Muffaletta (or the ultimate picnic sandwich)

Muffaletta (or the ultimate picnic sandwich)

In the time before children (the B.C. that matters to me!), I ate in restaurants a lot. Like, a lot. And I’m so glad that my kids are at an age where they know how to behave (mostly) in any restaurant (mostly). They love it, too, and ask at least once a week if we can eat out. Of course the answer is often no since four of us at even a modest place can add up. But when we’re getting together with friends with kids I’d rather eat my own head that go to a restaurant. Somehow every well-behaved child simple forgets everything he or she knows about restaurant manners and a mania takes over them. They MUST go to the washroom together, crawl under the table to find dropped toys, speak at volumes appropriate for rock shows and basically behave like animals. So, no thank you.

But now that summer is slowly making itself felt, there is another fantastic option for getting together with pals – the picnic. It’s one of our favourite ways to socialize and we do it nearly once a week in the summer. Whether it’s a weekend lunch or a weekday dinner, meeting friends at a park so the kids can run around and we don’t have to worry about bothering anyone is perfect for this stage of parenting. I’m always on the lookout for additions to my picnic repertoire and this is my new go-to. The Muffaletta sandwich is full of sandwich classics: ham, cheese, tomatoes… but the way its pressed together makes it easy and more delicious to eat. The best bread for a Muffaletta- in my opinion – is a boule, the round, deep French loaf. But they’re not in every bakery or grocery store, so you can absolutely use a wide, Italian loaf. You just want something fairly large, you’re going to pack a lot in there.

bagna cauda
Photo by Maya Visnyei

I recently made this for a picnic we had to welcome the newest addition to our friends Andrew and Christina’s family: Isabel. The lady of the hour slept through much of the party but the rest of the kids ran like a pack, sat briefly to re-fuel, then ran again. The grownups lounged and chatted under shady trees. Rancho relaxo, people. Oh, and the Muffaletta disappeared almost as soon as I unwrapped it.

Muffaletta (or the ultimate picnic sandwich)

Ingredients

  • (serves 8)
  • 1 loaf of bread
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp black olive tapenade
  • 1 cup roasted red peppers, sliced into strips
  • 2 cups mozzarella, sliced
  • 2 handfuls of fresh basil
  • 8 to 10 pieces of thinly sliced ham or prosciutto
  • 1 or 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup green olives, sliced

Method

Use a serrated knife to cut off the top third of the loaf of bread.

Now tear away the interior bread of the loaf and the cap - leaving about one inch, including the crust. You're hollowing it right out but you can save that perfectly good bread to make some fantastic bread crumbs.

Brush the inside of the top and bottom pieces of bread with olive oil. Spread the olive tapenade on the underside of the top piece and set aside.

Now begin layering-You can't go wrong with the order here - just maybe give some thought to colour. You don't want to put tomato next to the red pepper as it won't give you a pretty contrast For instance, you could first lay down half of the red peppers and get into every corner with it.

Next, lay down the thinly sliced mozzarella. Now cover the cheese with basil leaves. Ham could come next, then olives then tomatoes. If your bread is deep enough, repeat.

When you're done with the fillings, place the top of your bread back on and gently press down.

Wrap the whole thing in parchment or cling film. Place it on a plate with something heavy on top. Put it in the fridge over night to allow the flavours will combine and deepen.

When you're ready to serve, unwrap your sandwich and cut into the loaf with a serrated knife, making slices or wedges (depending on which kind of bread you used).

 

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2 Comments

  1. Heather
    June 08, 11:44 Reply

    OMG, what a wonderfully simple and tasty idea! Prospect of deliciously crusty bakery loaf aside, I can’t wait to try this one out, thanks.

    • Laura Keogh
      July 25, 23:33 Reply

      Hi Heather, Great to hear from you again. YOu’ve got to try this one! Let us know how it goes. Hope you’re having a lovely summer. All the best, Laura

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