Seriously Simple: Pan Bagnat is a vegetable salad in a sandwich

<p>This versatile“ salad in a bun” can be served at casual backyard lunches, on a picnic and at summer concerts.</p>

Jonelle Weaver/TNS

This versatile“ salad in a bun” can be served at casual backyard lunches, on a picnic and at summer concerts.

We usually want our sandwiches prepared with the freshest bread and served immediately, but not this spectacular summer sandwich. Day-old bread is a requisite for this recipe, as the dry bread really soaks up the dressing.

There are many versions of this classic Niçoise specialty. Pan Bagnat or “bathed bread,” is moistened with herbed vinaigrette, which is where the name is derived. This tasty sandwich, a specialty from the Nice region, can be found in markets and bakeries; it makes a quick and tasty lunch. Originally, the sandwich was composed of stale bread with the classic Salad Niçoise tucked into it. Most of the time it was mixed with hard cooked eggs, anchovies, tomatoes, lettuce and tuna.

My version adds some other tasty components that have become a must-have for summer picnics. I like to switch it up and surprise my guests by using a colorful variety of vegetables that vegetarians and carnivores both can enjoy. This versatile “salad in a bun” can be served at casual backyard lunches, on a picnic and at summer concerts. It is hearty and full of flavor. If you want to add protein, you can add some cooked egg slices.

Wrapping the entire loaf in butcher paper and tying off individual sandwiches with raffia or long chives makes an ideal and impressive lunch for picnics and summer outings, where traveling is a consideration. Make sure to keep it cool in an ice chest until serving.

Tasty tips

  • Be as creative as you like. Some variations on the filling include roasted eggplant or zucchini, marinated mozzarella or burrata, sun-dried tomatoes, arugula, or baby spinach leaves.
  • While it takes a bit more time, you can use individual rolls to prepare these.
  • Feel free to add oil-packed tuna or rotisserie chicken pieces for a non-vegetarian offering.

Vegetarian Pan Bagnat

Serves 8

  • 1/2 cup Herb Vinaigrette (see following recipe)
  • 1 loaf French or sourdough bread, baguette or Focaccia style (day old works well)
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium ripe heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup drained red or yellow peeled bell peppers
  • 12 large fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup (6-ounce jar) marinated artichoke hearts
  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled or thinly sliced
  • Butcher paper and chives, twine or raffia for wrapping sandwiches

1. Slice baguette horizontally so that 2/3 of the bread is on the bottom half and 1/3 is on the top half. Scoop out most of the soft bread inside, leaving the thick crust with only a thin layer of bread.

2. To assemble the sandwich: Brush some vinaigrette on the bottom half of the baguette. Top each with cucumber slices, tomato slices, pepper slices, basil leaves and artichoke hearts. Sprinkle with more vinaigrette. Top with cheese. Cover with the top piece of bread and press down tightly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours ahead.

3. To serve, wrap loaf in butcher or parchment paper. Wrap chives, twine or raffia tightly around the sandwich leaving a 2-inch space between each tie. Using a sharp, serrated knife, slice through bread between twine to make individual sandwiches. (Or just cut into 2-inch slices.)

Advance Preparation: The sandwiches can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated.

Herbed Vinaigrette

Makes 1 cup

  • This fresh herb vinaigrette will liven up any variety of salad greens, sandwiches, fresh vegetables, cold seafood, chicken, or pasta salads.
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped basil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine the shallot, garlic, parsley, chives, basil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar in a medium bowl, and whisk until well blended. (Or place in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until well blended.)

2. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking continuously (or processing) until blended. Add the salt and pepper, and taste for seasoning.

Advance preparation: This may be prepared and kept up to one week in the refrigerator. Whisk before using.

(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at