A pan bagnat for a picnic

The Baltimore Sun

Sure, fried chicken, potato salad and coleslaw are considered your standard, all-American picnic fare. But the movable feast begs a few modern questions: Is it lean? Is it convenient to make?

It's time to take a cue from the French. When heading for a grassy knoll, under a shady tree, they tote along tuna pan bagnat (pronounced "pan ban-YAH").

The name means "soaked bread."

The sandwich ingredients are bathed in a vinaigrette.

The flavors seep into the bread as it is pressed. To press it, simply place a narrow tray, small skillet or a couple of small plates on top of the sandwich, and then weigh that down with a can from the pantry.

Tuna Pan Bagnat

Makes 6 servings

1 very crusty baguette

2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

freshly ground pepper, to taste

16 to 20 fresh small spinach or lettuce leaves, trimmed

1 (6-ounce) can chunk white tuna in water, drained and flaked

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

3 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced

1/2 small red pepper, very thinly sliced

3/4 to 1 cup very thin slices cucumber

Split baguette in half lengthwise. With fingertips, gently scoop out soft center of each bread half, leaving a shell. Place bread shells, cut side up, on large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Combine white-wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic and pepper. Brush cut surface of bread with vinegar mixture; reserve remaining vinegar mixture.

Arrange half of spinach leaves in a single layer in one bread shell. Spoon tuna evenly down center of bread shell on top of spinach leaves. Layer, in order over tuna, shredded cheese, onion, tomatoes and red pepper.

Slowly drizzle with remaining vinegar mixture, pouring so that it soaks down over vegetables in sandwich. Arrange cucumbers (overlapping as necessary) over sandwich, then place remaining spinach leaves on top of cucumber. Top sandwich with second bread shell.

Wrap sandwich very tightly in aluminum foil. Place on tray. Weigh down top of sandwich. Refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.

Per serving: 307 calories, 7 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 17 milligrams cholesterol, 45 grams carbohydrate, 17 grams protein, 604 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber

Recipe analysis provided by The Kansas City Star.

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