrette over the sandwich, and then add the onions and the arugula, pressing down on the contents as you go.  Top with the other baguette half and wrap the sandwich tightly with plastic.  Refrigerate overnight, weighted with a pan or cutting board topped with some cans or bottles.  The next day, take the sandwich out of the refrigerator in the morning and cut into sixths.  Wrap individually and pack for lunch: the sandwiches are best when they've been sitting at room temperature for a couple of hours.

The pressed sandwich is especially good made from cocktail party leftovers.  A baguette, with brie or any other cheese, sliced meats, mustard, and antipasti peppers and olives, all pressed together for at least an hour.  Simply slice and enjoy.  What a delicious way to save a little money, by utilizing leftovers.

Here is one a traditional combination of flavors for a pressed sandwich. It is basically an Italian sandwich.

Pressed Italian sandwich

Serves 6

  • 1 large loaf French baguette or ciabatta bread
  • 1/4 pound ham or prosciutto
  • 1/4 pound salami
  • 1/4 pound bologna
  • 1/4 pound spicy capicola
  • 4-6 slices provolone cheese
  • 6 tomato slices
  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 Tablespoons fresh basil or oregano, chopped
  • Pepperoncini (optional)

Slice the loaf of bread lengthwise.  Layer the meats and cheeses on bread. Add fresh herbs, and oil and vinegar last.  Place the top back on the loaf, then wrap tightly in saran wrap.  Place the sandwich on a pan, preferably a large roasting pan, then set a smaller pan or cutting board atop the sandwich and fill with weight, like cans.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. Slice and serve.

A pressed sandwich doesn’t have to contain meat. I have had veggie sandwiches that are equally delicious. Some ingredients in a veggie sandwich may be: cucumbers, shredded carrots, tomatoes, onions, artichoke hearts, pickles, hummus, olives, lettuce, avocado, pesto, fresh herbs, vinegar or olive oil.  The flavor combinations are truly endless.

In New Orleans they have a sandwich that is famous for it’s olive spread, called a muffuletta.  Central Grocery in the French Quarter of New Orleans is probably the most famous for its muffaletta.  The muffuletta sandwich consists of one Italian round bread loaf split horizontally in half and covered with marinated olive salad and layers of capicola, salami, mortadella, emmentaler cheese and provolone cheese.  The olive salad is the key to the sandwich and is made of olives, celery, cauliflower and carrot.  Combine all that, mix in seasonings and olive oil and let it sit for a day or more.  This muffaletta or olive salad spread is especially delicious on pressed sandwiches, since it contains salty, vinegary and olive oil flavors, and it adds a lot of moisture to the day old bread.

Muffuletta Olive Salad Recipe

  • 1 1/2 Cups Green Olives, Pitted
  • 1/2 Cup kalamata Olives, Pitted
  • 1 Cup Gardiniera (Pickled Cauliflower, Carrots, Celery, Pepperoncini)
  • 1 Tbsp. Capers
  • 3 each Fresh Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. Italian Parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Roasted red peppers
  • 1 Tbsp. Green Onions, thinly sliced
  • Freshly Ground pepper To Taste
  • 1 - 1 1/2 Cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pulse olives in food processor until chunky, and pieces are about pea sized. Mix rest of ingredients together.  Put into a bowl or jar, cover and let the flavors marry (refrigerated) for about one week.  Enjoy on sandwiches.

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