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Friday, May 25, 2012

One of the Ways I Like to Serve Bread

OK, so I realize it might be a little trashy, but sometimes we like to pretend that we live in the Old Country.  You know, coming home from work with a fresh baguette, a knob of cheese, and maybe a bouquet of flowers?  Oui, dans le panier de ta bicyclette, n'est-ce pas le cas?

And one of the ways I love to serve up a fresh baguette or artisan bread, is to serve it appertif-style.

So, neat slices of bread, OR rough, hand-ripped chunks (in the peasant style!) in a nice bread basket or something, and served alongside an assortment of additions.

In this case, a few different cheeses, a few different olives, and a plate of olio e aceto.

You could also mix up some various meats and go for a traditional antipasto kind of thing if you like, but often I choose to skip that and just go with olives and cheeses and stuff.  

There's enough unhealthy salts and fats goin' on already without adding some cured meat to the mix!

Anyway, so I heated up my bread basket stone.

What's a bread basket stone, you ask?

Well, I'm glad you ask, because I'm delighted to tell you.

Some bread baskets (like mine) have a cool little energy-storing terracotta or stone piece which can be pre-heated and then stashed underneath the bread in order to provide a subtle, somewhat-lasting, warmth to the bread.

Cool, right?

See, look at mine:

The nice, washable, cloth insert even has a velcro closure.  Very handy.

Anyway, the stone takes a good 10 - 20 minutes to heat up all the way depending on how hot you have your oven.  But then you just (carefully, with a mitt) take it out, and put it in the fabric.  

Then, I like to to arrange the insert a little bit so it looks nice, tucking in the corners and billowing out the sides a bit...

I don't think that my masculinity suffers from this sort of thing... presentation is an essential part of food preparation, and men have been doing that for millenia.



Sliced up the bread.

And then in it goes.

That part is done.

Now comes the fun stuff.

We're usually pretty good about keeping several kinds of cheese on hand in our fridge.  What can I say?  We like cheese.

This week, however, we had just picked up a couple of really nice sheep's milk cheeses, one hard, and one soft.

So, cubed, sliced, chunked, whatever you choose, spread them out into a decent-looking array.  If you have some really soft cheese, make sure to include a cheese knife.

The last time I was at a dollar store I found a few cheap wooden planks for like 99 cents each.  So I bought a couple.  They are an inferior grade of wood so I would never think of using them for cooking, (planking, grilling) nor certainly ever as a cutting surface.  But I figured for 2 bucks it would be nice to have them as serving platters.  I think they look cool.  Better than a corel dish, at any rate.

Olives take no brains at all.  Just dump them in a somewhat aesthetically-pleasing serving bowl or plate or what-have-you.

Then comes my favourite.  The olio e aceto.  Oil and Vinegar, but it sounds so much cooler in Italian.  There is so much variety in oils and vinegars these days it's awesome!  
Go CRAZY with mixing different things here.  Of course the plain version of this is also delicious - just olive oil and balsamic vinegar - but I strongly encourage anyone to get out there and sample the amazing variety of flavoured oils and vinegars out there!
And because bread is, pretty much as standard, not only bland but also absorbent, it is the perfect medium for getting this assault of flavours to your tongue.

You can even add a few more herbs or spices to the mix, but I'd avoid going too far with this, just for texture's sake.  You don't want to have this be a paste.

So, for my own, I used my trusty, home-made, herbes-de-Provence extra virgin olive oil, with a good dose of a blueberry flavoured balsamic.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

I could just drink this stuff!

I like to use a pasta bowl or otherwise wide-rimmed bowl, for ease of dipping and sharing.

I did choose to grind up some freshly dried oregano, as well as a pinch of salt and pepper.

But that's it.

Gather up all the separate plates and set them up on a large serving tray, or if you're entertaining guests, arrange it all 'buffet-style' on a large table.

Super easy, and if you throw in a salad or a few raw veggies, this can easily be upgraded from appetizer to meal!

In any case, however, it is one of my favourite ways to enjoy fresh bread!