Italian Ciabatta Sandwiches

Last weekend boasted perfect picnic weather. 75F and not humid. I think if you live in New York in the late Spring, you feel almost obligated to picnic at least once. So take a Claritin (like I did), pack some food and drink, and stake out a nice green patch. Few things make me feel more “New York” than picnicking on the Great Lawn in Central Park surrounded by the skyline of midtown Manhattan. And I think a sandwich is quintessential picnic fare.

 My picnic sandwich preferences deconstructed:

Bread: Crusty exterior, soft and chewy interior. My preference is for rolls but toasted sliced bread is fine too. The crusty exterior of these breads make for sturdier transport and also holds up well if the sandwich is not eaten right away. It also soaks up dressings without making the bread soggy. There is also a nice textural contrast with the crunch of the crust. Wraps are okay only if the filling is not soggy so it won’t soak through. My favorite picnic breads are french baguettes and ciabatta rolls.

Main filling: Almost everything is fair game, maybe except for tuna. My go-to is cured meats; although they can make the sandwich a bit salty. Cold cuts are great too. Fried fish (I’m thinking Po’ Boy) is good if it’s freshly made and eaten right away. I tend to stay away from tuna since it doesn’t keep well in the sun’s heat. Great vegetarian options include hummus, veggies, and watercress.

Supplementary filling: I love fresh basil, especially in Italian sandwiches. Marinated artichoke is a good option as well. Most supplemental fillings are fine as long as they don’t produce too much liquid and make the sandwich soggy. I pull out the seeds when using sliced tomatoes.

Cheese: Optional but perfectly fine in picnic sandwiches. However, if you’re not eating the sandwiches relatively soon and if they’re not stored in a cooler, the cheese will soften a bit. I usually go with fresh mozzarella.

Dressing: A great boost of flavor for any sandwich! Basil pesto is a safe choice. It also takes very green and vegetal – perfect for a picnic! Lemon aioli is also a good choice, especially on toasted sliced bread with watercress and hard boiled eggs. And you also have your traditional mustard.

There are no measurements and directions for the ingredients in the sandwich recipe since it’s totally up to you how much meat, cheese, pesto you want. For cured meats, I only use one layer of each meat since the flavors are concentrated and it gets salty quickly.

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