Thursday, June 4, 2009

Picnic Sandwich #1: Patafla

Once tomatoes come into season -- real tomatoes, proper tomatoes, warm from the garden or farmers market and dripping with flavor tomatoes -- I can think of nothing better in life than tomato sandwiches. Bread, mayo, tomato, go! Sometimes, though, you want something a little more elegant. Outdoor Dining offers this simple, tangy, tasty, tomatoey sandwich:

4 tomatoes
1 large purple (Spanish) onion, finely copped
2 oz (60 g) capers
4 dill pickles (gherkins), finely chopped
2 oz (60 g) pitted black olives, chopped
4 oz (125 g) stuffed green olives, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped chili
1 long French loaf
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

This is a lovely Mediterranean picnic loaf -- make it the day before to allow the piquancy to develop.

Peel the tomatoes (make two small slits in the skin near the top of the tomatoes and drop into boiling water for about 30 seconds -- the skin will peel off easily). Cut the tomatoes into quarters and remove the seeds, then chop and put into a bowl. Combine with the onion, capers, dill pickles, black olives, green olives, and chili.

Cut the French loaf in half lengthwise and scrape out the soft bread inside. Add the soft bread to the other ingredients in the bowl and knead together, moistening with a little olive oil.

Add salt and black pepper to taste, then fill the two halves of the loaf with the mixture.

Press the halves together, then wrap tightly in plastic (cling) wrap and keep in the refrigerator overnight.

Cut into slices to serve.

Serves 6-8.

Vitello Tonnato (page 99)
Cheese and Fruit
Important to use a bread with a firm crust, or the whole thing will go too far into the soggy realm. If you are morally opposed to soggy bread, by the way, don't try this sandwich (even though, hey, a firm crust will do wonders here). There are those in my family who blanch at the idea of so much as dipping a grilled cheese sandwich into a bowl of tomato soup; thankfully, I can balance that out with the family members who love milk toast when feeling poorly.

I think there's something very cozy about sandwiches for outdoor dining. You don't need utensils, assuming you sliced before heading out. You don't need plates, even, if you have a napkin you can eat over.

The balance of tomatoes and briny additions is great here, but if there's something you aren't very fond of (say, green olives, or capers), make it up by increasing the other items. I'd also feel free to substitute bread and butter pickles for the gherkins, if that's what you have in your fridge.

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