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Muffuletta

Serves 4.

1 bagel-shaped loaf of bread (circular with a central hole), 8-10 inches in diameter
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup firmly packed basil leaves
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 red bell pepper
1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts
3/4 pound thinly sliced provolone
3/4 pound thinly sliced salami

1. Slice bread horizontally. With your fingers, remove the soft crumb from the interior of the bread, hollowing out both the top and bottom and leaving about 1/2 inch of crumb attached to the crust. Set aside a packed 1/4 cup of this soft crumb and use the rest for bread crumbs for another dish.

2. With the back of a large spoon, spread the butter on the cut sides of both halves of bread; set aside.

3. In a food processor, combine the basil, olives, and soft bread. Turn on the motor. With the motor running, add the oil and work the mixture into a paste. Add salt and pepper and transfer to a small bowl.

4. If you have a gas range, char the red pepper directly on a burner, turning it with tongs so it blackens all over. If you have an electric range, broil the pepper until it is blackened on all sides. Let the charred pepper cool slightly for 5 to 10 minutes to help loosen the skin.

5. Meanwhile, drain the artichoke hearts and chop them coarsely. Then, working over a plate, use your fingers to slip the blackened skin from the pepper, discarding the stem and seeds. Separate the pepper along its natural creases into 4 or 5 pieces.

6. To assemble the muffuletta: Layer 1/2 of the provolone on the bottom of the loaf. Spread with 1/3 of the olive paste, then 1/2 of the artichokes. Layer 1/2 of the salami over the artichokes, then top with 1/2 the remaining olive paste. Arrange the roasted pepper pieces over the olive paste. Add the remaining salami, olive paste, artichokes, and provolone. Set the top of the bread in place, pressing it firmly. Wrap the muffuletta in plastic wrap and chill for several hours. Cut into 4 pieces to serve.

JULIA BONAR

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