Pressed Picnic Sandwiches

Okay, so a million years ago, I was a realtor. I kind of sucked at it because I’m a TERRIBLE salesman. I’d walk into a crappy house and exclaim, “This place sucks! Let’s go!” Rather than something like “Well, if you take down this wall and throw up some shiplap . . . ” Anyhoo, I went back to my career as a paralegal and gave up trying to sell.

This is everything you need. It’s so much easier if you have everything set out and ready to assemble before you get started.

But I learned a lot and also learned about what, in the Atlanta area anyway, is called Realtor Caravan. Now that I live in the Lowcountry, I’ve learned that it has different names in different areas. This is usually a Tuesday or Wednesday open house open only to realtors after most real estate offices have their weekly sales meetings. And to draw in people, you gotta have food. In Atlanta, a lot of realtors would have The Varsity cater their caravan luncheons. Chili dogs, anyone? But I was a bit more DIY than some and, back then, a realtor friend gave me a recipe for a simple and easy vegetarian sub. This  sandwich was basically a long baguette with pesto, goat cheese, tomatoes, spinach and fresh mozzarella. It was simple, economical and delicious. I served it at many a caravan with a green salad and it was always devoured.

Slice bread in half and remove some of the middle (in retrospect, I might remove a bit from both sides). Spread pesto then goat cheese on one side and balsamic-herb mayo on the other.

So this summer, when our family vacationed in Cherry Grove Beach with my mom and my nieces, we needed an easily portable lunch that would please everybody but also not be totally boring. I decided to combine the idea of caravan sandwich but with a bit more heartiness for all the carnivores in my family. I love the idea of a pressed sandwich because of the make-ahead convenience so I decided to bastardize my vegetarian delight with some Italian meats and a very heavy bowl. The results were magical.

Once you have your bread prepped, begin your assembly. I like to have cheese on both the top and bottom to avoid the veggies or meats making the bread soggy.

I packed up some olives, chips, and fruit to go with it (along with the store-bought break and bake cookies I baked that morning) and we had a lovely and very classy picnic! Perfect for our trip over to Atalaya Castle in Huntington Beach State Park.

Wrap up your giant sandwich and get it weighted down in the fridge overnight. I had to get a little creative at the rental condo with my weights. In the morning, cut in to wedges or slices depending on the shape of your bread and then re-wrap each sandwich for your cooler.

Next time you want to plan a fancy picnic for that concert in the park or twilight boat ride, throw in one of these beauties and you’ll be the star!


Italian Pressed Sandwich

  • 1 loaf ciabatta or other nice Italian bread, sliced horizontally
  • 1/3 C prepared pesto
  • 1/4 C mayonaise
  • 2 T Dijon or deli mustard
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 1/4 -1/3 lb sliced smoked or sharp provolone
  • 1 4 oz pkg Herb goat cheese or Boursin, room temperature
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A couple of big handfuls fresh baby spinach or arugula
  • 1/3-1/2 C roasted red peppers, WELL drained and patted as dry as you can get them
  • 2-3 small ripe Roma tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 1/3 lb salami
  • 1/3 lb ham
  • 1/3 lb pepperoni
  • A scattering of sliced pepperoncini, if desired
  • salt and pepper

Scoop out some the bread from the top half of your ciabatta, leaving about 1/2 inch shell. Spread pesto on top half of ciabatta. In a bowl, stir together mayo, mustard, olive oil, vinegar and oregano (I did this at home and brought it with me in a cooler so I wouldn’t have to buy these ingredients on vacation). Spread this mixture on bottom half of ciabatta.

Layer half of provolone on bottom bread. Spread goat cheese on top bread. 

On bottom bread, layer salami, then ham, then pepperoni, then half the spinach, the red peppers, the rest of the spinach and tomatoes (give them  little sprinkling of salt and pepper). Add pepperoncini (if using). Finish with the rest of the provolone.

Place top bread on bottom bread and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Put sandwich on a tray or cookie sheet in fridge overnight with something very heavy (an iron skillet, a big book with a hand weight on it, whatever) on top.

When ready to pack your picnic, trim off edges of bread if they have hardened in the fridge overnight (mine were fine and didn’t require trimming). Then slice into even pieces (often easiest through plastic wrap). Wrap each sandwich individually and pack to go.

Impressive and NOT that hard! 

Somehow unhinge your jaws and chomp down on this beauty!


I’d love to go back to Atalaya in the fall or spring. It was a little hot in there on this trip but you can absolutely imagine the 1930’s grandeur of this amazing South Carolina castle.




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