Introduction: Fire-Toasted Parmesan Basil Bread

About: Science fiction and fantasy author. Once-archaeologist. Foodie. Mom. Occasional woodworker and beginning gardener.

We love having people over for a big, slow barbecue where we all sit around munching as various dishes come off the grill. But while the star of the show is slowly smoking away, it's great to have a fast, easy dish to get people started. So we pretty much always make this crowd-pleasing bread. Children and adults devour it, and from start to finish, it can be whipped up in as little as fifteen minutes. If you're a gardener, this is a nice way to use a bumper crop of basil, too. You'll need:


2 loaves of French bread (my pictures show three...I made extra)

1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick), room temperature

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/2 cup chopped basil

3 cloves garlic

Step 1: Prep the Bread

Toss the butter, Parmesan, basil, and garlic into a food processor. Pulse until it comes together into a paste. Or, if you're short on food processors, finely chop the garlic and basil, then mix everything by hand. This buttery goodness can easily be frozen, and then defrosted for later, if you like.

Slice your loaves of bread and lay them out flat. Spread each side with a layer of the butter mixture (I've found that trying to skimp and only butter one side leave one half of the loaf lusciously gooey, and the other side sad and dry).

Once they're buttered, put the loaves back together, and we're off to the grill.

Step 2: Toast the Bread

We've already got a nice charcoal fire going here. Many grills come with an upper rack, like ours. I like to use it for bread, because that extra distance from the fire ensures that the cheese has enough time to melt before the outside is burned. If you don't have a shelf like that, put the coals on one side, and cook the bread using indirect heat, turning the bread occasionally to get an even toast.

On our grill, this takes about eight minutes -- but of course, it depends on the fire and on the grill. To check the bread, tap the outside. It should be crisp. And if you peel the top of the loaf back, everything should be melted inside.

Step 3: Slice the Bread

And that's pretty much it! You should end up with a crispy, crunchy exterior and a gooey, cheesy interior -- all enhanced by the smokiness of the grill. Slice it up, and enjoy!

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