Press on to make great sandwiches for on-the-go

Pressed sandwiches are the ultimate homemade road food. If you are heading out for a bike ride, a day on the boat or an afternoon picnic, they check all the boxes on the packing list: Pressed sandwiches must be made in advance, they pack well, are easy to eat and only get better as the day goes on. I’ve stuffed them into a cooler for long drives when road-food choices are limited. And that’s mostly always.

The ingredients are crumbly and messy at first, but when pressed and refrigerated, they meld and the sandwich manages to stay together. On occasion, when the whole thing seems unwieldy and collapse seems imminent, I’ve used kitchen string to tie the sandwich together before wrapping. Ready for lunch? Just cut off as much as you like.

There are no rules. If you want more meat, add sopressatta, salami, or capicola. Vegetarian versions might substitute strips of grilled eggplant, portobello mushrooms or zucchini for the meat. Or, pull a Dagwood and put anything you like in the sandwich, just as long as there’s a lot of it.

Whatever you do, make the sandwich the night before, or the morning of your outing. But make it at least four hours in advance.

Pan Bagnat features the re-figured ingredients of a Salad Nicoise into a sandwich. The name translates literally as “bathed bread” or “wet bread,” and that is an accurate description. When the sandwich is ready to eat, the bread has absorbed a lot of the liquid from the filling and all of the ingredients are pressed to form a tight strata with all of those textures and flavors co-mingling.

The Mediterranean Sandwich leans to Italian-style flavors. We take the easy way and used purchased tapenade and roasted peppers. Over-achievers can make their own.

Muffaletta with Olive Relish goes by aliases, depending where you live — grinder, hoagie, hero, submarine. What makes this pressed sandwich different is that it improves greatly if it is heated and pressed with a heavy skillet or grill press. Best for a picnic or campsite. You’ll think you are at Central Grocery in New Orleans.

Mediterra, La Gourmandine and BreadWorks bakeries make good country-style bread. A round loaf is just right when you need to feed a small crowd. The baguette version is just right for two hungry sun-worshippers. Use a serrated knife to cut wedges or hunks.

In order to make room for the fillings, scrape out some of the inside bread with your fingers. Transfer the soft bread bits to a plate and allow them to dry out. Later, transfer the dried bread to a plastic bag and whack with a rolling pin until you have coarse crumbs. Heat a bit of olive oil in a pan, add the crumbs and toss and turn them until they begin to color. Cool, then store the crumbs in a jar. Use them to top pasta or vegetables. Waste not, want not.

Now, press on.

Pan Bagnat

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This sandwich was a favorite of Julia Child and Jacques Pepîn. Mine, too.

3 anchovy fillets, minced

1½ teaspoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons chopped kalamata olives, pitted

3 tablespoons capers, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 baguette, artisan-made or a very good one

1/2 regular cucumber

8-ounce jar tuna, packed in olive oil, drained

1 medium-size, ripe tomato, sliced

1/2 cup small red onion, thinly sliced

3/4 cup roasted red pepper or canned pimiento, drained

1/2 cup arugula or baby spinach

1/2 avocado, sliced

8 large basil leaves

1 hard-cooked egg, peeled and thinly sliced

In a small bowl, whisk together the anchovies, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking constantly until emulsified.

Coarsely chop the olives and capers, then combine in a small bowl with the minced garlic and set aside. Slice baguette in half lengthwise, and pull out some soft interior crumb to form a cavity. If it looks something like a food canoe, you are on the right track.

Peel cucumber and halve lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds from 1 half. Thinly slice seedless half. Add sliced cucumber to vinaigrette and toss well. Fill the bottom part of the baguette with the olive mixture, spreading it evenly across the hollowed-out baguette, then spread half the cucumbers on top. Next up, spread the tuna over that. Top with tomato and onion slices, then with pepper, arugula, avocado, basil and egg slices. Top egg with remaining cucumbers and vinaigrette. Cover with second bread half and firmly press sandwich together.

Wrap the sandwich tightly in foil, waxed paper or plastic wrap, then place in a plastic bag. Put sandwich under a weight such as a brick, and weight for about 10 minutes. Then flip it and weight it for another 7 to 10 minutes. Keep it wrapped and refrigerated for up to 8 hours before serving. Cut off as much as you like. Makes 1 huge sandwich to serve at least 2, or 2 several times. Cut off as much as you like.

— Adapted from

Mediterranean Pressed Picnic Sandwich

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1 loaf round rosemary bread, olive bread or country bread, about 12-inches across

8-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained, reserving marinade, chopped

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and julienned, oil reserved

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup purchased black-olive tapenade

10-ounce high-quality prosciutto slices

1 cup (large handful) baby spinach or arugula leaves

8-ounce jar roasted red peppers, strained and cut into strips for layering

6 ounces crumbled goat cheese

10 to 12 whole, large basil leaves

Slice the loaf of bread in half horizontally, like a sandwich or hamburger bun, and remove the inside crumb from the top and bottom, leaving a 1/4-inch border all around. (Do save the bread crumbs. See note below.)

Drain the artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes, save their oils/marinade, and combine the liquids in a small bowl. To that mixture, add the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon and salt and pepper. Whisk well, check the seasoning and set aside. If the dressing is too strong (brands differ), dilute with a bit of olive oil. Add a pinch of oregano, if you like.

Spread the inside of the TOP of the loaf with the olive tapenade, and lay the prosciutto slices in the BOTTOM, covering thoroughly. Layer the spinach, artichoke hearts, red pepper, goat cheese and basil leaves and sun-dried tomatoes on the prosciutto in that order. Make sure to cover the sandwich all the way to the edges as evenly as possible with every layer.

Whisk the dressing well and carefully spoon in about 4 tablespoons over the layers in the bread boule. (Save the rest of the dressing for another use.)

Place the top with the tapenade back on top of the loaf and press down well to secure the top.

Wrap the loaf securely in wax paper and butchers twine, and then wrap again securely in aluminum foil. Place in the refrigerator overnight with a brick or heavy cast iron pan to weigh it down.

Can be unrefrigerated for up to 4 hours as long as the weather isn’t super hot. If you can, keep it in a cooler until about 30 minutes before it’s needed. When ready to serve, unwrap the huge sandwich and cut into wedges with a serrated knife. This will easily make 6 servings.

Adapted from

Muffalettas with Olive Relish

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When Steven Raichlen presents a recipe, you know it will be a winner. This is from his latest cookbook, a stand-out in a crowded sea of new releases. You can buy your cold cuts and cheeses at the supermarket deli. But why not go for the good stuff and take the time to source local salumi and aged cheeses?

2 kaiser rolls

2 tablespoons good olive oil

2 ounces good ham or sliced coppa

3 ounces thinly sliced aged provolone cheese

A few paper-thin slices of sweet onion

1/2 cup Olive Relish (recipe follows)

2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto

2 ounces thinly sliced sopressata or Italian salami

Slice the kaiser rolls almost in half through the side. Brush the outside of the rolls with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place 2 pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil on a work surface. Place a roll in the center of each piece and open the rolls up like a book. Brush the insides of the rolls with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Place the provolone and coppa on the bottoms of the rolls, dividing them equally between the 2 rolls. Layer the onion, olive relish, prosciutto and sopressata in that order on the top halves of the rolls. Leave the sandwiches open. Fold the parchment paper or foil over the sandwiches to enclose the filling.

To cook in a skillet: Heat the skillet over medium heat. Even though this seems weird, arrange the wrapped (yes, wrapped) sandwiches in the skillet with the bottoms of the rolls facing up and place a grill press or second heavy skillet on top of them. Cook the sandwiches about 3 to 5 minutes; the meats should be sizzling and the cheese melted. Remove the sandwiches. Unwrap each sandwich and fold it closed. Place the unwrapped sandwiches back in the skillet, place the grill press or skillet on top of them, and cook the sandwiches until they are brown and crisped, 1 minute.

Or, cook the sandwiches on a contact grill, set over a fire at a campsite. Cut each sandwich in half and serve while hot. Makes 2 sandwiches.

— “Man Made Meals“ by Steven Raichlen (Workman; May 6, 2014; $24.95)

Olive Relish

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A generous helping of this big-flavored relish —  salty with olives and capers, fiery with hot pepper and tart with vinegar — is what distinguishes the muffaletta from common hoagies or sub sandwiches. You’ll have extra olive relish, lucky you. Spoon it over grilled chicken or fish or fried eggs. So good.

1/2 pimiento-stuffed green olives

1/2 cup pitted black olives or kalamata olives

1 rib celery, coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leafed parsley

1 tablespoon drained capers

1 picked hot pepperoncini, coarsely chopped or 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

3 tablespoons good olive oil

1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

Freshly ground pepper

Place the olives and the celery, garlic, parsley, capers, hot pepperc or pepper flakes and oregano in a food processor. Running the machine in short pulses, coarsely chop the olive mixture. Do not puree it. Add the olive oil and wine vinegar and pulse the machine just to mix. Taste for seasoning, adding vinegar or pepper to taste. Transfer to a jar. The relish will keep for at least a week, covered and stored in the fridge.

— “Man Made Meals“ by Steven Raichlen (Workman; May 6, 2014; $24.95)

Marlene Parrish:


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