Time to Make a Sandwich Tunisien?

This is one of my favorite summer foods, a great sandwich for picnics and pretty much any meal, really. Sandwich Tunisien is, as you might have already guessed from the name, THE sandwich of Tunisia! It is to the central part of the Southern Mediterranean what the pan bagnat would be in Provence on the north side of the sea. A sandwich that puts together the best of the region’s ingredients into a single, delicious, easy-to-make, transportable sandwich, it is to Tunisia what the po’ boy, the Philly cheese steak, or the reuben are to their respective regions—a classic that every kid grows up with, and a meal you can make quickly while marveling at how good every bite will be!

Both the pan bagnat and the sandwich Tunisien are based on long-standing favorite foods of the Mediterranean—tuna, olive oil, olives, capers, vegetables. In Tunisia, they take the concept to another level by adding harissa and preserved lemons. You can vary the ingredients a bit to fit your own desires—the keys to a really good Tunisien are the harissa, the tuna, and the addition of other good vegetables. It’s not hard to do—start with a good sized bit of the hand-rolled French baguette, cut in half, or a Paesano roll from the Bakehouse. Brush it with some of the Mahjoub’s extra virgin olive oil, then add a generous spread of the harissa. Lay on some tuna (the Ortiz tuna from Spain is my pick), then toss on other good stuff: chopped up preserved lemon, capers, chopped onion, olives, pickled vegetables, roasted red peppers…Press it all together and eat! The flavors meld beautifully the longer it sits, so it’s great beach food. Makes me hungry just thinking about it!

I learned about this lovely meal when I first visited Tunisia about 10 years ago. It’s a great combination, equally good, I think, when it’s freshly made, but also a few hours out from the kitchen when the oil’s nicely soaked into the bread and the flavors have set up really well. Great for picnics, lunches, dinners, or in small mini-versions for parties. You could probably even turn it into a two-foot sub to celebrate Big Ten football this fall and bring the taste of Tunisia into the world of Michigan football. A marvelous meal you can make in under ten minutes!

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