Inspired by Mediterranean pan bagnat, this hefty vegan sandwich recipe is an offbeat way to enjoy an array of seasonal salad ingredients. Fresh Italian bread is hollowed out and filled with a fairly standard salad that becomes something special in the presentation.
For this recipe, it’s best to use Italian bread that’s long, but not too skinny like French baguette. The latter has little room to spare when it come to stuffing it, which is what we’ll be doing here. If you can find a whole-grain loaf, so much the better.
After hollowing out the bread (leaving about a 1/2-inch shell all around), you’ll be stuffing it with a lettuce and tomato salad that’s accented with bell peppers, briny olives, and parsley. As suggested in the recipe, use the bread pulled out from the loaf for another purpose, like fresh bread crumbs or for making stuffing.
Perhaps a bit more extra-virgin olive oil is used than what you might usually put on a salad, but the fruity oil and juices from the tomatoes (make sure to use good ones!) soak into the bread, pulling the flavors together for amazingly tasty and satisfying results.
This hefty sandwich is a classic in Mediterranean cuisine. Various regional variations are sometimes all plant-based, and some not — cheeses, tuna, etc., are occasionally included. The recipe given here keeps it simple, without calling for vegan swap-ins. But feel free to add a half cup or so of chickpeas and/or a sprinkling of vegan cheese shreds.
Complete the meal: For a wonderful warm-weather meal or picnic, serve this with Potato Salad with Red Beans and Artichokes or Golden and Sweet Potato Salad. Or, for a tasty soup-and-sandwich meal, pair this with a pureed vegetable soup. For summer, Cold Green Pea and Cucumber Soup is a lovely pairing; all other seasons, a good choice is Carrot-Ginger Soup.
Depending on the exact size and shape of the bread you use, you can get 4 generous or 8 smaller servings from this recipe. Adapted from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.
- 2 long but not too narrow Italian breads
- 3 medium firm, ripe tomatoes (seedy parts removed), finely diced
- 6 large lettuce leaves (like Romaine or red-leaf), thinly shredded
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into very thin, short short strips
- 1/2 cup chopped black olives (preferably cured, like Kalamata)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon, to taste
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion, optional
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oil-cured or not, as you prefer), thinly sliced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Cut each bread in half crosswise, then cut each section in half lengthwise. Pull out some of the bread from the center of each, leaving a shell of about 1/2 inch all around. Reserve the bread you’ve pulled out for another use, such as fresh bread crumbs or stuffing.
- Combine the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss together.
- Mound some of the salad into each bottom section of the bread shells, then cover with the top section. Gently press together, then wrap each of the four sections snugly in plastic wrap and let stand for an hour or so, giving some of the tasty juices a chance to soak into the bread.
- To serve 8, cut each bread section in half crosswise, otherwise serve the 4 sections as they are.
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