Summertime, with its good weather and long light evenings, always means more spontaneous meals with friends. The past few days we’ve had plenty of them because my sister and I and a couple of girlfriends took all our many children to some nice little cabins by a beach on an island. We worked hard all day–the pool! the beach! the playground! roasting marshmallows!–and collapsed at the shady picnic tables at the end of each day for a small feast together. (Although “collapsed” may be wishful thinking here; moms traveling alone with a contingent of young children rarely get to “collapse” for more than two consecutive minutes, I’ve learned.)
One of my favorite strategies for feeding a hungry crowd is to slice a baguette or two in half lengthwise, stuff it full of delicious things, and cut it into many pieces. Serve a few salads alongside and voila, an easy dinner for as many people as you need to feed. (Bonus points if you give the kids popsicles for dessert so they can run off and get sticky while the grown-ups linger over another drink.)
The classic caprese combination (tomato, mozzarella, basil) makes one of my favorite sandwiches. I find that some versions can get a little dry, though, so I juice mine up by using pesto instead of basil leaves and a generous drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
The order of assembly is important here: pesto on the bottom half of the bread, please, and vinegar on the top, so that the vinegar soaks down into the tomatoes, which should be on top of the cheese, which collaborates with the pesto to keep the bottom piece of bread from getting soggy. Got that? Top to bottom inside your baguette: balsamic vinegar, tomato, fresh mozzarella, good basil pesto. Yes, I spend time thinking about these kinds of things. I can admit it here because I know that you do, too. That’s why I’m glad we’re friends.
Tomato, Pesto, and Mozzarella Sandwich: Slice a baguette in half lengthwise, but don’t cut all the way through; leave a little bit at the edge to act as a hinge and hold it all together. Scoop out some of the interior crumb if it’s thick, saving the bread guts to make rough croutons or breadcrumbs. Slather the bottom half of the bread with a good basil pesto, then layer on thick slices of fresh mozzarella and tomato. Douse the top half of the bread with good balsamic vinegar. Close, slice, and serve.
Do you make this ahead, or assemble it at the picnic? Would it fall apart in transport?
Holy crap. I see a toasted moxeralla version somewhere in my near future. I forgot how good a simple sandwich like that can be.
An alternative I like is to drizzle the bottom half with good extra virgin olive oil, and just basil instead of pesto. Not dry and a lighter taste than pesto (which is also outstanding).
Holy gigantic sandwich, Batman! I love the idea of stuffing caprese salad into a huge loaf of bread. Definitely great for picnic time!
SUPER YUM!!!! And my head immediately went to Somer’s moxerella. Bet she beats me to it. Thanks for sharing.
Love this…and I’m with you, I sometimes prefer pesto over the basil leaves.
Excellent suggestion for big-crowd meals. And as for thinking about the order in which to build a sandwich, well that seems perfectly natural to me. How could we not think about these things?!?
What island and beach did you go to? I need to get out and see the area and am starting my list of things to do with visitors. :)