Summer Sandwich

Everyone has a food phobia. Mine is the sandwich. What unmentionable part of animal could be disguised as deli meat lurking inside?  What sort of syrupy, artificially colored vegetable could be pickled and stuck in?  Even scarier might be the pungent smell, the sugar and vinegary taste and the oiliness of Miracle Whip or a similar commercial spread used as a dressing.  I don’t know where it came from but this dread goes farther back than I can remember.

My mother feared someone had forced me to eat this dressing in a playgroup when I was very young. The only sandwich I packed for school lunchs was peanut butter, and my brothers delighted in chasing me around the yard with an opened Miracle Whip jar. I knew it wouldn’t kill me, but I’d choose to starve rather than to let that vile substance pass my lips. While most people consider a good sandwich shop a delight, I’ve always abstained.

I was long convinced I would never move beyond peanut butter and jam in the sandwich kingdom. Then one day in a dusty bookshop on the other side of the world, I found a paperback copy of Lesley Blanch’s 1956 classic Round The World In Eighty Dishes. Therein the Provencal Roquebrune Tartine introduced me to the Pan Bagna or vegetable stuffed “bathed bread,” and I found my sandwich.

A crusty French loaf split horizontally, moistened with good olive oil and a touch of vinegar, filled with summer tomatoes, black olives, a few anchovies, fresh herbs, some mild onion and a few cooked green beans. Tied up with string, wrapped in waxed paper and allowed to sit for an hour, it’s the perfect picnic. It can go anywhere; it contains nothing that will spoil in a day; it’s light and totally yummy.  Pan Bagna also works as party fare when sliced into smaller servings and served with drinks.

The recipe has no specific set of ingredients beyond the bread, the oil and vinegar. It should have anchovies which kick the flavor way up, but you could leave them out if you must. You definitely need fresh summer tomatoes; from there on you can use what you have.

My Pan Bagna

1 12 oz. baguette

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

l clove garlic crushed with a pinch of salt

dab Dijon mustard

1-2 thinly sliced tomatoes

3-4 anchovy fillets

handful pitted Kalamata olives

2-3 chopped scallions or thin slices sweet onion

handful tender blanched green beans

strips roasted red pepper

fresh basil and parsley

heavy white string for tying.

Split the baguette and rub the crusty edges with the garlic clove.  Prepare a vinaigrette dressing with the next 4 ingredients.  (Crush garlic in salt; stir in vinegar and mustard, blend in oil.)

Drizzle a tablespoon of vinaigrette over each inside segment of the bread. Layer on sliced tomatoes, and all remaining ingredients. Drizzle over the rest of the vinaigrette, top with some more sliced tomatoes.

Cover vegetables with bread top. Press loaf together and tie in four places with 14-inch pieces of strong cotton string. Wrap the sandwich snugly in waxed paper and pack it away in a picnic box or allow it to rest under a cutting board for an hour or so.

Cut in half, quarters or one-inch slices.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at


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