This recipe doesn’t really have much to do with Chinese food energetics, but as a New Englander, I often think local and in season trumps any sort of theoretical knowledge, no matter how old it may be. Besides, even according to the acupuncturist’s calender of dos and don’ts, August is “earth time,” damp and plentiful, time for ripening and harvesting and consuming as much of it as you can. Enter one of my favorite recipes: the pain bagnat.
Pain bagnat consists of rustic bread that has been bathed in garlic oil and lemon juice, stuffed with fresh-from-the-garden red peppers, tomatoes and basil and left to sit just long enough to become soft and saturated with savory juices. Don’t be put off by the addition of anchovies- you don’t taste them so much as use them to enhance all the other ingredients, and they demonstrate how just a little bit of an umami rich ingredient makes everything more satisfying. Of course, you need not limit yourself to sandwich making. The same filling ingredients gussy up a bowl of blanched fresh green beans and boiled new potatoes quite nicely.
This is really quite simple to put together once you have all the ingredients ready. The most time consuming part is roasting a red pepper and making the hard boiled eggs, which really doesn’t take that much time at all. If you’re feeling anti-bread, skip it and use the anchovy garlic oil, along with the juice of 1/2 a lemon to dress 1/2 – 1 lb blanched, trimmed green beans and 1/2 – 1lb new potatoes boiled until tender. Throw the remaining ingredients on top and munch away.
- 1 large crusty baguette (preferably naturally leavened)
- 4 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 1/2 Tb minced anchovies
- 20 large basil leaves, torn
- 1 6-7 oz can oil packed tuna
- Juice 1/2 lemon
- 1/3 cup nicoise or Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
- 3 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
- 1 medium tomato, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 1/2 a small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and cut into thin strips
In a medium bowl, mix the olive oil, garlic and half the anchovies. Half the loaf of bread and use your fingers to pull out enough of the soft interior to leave a shallow cavity. Brush each half of the bread with the oil-garlic mixture until it is completely used up.
Scatter half the basil leaves on each piece.
In the same bowl used for the oil mixture, mix the tuna and its oil, the remaining anchovies and lemon juice. Spread the mixture evenly over one of the bread halves.
Follow with layers of the olives, eggs, and tomato, spreading them evenly over the tuna.
Then judiciously layer the red onion and red pepper strips
Top with the remaining bread half, wrap tightly in plastic wrap (if necessary, secure with rubber bands and a layer of aluminum foil) and let sit for 1-2 hours so the flavors meld and the juices seep into the bread.
Unwrap, cut into 1-4 portions and serve.