A Sandwich for All Seasons

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The sandwich tunisien is to Tunisia what the Cubano is to southern Florida, the po' boy is to New Orleans, or an Italian beef is to Chicago. Standard, very satisfying street food that's eaten pretty much all over Tunisia by pretty much everyone you talk to. You can, of course, vary the ingredients a bit to fit your own desires--the keys are the harissa, the tuna, and the addition of other good vegetables.

It's a very easy meal to make--the ingredient quality, as per my usual campaigning, is the key. In Tunisia they use baguettes for the bread, though I think the texture is more akin to our hoagie rolls than our French baguettes. I've actually been liking the sandwich best on a fresh Paesano roll--it holds the olive oil and the harissa better and can stand up to well to a good squishing which is required to really eat this North African classic.

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!

Whichever bread you use, cut it in half and then brush it with some of the Mahjoubs' extra virgin olive oil. Then spread on a generous helping of their handmade harissa (made from their own sun-dried peppers, amazing-sun dried tomatoes, their own extra virgin olive oil, a touch of sea salt, and ground caraway). The more you like heat the more harissa you should put on.

Once you've got the bread dressed up, lay on some tuna (the Ortiz tuna from Spain is my pick) and toss on an array of other good stuff. Very important are some chopped preserved lemons. They add a great burst of flavor and a nice texture too, so I've been putting increasingly large quantities of them on each time I test the sandwich again. You can make these at home if you want, but I've been using the Mahjoubs' preserved lemons--their own organic lemons cured in salt for over six months in the sun. Pretty spectacular I'd say.

From there take your pick from capers (wild sun-dried ones from the Mahjoubs are very good as are the Torre Saracena capers from Calabria), chopped onion, olives, pickled vegetables, roasted red peppers. Any or all of those are excellent. Put the top slice of the bread on, then press it all together and eat. It's a great combination, equally good I think when it's freshly made, but also a few hours after it's made, when the oil's nicely soaked into the bread and the flavors have set 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!

The sandwich tunisien makes pretty marvelous and practical picnic food because it holds up well, is delicious, and tastes, smells, and feels (to me at least) very much like summer! And that's a darned good and pretty exciting thing this time of year.

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Ari Weinzweig is co-founder of Zingerman's Community of Businesses, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is also the author of Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating. More

After graduating from University of Michigan with a degree in Russian history, Ari Weinzweig went to work washing dishes in a local restaurant and soon discovered that he loved the food business. Along with his partner Paul Saginaw, Ari started Zingerman's Delicatessen in 1982 with a $20,000 bank loan, a staff of two, a small selection of great-tasting specialty foods, and a relatively short sandwich menu. Today, Zingerman's is a community of businesses that employs over 500 people and includes a bakery, creamery, sit-down restaurant, training company, coffee roaster, and mail order service. Ari is the author of the best-selling Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating and the forthcoming Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon.
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