By Reba Ray
You worked all day and yur tired. I get it. Me too. So you want somethin’ quick that doesn’t involve a lot of whisking, sautéing, tenderizin’ and braisin’. Yep, me too. That’s why, especially for a busy week, a loaf of French bread is the ticket. Get a fat, round one, cuz we’re gonna load it with all kinds of goodies. The idea here is to NOT have to cook anything other than just ploppin’the loaded toast into a toaster oven or pre-heated regular oven. There are tons more things you can put on a slice of French toast – over a hundred variations with roasted garlic alone, I suspect, but I’m offerin’ ya just toppings that require no other cookin’. These oughta just take about 10 minutes in an oven on 400°F (exceptin’ where noted). Clean up equals wash the cuttin’ board and a spoon, wipe off the bakin’ pan and yur done.
For a quick meal, cut off one, two or three slices of French bread, to the thickness you desire, between ½ and one inch. Use a serrated knife to get a good cut on the bread without bunchin’ it up. Yur gonna notice olive oil in several o’ these recipettes. I recommend you use extra virgin first-press oil because it isn’t gonna be in the oven long enough to really constitute high heat and so what you want is high taste.
French Bread Pizza: Let’s get the obvious out of the way. If this isn’t one of your regular quick meals, why not? Keep a jar of red sauce in the fridge and a bag of shredded mozzarella. Dollop on the sauce and sprinkle with cheese, 10 mins in the oven and dinner is served. Other great add-ons that don’t require cookin’ are pepperoni slices, which will keep for dern near ever in your fridge, mushrooms, olives and bacon bits.
Caprese Toast: Don’t worry about how to pronounce that, you can just call it basil, mozzarella and tomato toast. Shredded or sliced mozzarella first, then some thin slices of nice, ripe, deep red mater, sprinkle with some fresh chopped basil and drizzle with olive oil.
Garlicly Shrooms: Spread soft butter or margarine on the bread, then mince one small clove o’ garlic per slice of bread and spread it evenly over the butter. Slice thinly two mushrooms per piece of bread. Put em in a cup and drizzle a little olive oil (1/2 tsp.) over ‘em, coatin’ real good with the oil. Spread over the garlic and butter and sprinkle with just a little nutmeg and pepper.
Classic Garlic-Cheese Bread: This is a great side to any Italian dish, and if you use enough cheese, it can count as a meal in itself. You can use any kind of cheese on this, but there’s absolutely nuthin’ wrong with yur basic mozzarella. Just spread some soft butter and minced garlic on the bread (garlic powder used sparingly works too), sprinkle cheese on top and yur done. This is good with just parmesan cheese too.
Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese: Just as good as on a bagel, who said this combo is just for fancy brunches? Think you can’t afford smoked salmon? Check in the tuna section of yur grocer, some leadin’ tuna companies are now packaging smoked salmon in foil and you can afford it. Especially if you only use about half of it in one sittin’. (The other half will keep in a Ziploc bag in the fridge for several days.) Spread on yur cream cheese first, then add the salmon. Just leave this one in the oven long enough to warm it – about five minutes.
Olive Tapenade and Cream Cheese: Tapenade. There’s another word you don’t need to worry about. If you want, you can buy some prepared chunky olive spread in the deli section, but no need. Just take a couple of different kinds of olives, like black and red, with or without pimentos, and chop ‘em up pretty fine and mix ‘em with a little olive oil. Spread this on top of French bread with cream cheese, and again, just leave in the oven until heated, about five minutes.
Apple and Cheddar: Here’s a French combination for yur French bread. Slice half a golden delish apple in ¼-inch thin slices and spread it out on a few pieces of bread. Top that with sliced or shredded medium or sharp cheddar cheese, and voila.
Pecan, Pear and Blue Cheese: Oh, get over yurself and try somethin’ grown up! This combo is not as “yucky” as it sounds; in fact, it’ll make a sophisticated palate hoot and holler. I recommend thinly coatin’ yur bread with butter or a brush of olive oil cuz that blue cheese won’t melt as well as a mozzarella. Slice up a fresh pear, or use canned pears, rinsed clean of that sugary syrup. Put a layer of pears down, then add one half to one tablespoon of crumbled blue cheese per slice and about a half tablespoon of finely chopped pecans on top of that.
Red, White and Green Bread: Dollop on some Alfredo sauce from a jar (the rest will keep for a good while in the fridge), layer on some washed fresh spinach leaves, stems removed, and cover with sun-dried tomatoes. Most sun-dried maters come in an olive oil packing, but if yurs didn’t, toss the spinach and tomatoes in olive oil before heapin’ em on the bread.
Roasted pine nuts would make a fine sprinkle for several of these recipettes, but you’ll have to go the extra mile to roast the nuts. That’s about five minutes on medium high in a small skillet, stirrin’ or aggitatin’ constantly after the first minute. When you start to smell warm nut and they start to brown just a bit, take ‘em off the fire. Roasted nuts have about a 30-second window in which they go from beautiful to burnt.
Don’t Furget Dessert! I could do a whole dang nother article on what a sweet tooth is hankering for on top of French Bread. Here’s my best shot for a simple, elegant, healthy, Frenchy dessert. Spread Nutella (or some other brand of chocolate/hazelnut spread) generously on a slice of bread, then decorate to yur girly heart’s desire with drained and dried mandarin orange slices or sliced or chopped maraschino cherries, both of which come in the canned fruit section of yur grocer and can be found year round. Or use fresh raspberries or sliced strawberries. The warm Nutella is so dern good, doesn’t much matter what you put on it!
Well, with so many different choices, you can make a whole week’s meals out of one loaf o’ bread and a few add-ons. Or you can always freeze the rest of the loaf, and pull it out about 10 minutes before you want to start cookin. Just cut off what you need and put the rest back in the freezer. Bread is easy that way. So many of these add-ons last a long time too in the fridge, that once you get the basic ingredients, you can eat on ‘em for a month’s worth of quick and easy dinners after that long, hard day.
By Reba Ray