Nearly everyone is familiar with the French version of tuna salad, called salad Nicoise, that features chunks of tuna, lettuce, tomatoes, olives and capers dressed with a plain vinaigrette. However, the French sandwich called pan bagna is less well known although it is the same combination of ingredients served on round French rolls.
The beauty of these Tuna Nicoise Sandwiches is that they require little preparation and absolutely no cooking. They are as delicious, and decidedly more substantial, than the salad.
One key to flavoring the sandwiches perfectly lies in the vinaigrette dressing that is quickly prepared in the processor, spread on each roll and tossed with the tuna. First, ingredients such as olives and green onions are minced and set aside. Then garlic is minced in the machine and with the motor on, vinegar is slowly added. The natural starch present in garlic acts as a thickener and helps to prevent the dressing from separating.
After adding the remaining seasonings to the cloudy vinegar liquid, the mixture is processed while the oil is added in a slow thin stream. Within 15 seconds, the dressing is ready to be stirred into the bowl with the olives, green onions and tuna, or set aside for later use.
The sandwiches also hold up particularly well. They can be wrapped and kept at room temperature for several hours before eating. Or they can be refrigerated overnight. The bottom of the rolls will become saturated with dressing and soften in a way that surely was the inspiration for the name pan bagna, which translates from French as "bathed bread."
TUNA NICOISE SANDWICHES
1/4 cup drained pitted olives
1 medium green onion, trimmed and cut in 1-inch lengths
1 small clove garlic
1/4 cup Sherry or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons drained capers
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt, ground black pepper
3/4 cup mild olive oil
2 (6-1/2 ounce) cans chunk light tuna, well drained
4 French rolls
4 to 8 leaves Boston or bibb lettuce
2 small tomatoes, thinly sliced
Insert metal blade in dry food processor. Coarsely chop olives and green onion with 1-second pulses. Transfer to mixing bowl.
With motor running, drop garlic through food chute, then slowly pour in vinegar. Sweep container side, add capers, mustard, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. With motor running, add oil to machine in thin stream.
Stir dressing into chopped ingredients. (Use immediately or cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring dressing to room temperature at serving time.)
Break up tuna and mix into dressing. Slice each roll in half, then remove some of soft inside crumb. Place roll bottoms on dinner plates and spoon 1 teaspoon dressing on each. Moisten inside of roll tops with 1 teaspoon dressing. Divide tuna mixture evenly over roll bottoms.
Place 1 to 2 lettuce leaves and tomato slices over tuna. Cover with roll tops and serve immediately. (Can wrap and refrigerate sandwiches several hours. Sandwiches also can stand at room temperature as long as 6 hours). Makes 4 sandwiches.