Both of my parents worked very hard to be able to give my sister and I the best of everything. My mother worked on health care reform policies for the state of California. She worked ALL the time, often traveling to Sacramento and Washington DC. While she was gone, a nanny would take care of my sister and I. My mother’s high political standing, combined with her deep compassion for all types of people meant that all the women who worked in our home as nannies had to have legitimate legal status and all that goes with it. Each time we got a new nanny, my parents would sponsor her, ensuring she got a green card. For the nanny, this required a long trip back home. On one of these occasions my mother had to leave suddenly on business, and my sister and I were left alone with my father. I was in preschool at the time.
My father sent me off to school with my lunchbox and ribboned pigtails. All good! Lunch time came around, and I opened my lunch box to find what I thought was a stinky, soggy sandwich. My father had packed me a Tunisian sandwich, which consists of tuna, boiled egg, preserved lemons, potatoes, harrisa, and a roasted bell pepper & tomato salad called slata meshuja. This sandwich was a deeply distressing sight for my then four year old brain. I ran to my teacher, who then had to call my father and explain to him that this was not an appropriate lunch for a small child. She explained to him that I would do much better with a classic PB&J or turkey sandwich. I am sure that this was quite perplexing to my father, because he ate these things all the time growing up.
Today, I LOVE this sandwich. It is a classic, and a staple in any good Tunisian home. In Israel, a Saturday morning trip to the beach would not be complete without several of these delicious concoctions. Traditionally, they are made on smaller rolls, called fricassee, which are basically baguettes that have been fried instead of baked. In writing this entry, I called a few of my family members to get their renditions of the sandwich. The ingredients everyone used were mostly the same, but each person had a unique story that was associated with the sandwich. It’s amazing how we can associate a flavor with a memory. When I make these sandwiches I am reminded of my preschool experience, and I can almost taste the sand and salty water from the beach in Israel.
2 large soft rolls
2 cans of tuna in olive oil
1 boiled eggs
1 medium sized rose or yukon potatoes boiled and thinly sliced
1/2 a preserved lemon sliced in 1/2 moon rounds
2 tbs mayonnaise
2 tbs harissa
1/4 cup oil cured black olives
1 tsp capers
2 green bell peppers- roasted and peeled
1 red bell pepper- roasted and peeled
1 anahiem chili- roasted and peeled
3 roma tomatoes- roasted and peeled
1.5 tsp minced garlic
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs good olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt or coarse sea salt
To make the slata meshuja, roast the peppers and tomatoes until the skins are charred. Let them cool and remove the skins. Coarsely chop everything, then add lemon juice, salt, olive oil and garlic and mix well.
Slice your roll in half, apply 1 tbs of mayonnaise and 1 tbs of harrisa to one side of the bread. On top of the harrisa and mayo combo, add the drained tuna. I use almost an entire can for one sandwich. Then layer slices of lemon, potato, and egg. Apply a healthy amount of slata meshuja, with 1/2 tsp of capers to the other side of the roll. Put the sandwich together and slice on the diagonal down the middle. Makes 2 sandwiches with leftovers for 1/2 of a third roll.