I have fantasies of a perfectly romantic picnic; sipping wine while lounging on the grass, sampling a harmonious array of French cheeses, nibbling on perfectly ripe sun-warmed strawberries.
Other times I dream of an old-fashioned family fun picnic; crisp and flavorful fried chicken, cool, creamy macaroni salad, stacks of checkered napkins and mason jars filled with lemonade.
I’ve even imagined a chic, luxurious picnic; caviar-topped blini, baby lamb chops, sparkling glasses of champagne, Belgian chocolates and real silverware.
But in reality, my picnics have usually been full of messy spills, dirt-coated cheese knives, squished fruit, hungry ants, warm beer and threatening thunder storms.
And you know what? I’m ok with that. Picnics aren’t meant to be perfect, they are meant to be fun – insects and all. I may have pretty picnic dreams of brie and champagne, but most times, we’re just as happy with sandwiches and chips.
But not just any sandwiches, of course. It’s still a picnic after all. Any excuse to lounge in the open air, munching away in the sunshine, is cause for a little bit of special treatment.
This pressed sandwich is so simple, and yet somehow more than the sum of its parts. Plus, it travels so well! As always with simple food, quality ingredients count here. Good, crusty bread, pungent cheese, aromatic basil, and rich salami come together in a perfect bite. The secret lies in the squish. You have to really press the heck out of this sandwich. The idea is to remove the majority of the soft insides of the bread, layer in the fillings, and then smush down the sandwich so that the flavors and textures marry overnight.
You could certainly change up the fillings here. Adding some pesto might be nice, or switching out the salami for prosciutto. You could layer in some thin slices of grilled eggplant, or go crazy and add a bit of sriracha. The ingredients are merely a suggestion, but the squish is necessary. You do want to take care to keep moist ingredients, such as roasted peppers or sliced tomato, from having direct contact with the bread, in order to avoid a soggy sandwich. But by removing much of the soft crumb of the bread, you will delay soggy bread syndrome pretty effectively. However, this sandwich is best eaten the next day, if you leave it longer than a day, the bread will probably get soggy.
1 1-pound round loaf peasant bread or French boule
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 oz thinly sliced Genoa salami
1 cup thinly sliced roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 cup fresh baby arugula
3 ounces shaved parmesan cheese
Slice the bread in half horizontally. Remove the majority of the soft crumb from both the top and the bottom, leaving about an inch of crust all around. (Keep the bread-insides for another use, like breadcrumbs). Spread the mustard into the bottom of the bread. Top with an even layer of salami, then roasted peppers, basil, arugula, and finally the cheese. Place the top of the bread over the fillings and wrap the whole loaf tightly in foil. Place the foil-wrapped loaf on a large plate and top with another large plate. Weigh down the top plate with a heavy brick, or, in a pinch, a six-pack of beer works too. Place the weighted sandwich in the fridge overnight. To serve, remove the sandwich from the fridge and slice into eight even wedges. Wrap each wedge individually to transport to a picnic.