On the calendar we are currently almost smack dab BETWEEN the solstices, and yesterday the weather was about as unencouraging as it is possible to be for going on a picnic, yet there was a small clamor in my family for a Solstice Loaf. When the kids were tots, before they became the young adults they are now, I ritually baked this loaf for family picnics celebrating the summer solstice, hence its name. Instead of making sandwiches, I would make this loaf, wrap it in foil, and then we would gather the kids and their STUFF (there's always a shocking amount of stuff required for taking kids of any age, anywhere), and a blanket or two, and we would go to a park on the river and revel in the afternoon light of the longest day of the year. Besides toting along for picnics, this loaf is also great for potlucks, New Year's Eve noshing, and for any make-ahead-take-along-type meal. Despite it's versatility and overall appeal, I only make it a few times a year, though it is simply scrumptious and my family loves it. I suppose by only making it once in a great while, I keep it special.
It is not that difficult to do, but it takes planning and a few ingredients I seldom have on hand, and I think it was the salami leftover from making the muffaleta sandwiches that prompted the request for making this solstice loaf in March. I make a dough for a single pizza crust (1 c. water, 1 T. yeast, 1 t. salt, 2 T. olive oil, 4 c. flour), let it raise, and then on an oiled sheet form a flat rectangle. Leaving adequate room on both sides to fold up and enclose the filling, I layer the following:
2-4 minced garlic cloves sauteed in 3 T. olive oil, cooled, and mixed with 8 oz. Neufchatel Cheese
2-4 oz. Italian salami (I used salami and mortadella here), deli meat or sausage -or omit meats for a vegetarian version (and add some diced red or green bell peppers instead)
3 sliced mushrooms
1/4 c. sliced green and/or black olives
4-8 slices of mozzarella or provolone cheese
3 T. pesto and/or chopped fresh spinach leaves
2-4 T. chopped sweet onions (I just used yellow onions here)
I fold up the edges and ends, pinch together and seal. Here is the tricky part: I turn the whole roll so that the seal is on the bottom. I suppose this step could be skipped but then the seam may pop open during baking, and I really hate it when it does that! Cut vents and bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes (or 400 degrees for 20 minutes), or until it's golden brown and the loaf sounds hollowish when tapped. Cool. Slice and wrap in aluminum foil for picnics or potluck toting. Or, as we did last night, slice and serve with warm soup, while marveling at the fury of the rain outside pounding on the windows.