Friday, June 24, 2005


I never really got the hang of garlic bread. I don't serve many side dishes at all, especially bread, and on the rare occasions when I made garlic bread I just put on some butter and garlic powder the way everyone does, even though I abhor the artificial taste of garlic powder in nearly every other circumstance. The result was never bad, but never really exciting either. A couple of months ago, when I hosted a small dinner party for friends to watch the finale of The Amazing Race, I thought some garlic bread might round out the meal of pesto salmon, asparagus, and brownies I'd planned, but I knew my usual dull and haphazard method wouldn't cut it. So I hastened to, found the top-rated garlic bread recipe, made it, and loved it. There is butter, there is real garlic, there is nice seasoning, and there is the secret ingredient, olive oil, which makes the mixture nice and spreadable and helps the bread get toasty and crispy. I could eat an entire meal of this, but it wouldn't be that healthy, so I try to save it for special occasions. It is, however, also easy enough to whip up a half- or quarter-recipe on the spur of the moment to accompany a simple soup or salad supper. By the way, the original recipe suggested that after the garlic bread has been broiled, you could sprinkle some mozzarella cheese on top and put it back in the oven to melt and get golden brown, but that just seems too decadent. I'm afraid of how much I might love it.

1 large loaf Italian bread (ciabatta works well)
5 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the broiler.

2. Slice the loaf of bread in half the long way (so you have two pieces with long, flat tops). You want the bread to be as wide and soft as possible; a porous, bubbly bread like ciabatta will accept the butter better than a dense bread. (The first time I didn't plan well enough and had to use some baguette I had in the freezer--it didn't have much surface area for the topping and got too hard under the broiler, although it still tasted just fine.)

3. Mash all the other ingredients together in a small bowl with a fork, until you have a nice spreadable mixture. Spread this across the flat tops of the bread and place the bread directly on the oven rack under the broiler (or you can put it on a baking sheet first). Broil, watching the bread the entire time (things always broil much faster than I expect and I'm always burning them), until they are light brown and crisp on top. (We all have our desired degrees of toastiness--I still like the bread to be soft beneath a crisp crust, and the buttered portion to still be a bit yellow, just brown around the edges.)

4. Slice the bread and serve it.

Serves: 4-8, maybe?
Time: 5-10 minutes

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