Nicoise salad is an awesome low carb dinner or lunch on its own. Add a baguette and press it with weights overnight and it is perfect picnic fare. A French classic, Nicoise salad is chock full of flavor and nutrition, and can be really versatile in the choice of ingredients. If you have no interest at all in a low carb lifestyle, but you like the idea of a special, easy, picnic lunch, you are guaranteed to love the recipe for a “Pressed Nicoise on Baguette”. With or without bread, nicoise is a crowd-pleaser.Jump to Recipe
Turning the Nicoise Salad into a Pressed Sandwich
A popular picnic on the Mediterranean coast will often include a pressed nicoise sandwich, also known as a “pan bagnat”. Basically a pan bagnat is a nicoise tuna salad pressed between two slices of a baguette spread with garlic and oil.
It is usually left in the fridge long enough for the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic to soak into the bread and bring all the flavors together.
This classic French picnic sandwich is referred to as pan bagna, or pain bagnat—all pronounced “pahn bahn-yah”, and it literally means “bathed bread”. Crusty bread ensures that the insides are soft but outside of the bread stays firm.
Typical ingredients of a nicoise salad include canned tuna, green beans, black olives, red onions, fresh herbs, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs and a vinaigrette. If you are going to make the pressed nicoise sandwich, you will need a rustic bread with a hard crust on the outside, so that the sandwich does not fall apart.
Ingredients that can be Substituted or Added to the Nicoise Salad (or Sandwich)
Mostly you want to add fresh ingredients, and that might vary depending on the geographic region and the time of year. Here are a few ingredients that work well with this type of salad (or sandwich filling), either as a substitute for the basic ingredients listed above or as an addition.
- artichoke hearts
- red bell peppers
- sliced fennel
Best Dressing for Nicoise Salads
I like the complexity of an anchovy salad dressing, and have provided a recipe for my favorite anchovy dressing in the “notes” section of the recipe card below.
If you prefer something quick, simple and easy, simply add 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice to 6 Tablespoons good olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Another alternative is to make a dressing using 3 tablespoons of a shrub syrup and 6 Tablespoons of a good olive oil. I have used the Smoked Tomato Shrub Syrup for this, as well as the Rhubarb Fennel Shrub Syrup. Both were excellent and there are many other flavors that would work well as a salad dressing.
Nicoise Pressed Sandwich
- Weights: iron skillet or heavy cans
Ingredients for the Salad
- 1/2 baguette (about 5 “) A large round loaf that is about eight inches in diameter would also work, just needs a hard crust on outside
- 1 clove garlic
- 4 to 6 basil leaves
- 6 oz tuna canned in oil, not water
- 3/4 cup Kalamata olives Or other black olives, sliced
- 1/2 pint Cherry tomatoes Sliced in half
- 1/2 red onion Sliced or chopped
- 1/4 cup Italian flat leaf parsley finely chopped
- 1/2 cup blanched French green beans sliced into thirds (optional)
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1 pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Ingredients for the Anchovy Dressing
- 1 fillet anchovy drained
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic minced
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp lemon juice fresh squeezed
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 1.5 tbsp shallots minced
- 2 tsp capers drained and chopped
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
For the bread
- Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. Remove some of the inside of the bottom half to create a trough into which the filling will go. Brush both halves with a little olive oil and rub each side with smashed garlic and some salt and pepper. Line the bottom half (the half with the trough) with basil leaves.
For the filling
- Combine all fresh ingredients above listed for the salad (through the green beans)Prepare the anchovy dressing, if using. Alternatively, for a simple dressing: combine 3 Tablespoons lemon juice with 6 Tablespoons olive oil and add a little salt and pepper.
- Pour 1/2 cup of whichever dressing you choose into the tuna mixture and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the anchovy dressing
- Using the back of a spoon or fork make a paste by mashing the anchovy, salt, pepper and garlic together until thoroughly mixed and mashed together.
- Using a wire whisk, whisk in the egg until well blended with the paste. Whisk in lemon juice and mustard.
- Whisk in the oil, one tablespoon at a time, whisking vigorously until you have a thick emulsion.
- Whisk in the shallots, capers and Worcestershire sauce until blended. Taste, and adjust the salt and pepper if needed to your own taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
To assemble the sandwiches
- Spoon tuna mixture into the trough of the baguette over the basil leaves. Wrap sandwich well in plastic. Place a heavy weight on top of the sandwich (a cast iron pan works well, or a pan weighted down with heavy canned goods). Refrigerate with the weight on top overnight.
There is a wonderful Italian holiday that takes place in mid-August called Ferragosto (where they take a relaxing break from the August heat). Since the Nicoise salad heralds summer picnics, I thought I’d include a great summertime cocktail recipe. Click here for the watermelon mojito Ferragosto recipe and post. Ciao!