I once considered the Po’ Boy with its fried oysters or shrimp and yummy aioli to be one of the greatest sandwiches ever created until I returned to THE eclectic city for foodies, New Orleans. As my husband, Bob and I ate and drank our way through the French Quarter, we stumbled across the muffuletta. You know that I am addicted to the Food Network; however, I have never actually viewed this sandwich being prepared. So let’s talk about it…
The muffuletta or muffaletta sandwich was invented at Central Grocery Company in the French Quarter by a Sicilian immigrant, Salvatore Lupo. Muffuletta is actually the bread; a round, slightly flat sesame loaf conducive for stacking all its parts onto it. The main component is marinated olive salad then topped with Italian cold cuts ~ mortadella or imported ham, Genoa salami, and provolone and/or mozzarella cheeses. The sandwich is often heated to soften the cheese. I can envision the farmers coming in to the grocery after selling their produce in the market and sitting atop of crates and barrels while balancing this ooey gooey, dripping creation on their laps. This neighborhood old-fashioned family owned grocery still exists (now with a deli counter and long customer lines) and is famous as the home of the New Orleans muffuletta. The olive salad is the basis for this sandwich and is sold in jars there but PLEASE follow my lead and make your own!
When I eat food that is extremely memorable to me, I have to prepare it and add my own signature. You cannot possibly eat this sandwich as a whole. My husband and I actually split a quarter of one as a mid-morning snack following the earlier sugar rush from beignets! You can bake your own bread but because baking bread is the bane of my existence, I used what was available here on the Shore, ciabatta bread. Ideally, making the olive salad a day in advance will allow all of the intense flavors to marry.
Ali’s Muffuletta (makes 4-6 sandwiches)
For the olive salad:
• ¾ cup pimento stuffed green olives
• ¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives
• ¼ cup giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables)*
• ½ cup red onion
• 2 T. capers
• 1 clove garlic
• 1 tsp. fresh oregano
• 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
• 2 T. olive oil
• Splash of red wine vinegar
• Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.
2. Refrigerate overnight if possible or 2 hours at room temperature.
For the sandwich:
- 2 slices bread of choice
- Olive salad
- Several slices of provolone cheese, mortadella or imported ham, Genoa salami and large rounds of pepperoni
1. Lightly toast the bread slices.
2. Spread a thick layer of olive salad on bread.
3. Top with as many slices of provolone, mortadella, salami and pepperoni as desired.
*Note: Jars of giardiniera are sold in most grocery stores.
A muffuletta sandwich is extremely salty and is not for those on a low sodium diet. Do not be tempted to add salt! Serve with a HUGE glass of water and perhaps a small, plain green salad if you must but it is a very hearty meal. AND Bob and I agree that this sandwich (aside from the roast porchetta sandwich we picked up on the side of the road in Italy) is quite possibly the BEST tasting ever!
I cannot close without mentioning other uses for the olive salad or even the sandwiches. So if you can’t make it to Mardi Gras, serve at your next celebration mini ‘slider’ muffulettas, olive salad on crostini or muffuletta bites in small tortilla chips.