Putting together a delicious meal doesn’t have to be a monumental task. With a little planning, you can throw together an impressive spread with a minimal amount of effort.

One of my go-to picnic menus is made up mostly of food I don’t have to cook. Frozen grapes, kettle chips, cookies or brownies from the bakery all make suitable picnic sides.

For the star of the show, I almost always turn to a big pressed sandwich that I make the night before, wrap up and have ready to toss into the cooler or basket in the morning and cut up when we get where we’re going.

The fillings for this sandwich can be largely left to your imagination. I tend to stay away from mayonnaise-based fillings for food safety issues, and stick to cured meats, cheeses, greens (either soft herbs, spinach or arugula) and marinated vegetables.

A good pressed sandwich doesn’t have to include a million ingredients. Two great options are simply ham and cheese or turkey, bacon and avocado. I would steer clear of PB&J because it tends to seep out in the pressing process.

I choose a crusty bread because anything too flimsy will result in a mushy sandwich when juices from the veggies are absorbed while it’s being pressed.

Remember, good ingredients — and plenty of them — are a must for a good sandwich. Don’t skimp. Make sure the sandwich is full of goodies, too, or it won’t be nearly as impressive after you’ve pressed it overnight.

“Pressing it” just means wrapping it up tightly in plastic wrap, putting it on a sheet pan and weighing it down with a heavy pan or canned goods. After a few hours, it will have formed into a sturdy sandwich that will emerge from the basket in pretty much the exact condition as it went in, no matter how many bumps it suffered in the basket along the way.


Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at meredith@meredithdeeds.com. Follow her on Twitter ­at @meredithdeeds.

Pressed Italian Sandwich

Serves 8.

Note: Picnics just got a lot easier with this hearty make-ahead sandwich. Big enough to feed a crowd, this multilayered beauty is easy to transport and even easier to serve. From Meredith Deeds.

• 1/2 c. store-bought black or green olive tapenade

• 1/2 c. chopped marinated artichoke hearts

• 2 roasted red peppers (from a jar, or roasted yourself), chopped

• 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

• 1 (about 8-in.) round artisan Italian bread loaf

• 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-in. slices

•1/4 lb. thinly sliced Genoa salami

• 3 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto

• 1/4 lb. thinly sliced spicy Italian cold cuts, such as coppa or capocolla

• 1/4 lb. thinly sliced provolone

• 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves


In a small bowl, combine the tapenade, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and balsamic vinegar.

Cut the Italian bread loaf in half and scoop out the inside of both the top and bottom, leaving a 1-inch thick shell. Save the scooped-out bread for another use (such as breadcrumbs). Brush the inside of the bread with the olive oil.

Divide the tapenade mixture between the top and bottom halves of the bread. Spread evenly to coat top and bottom.

Arrange mozzarella, salami, prosciutto, cold cuts, provolone and basil on top of the tapenade and place top half of loaf on filling.

Wrap sandwich thoroughly with plastic wrap or foil. Place a heavy cutting board or other flat object on top of sandwich and weight it down with a 2- to 4-lb. weight (such as a large pot or brick). Let sit 4 hours to overnight. Unwrap, cut into eighths, and serve.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 445 Fat 25 g Sodium 1,310 mg

Carbohydrates 34 g Saturated fat 9 g Total sugars 4 g

Protein 22 g Cholesterol 55 mg Dietary fiber 3 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 2 starch, 2 high-fat protein, 1 ½ fat.