Picnic-Perfect Muffuletta

Make the most of late-summer days with this picnic showstopper. More than a simple sandwich, this is a meal on its own. Although the name muffuletta has Italian roots, and refers to the shape of the bread, it was New Orleans that turned a simple bread into the stuffed loaf it has come to be known as. I’ve used mine to celebrate vegetables in season, but you are welcome to add shaved ham, leftover roast meat or anything that catches your eye.

A word of warning – as this loaf is pressed with a heavy weight afterwards, don’t be scared of overfilling it, as everything will sink down before you eat it.

-Ingredients-

1 round bread
1/4 cup olive oil
2 aubergines
3 baby marrows
2 peppers
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp eat.art Italian Caprese spice mix
2 tbsp pesto
2 tbsp aubergine dip or spread
salt and pepper to taste

-Method-

Slice the peppers into long, thin strips, discarding the seeds and white spines. Slice the onions into strips and the garlic into thin slices. Place the olive oil into a pot and place on a medium-low heat. Add the peppers, garlic and onions and allow to simmer very gently, until the peppers are soft, but not disintegrating. Stir in the 2 tbsp eat.art Italian Caprese spice mix before removing from the pan. Do not colour the peppers or onions.

While the peppers are simmering, cut the tops off the aubergines and cut into long slices, approximately 5mm thick. I used this grill to cook the aubergines and baby marrows, but you can fry or grill until tender.

To assemble, cut a large circle out the top of the loaf of bread, and carefully separate it from the loaf to remove it. Using your hands, scoop out most of the bread, leaving approximately 1cm attached to the crust. Place 1 tbsp of the aubergine dip at the bottom of the loaf, and spread until evenly distributed. Top with a single layer of aubergine slices, spread with a thin layer of pesto and season. Top with a layer of peppers and onions, the courgettes, and repeat the process until you reach the top of the loaf. As the muffuletta will be compressed overnight, rather err on the side of over stuffing than leaving a gap at the top.

Once filled, wrap tightly with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight, with a heavy weight on top – I used my Le Creuset cocotte, but you can use a plate or tray topped with tins. Slice into wedges to serve.Caprese-ETCHED

Written and photographed by local food blogger Candice Bresler http://www.agorgeouslife.co.za

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