Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Muffuletta and Olive Salad

I've been vacationing, another word for eating, my way around the States. I was lucky enough to spend some time in New Orleans, and especially lucky that I experienced a N'Awlins tradition, the muffuletta sandwich. The place to have one is at Central Market on Decatur Street, a block from the French Market deep in the French Quarter. Now, Central Market itself is fascinating, it's been around since 1906 and is one of those markets with a wooden floor and as many Italian ingredients as I've ever seen anywhere. But the line in the market, and it's a long line, is all about the muffuletta. By the way, the people at the counter pronounce it muff-a-lotta. This is a thick sandwich of foccacia type bread filled with salami, capicola, mortadella, emmental, provolone, and olive salad. Yes, there's a-lotta olive salad. Mmmmm! My husband doesn't even like olives, but there were no complaints on his lips, as he ate every tasty bite of his sandwich. In addition to their starring role in muffuletta, olive salad is delicious topping bruschetta, or all on it's own. I haven't found this delicious olive salad available near home, so here's my take. There's two versions here, the second one being quicker.

Olive Salad

1/2 cup chopped cauliflower
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped, roasted red pepper
1-1/2 cup pitted green olives
1/2 cup pitted kalamata or black olives
1 Tbs capers
2 Tbs chopped pepperoncini
2 Tbs chopped fresh Italian, flat leaf parsley
1 tsp chopped garlic
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 Tbs red wine vinegar
1-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
fresh ground pepper to taste


Roast a red pepper (directions follow), chop to 1/2 inch dice, and add to a large bowl. Fill a small saucepan with about 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Chop all vegetables so that they are about 1/2 inch dice. Add chopped cauliflower, carrot, and celery to pan and parboil for about 2 minutes. If you have a steamer, these vegetables can also be steamed for the same amount of time. Drain vegetables and add to a large bowl. Cut or flatten olives, and chop to about 1/2 inch dice. Add remaining ingredients to bowl and mix well. Cool and refrigerate for 24 hours before use. Olive salad may be kept for several days in the refrigerator, if it will last that long!

To roast red pepper: Preheat broiler to low. Cut red pepper in half, then remove veins and seeds. Also, remove the sticker ... it's almost impossible to remove once the peppers are cooked!Flatten peppers and place on a baking pan, skin side up. Broil peppers until the skin blackens and starts to blister, then remove from oven. Cover peppers and wait for about 10 minutes to remove the skin. Rather than using foil, I cover the peppers with a cover from a large pot. Cut peppers to size, refrigerate remaining peppers for other uses.

Quick and Easy Olive Salad

1-1/2 cups pitted green olives
1/2 cup pitted kalamata or black olives
1-1/2 cups prepared giardiniera, drained
1 Tbs capers
2 Tbs chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions: I find prepared giardiniera with the pickles in the grocery. It's also available at Italian specialty markets. Chop olives and vegetables so that they are about a 1/2 inch dice. Add to a large mixing bowl. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl. Mix well, then refrigerate until ready to use.

Muffuletta Sandwich


Sesame Topped Foccacia Bread Roll, about 10" diameter
1/2 to 1 cup Olive Salad
1/8 lb sliced Genoa style salami
1/8 lb sliced spicy capicola
1/8 lb sliced mortadella
2 or more slices emmental or mozzarella, enough to cover roll
2 or more slices provolone, enough to cover roll


Slice the roll in half, then spread some of the olive oil from the salad on each inside of the bread. Layer the sandwich with the meats and cheese, topping with the olive salad. Cut the sandwich in half or quarters. Wrap the sandwich in foil or plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes. This step in important as it allows all the flavors to meld. Unwrap, and enjoy!

Makes one sandwich!

Stealthy Cooking Tip: This makes one really big sandwich. It's definitely enough to share between two, three, or even four people. While I don't usually cook with lunch meats, because of their higher sodium levels, I also don't believe you have to stop eating them entirely. It's how often you eat them and how much you eat. That said, today's tip is all about portion size. Cutting the sandwich before it's wrapped makes it easier to see portion size, easier to share, and easier to put on a plate to eat. This portion makes enough for an incredibly large meal for two people, or a more reasonalbe meal for four. Add a side salad, and you'll certainly be filled up. This sandwich is good! So share it, and you'll have something fun to talk about with friends or family.

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