There is still time for a few picnics before colder fall weather arrives. These are great, versatile, make-ahead sandwiches for a picnic or potluck and are easy to assemble and impressive to serve . . . and there is no dish to drag home! Bonus.
I've used various kinds of bread and all have worked well. Just consider your diners; lots of kids won't eat seeds and nuts and many vegetables. For children and pickier eaters, the large, round Hawaiian bread is perfect.
The first time I made this I followed the recipe for Layered Torte in Hollowed-Out Bread from The Joy of Cocktails and Hors d'Oeurvres by Bev Bennett and Kim Upton. It involves a layer of frozen, thawed spinach, squeezed dry and mixed with other ingredients. It was good, but I prefer the simpler way I have done it since then.
It is easy to pile on whatever favorite ingredients are desired. You can go with a pizza theme by using provolone, mozzarella, pepperoni, salami and tomatoes; brush the inside of the bread with Italian dressing. Go vegetarian with cheese and vegetables. Mediterranean? Southwestern? A Greek version just popped into my head: spinach, eggplant, peppers, Feta and Kasseri cheeses, hummus, gyro loaf. For kids, you might stick to ham, turkey and milder cheeses . . . though the grownups liked that version, too.
Picnic Sandwiches in Hollowed Bread
Large, round or oval bread, unsliced (Sourdough, Italian, Hawaiian, pumpernickel, artisan style)
Deli meats or thinly sliced roast chicken or pork
Sliced or crumbled cheeses
Lettuce or spinach leaves, optional
Salad dressing of choice
Slice off the top of bread evenly, about 3/4- to 1-inch thick, and set aside, Hollow out the loaf, leaving the bottom about 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick. Brush inside of loaf and bottom of top with salad dressing.
Layer desired elements, varying the colors so it is pretty when sliced. However, be sure to have cheese on the bottom, in the middle and as the last layer before top is placed back on. When you bake it, the cheese melts and it all stays together better when you slice it.
Layer until almost to the top and replace the bread lid. Brush outside of bread with olive oil, wrap in foil and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. Refrigerate until cooled. I usually make these the day ahead.
When cold, slice into wedges, place back in foil and transport that way. Serve cold or tepid. Note: It is easier to slice when cold.
I do recommend that you roast, grill or otherwise cook peppers, zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms and eggplant before layering. It is easier to layer and augments the flavor.
Serves 6 to 8