Friday, August 29, 2014

Pan bagna

Summer evenings are shortening. We might sit down to supper in the light of dusk but by the time 8 o' clock is behind us the Harlem terrace is dark.

I made pan bagna  - it means bathed bread (olive oil is key) - on a recent, warm evening. It's pretty much a salad Niçoise, deconstructed, and we assembled it ourselves. I am lucky to live with someone who likes strong flavours as much as I do. The onion disappeared first, soon followed by the capers and chopped anchovies..

The Frenchman remembers them as beach sandwiches in Antibes, grabbed when you are a hot and sandy and very hungry small person. He was very polite about mine, but how could they compete?

I remember them as made by another Frenchman, Pierre Reveillez, who used to run a small lunch shack in a corner park on East Houston and 1st Avenue. There were also sandwiched baguettes filled with chicken liver pâté and cornichons, or with slices of saucisson. The latter were my favourite, and I ate those baguettes every week, when I worked around the corner. There was excellent coffee. And croissants, of course.

Pierre split his profits with his two workers, and was out of business as soon as the rent was raised. I still miss that place. He was from Provence, too, but Nice - and I sometimes wonder if he and Vincent might not have crossed paths while on small boy and teenage maneuvers beneath pine trees and in clear, salty water.


  1. Love love love those plates with the fruit. What kind ? Where are they from?

    1. They are enameled tin, and were from the Metropolitan Museum shop, a long time ago. One can still find the plates on eBay, occasionally.

  2. Your writing is lovely. I always enjoy it.

  3. Your writing is wonderful indeed! I will have to remember this "recipe" to make for my father sometime. Salade nicoise is a bit of an obsession with my dad, a happy memory of a teenage summer spend in Nice, his first real trip out of Germany.

  4. I used to make a pan bagnat and let it sit under bricks overnight (so everything got nice and mingled). I think I will make this favorite sandwich tomorrow for a picnic this weekend (sans the Hellman's). :)

  5. Sigh. I am an unschooled, unimaginative cook with a sadly spotty record. But your posts are so inspiring that if I never cook again except in my mind, it will be exciting. Thank you! Mary

    PS I know, this post isn't about cooking exactly, but it is about putting food together, making it special -- the whole picture. And it's the picture that is inspiring -- casual, day-in/day-out food that is like art.


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