I have a confession to make: I'm a little late to the The Pioneer Woman phenomenon. I had heard the name of the blog bandied about but never read the blog until I went to BlogHerFood in San Francisco. The quiet chatter amongst everyone at the conference that Ree Was Here made me perk up my ears. As she talked during her panel, I was taken aback by how humble, self-effacing and witty she was – not to mention completely stunning. I was instantly a fan.
As one of the treats in our after-after party swag bags, Ree included vouchers for her book, which I took advantage of immediately. Just like her blog, the tales she tells draw you in. Her writing and approach to cooking and feeding her family make you want to know her. You feel like you DO know her. She's the every woman's SuperWoman.
This is what drew myself and some friends to her book signing in Atlanta this week. Our group – including fellow bloggers The Broke Socialite and Susan along with my friends Jen and Andrea – were only a drop in the bucket at this thing. The crowds snaked between rows and rows of bookshelves – Ree must have signed books for hours after we left. Connections with people like that are real. Her blog and all of her success comes from a pure, warm-hearted place. I was so happy to be able to say hello and support her in her venture.
If you haven't seen or purchased the book yet, do so. While a lot of the recipes are a little stick-to-your-ribs and meat-centric for me, I love the recipe play by play throughout the book. If you want a book that's going to tell you EXACTLY how to make solid versions of classic recipes, this is it. The recipe that kept sticking out in my mind was a decadent Cheesy Olive Bread. It has all my favorite things in it: crunchy bread, gooey cheese, and briney olives. See why my bathrobe is tight?
Between my recent trip to Louisiana and my New Orleans Saints-obsessed boyfriend, I decided to spin this recipe into Muffuletta Bread. While this batch I made left off the meat, you could easily place a layer of salami and mortadella underneath the cheese mixture. Ree's original recipe lended itself to substituting plain olives for the classic olive salad, complete with chopped giardinara. A little Cajun seasoning added some zip. This was delicious. The topping is gooey – almost like spinach dip – and a great contrast to crunch Ciabatta bread. It's already on the menu for our New Year's Eve party – a hearty appetizer to feed a group.
Muffuletta Bread – based on a recipe by The Pioneer Woman found here
– Preheat oven to 325F.
– Chop green olives and black olives in a rough chop. Chop green onion into uniform thin slices. Rough chop giardinara. Discard any stems from peppers, etc included in your vegetable mix. Add to large mixing bowl.
– To that bowl, add: mayonnaise, softened butter, shredded Provolone & Cheddar, and Cajun seasoning. Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Spread mixture evenly on each side of Ciabatta loaf. Place on large baking sheet and bake in oven for 30 minutes. Check to ensure that cheese mixture on top is golden and bubbly – you may have to give it a few minutes depending on your oven. Cut into pieces and serve immediately.