What I was trying to do was solve a problem.
It’s December, you can guess the problem. The… I Have To Go To A Holiday Thing With An Edible Thing Problem. But what edible thing because honestly it’s hard to manage a festive dress, host gift wrapped and ready, having gas in the car, lipstick in the purse, brain in the head, car keys not lost because I accidentally left them in refrigerator (WHY / HOW!?) being considerately tardy and not rudely late and… those of you that manage all of the festivities with children… God bless you, amen.
This bread is to solve that sort of problem. The problem of you having to bring an edible thing to a holiday thing. This bread solves a lot of other problems like, holiday party anxiety… because you can just shove it in your mouth until the social panics dissipate.
So here we are. Adult lives and problems solved. There’s little that warm bread and melty cheese can’t do. I’m testing their limits every day.
Now… if you are bringing this bread to a holiday party… be the person that asks to reheat it in the oven for just a few minutes before serving. Efforts will be rewarded and cheese will be extra stringy delicious. Ok. We’re good we’re good.
Here’s what we’re looking at:
A round loaf of crusty, fluffy, fresh bread. Lots of adjectives, but we’re talking about bread and it’s best to get it all right.
Coarsely chopped artichoke hearts (the pickled canned kind), kalamata olives, and sun-dried tomatoes.
Sea salt, coarse black pepper, and dried oregano.
Crumbled feta and fresh basil for after baking.
Slice the loaf vertically and horizontally creating cubes and being sure to keep the bottom of the loaf attached.
Now let’s get to it… with clean hands because we’re going to do some shoving (a technical culinary term for getting all this goodness into this loaf).
After the oil is drizzled over and into the loaf, Monterey Jack cheese is shoved into the pieces.
Artichoke hearts and olives, also shoved into the loaf trying our best to get good bits into every bite.
Sun dried tomatoes too.
If your sun-dried tomatoes are super dry, rehydrate them in a bit of boiled water before dicing and shoving.
Salt + pepper + oregano for flavors more flavors.
Bake until melted, bubbling, warm, and otherwise irresistible. You’ll know when that happens.
Once baked, more cheese because… why not?
And fresh basil!
And serve and make friends and good grief.
Photographs with Jon Melendez
- 1 round, fluffy, and crusty loaf of bread
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 cup coarsely chopped canned artichoke hearts
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped kalamata olives
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- coarse sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, dried oregano
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- fresh basil leaves
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- First slice the loaf of bread. Using a serrated knife, slice into the loaf, creating 1-inch thick vertical strips, but making sure to leave the bottom of the bread attached. In other words, don't slice all the way through the loaf and create slices. You want to keep the bread loaf in tact. After you've cut vertical strips into the loaf, cut horizontal strips into the loaf, creating a bunch of bread cubes all attached at the bottom of the loaf.
- Place on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, separating some of the cubes a bit to get the olive oil into some of the bread pieces.
- Next work with the Monterey Jack cheese. Separate some of the bread pieces, and shove the cheese in there. Try to get cheese into every bit of the loaf. Don't be shy.
- Do the same separating and shoving technique with the artichoke heart pieces, the kalamata olives, and the tomato pieces. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dried oregano.
- Bake until even more golden brown, and until the cheese has meted and the bread look irresistible, about 12 to 14 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and place on a platter. Sprinkle with feta cheese and fresh basil. Serve warm. Really... just get out of the way because people will tackle you to get at the loaf. It's that good.