New Orleans takes its status as a culinary destination very seriously. In fact, the city without its food culture would be as empty as the city without Mardi Gras. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? From munching on sugar-dusted beignets to slurping up rich and murky gumbo, I will never forget the happy food that I enjoyed in the Big Easy.
Among the numerous iconic New Orleans food traditions is the muffuletta. Quite simply, it is an assembly of cured meats, mild cheese and tangy olive salad sandwiched between two halves of a sturdy Italian loaf. I’ll admit that it didn’t seem very impressive to me the first time I heard about it, nor after the first time I (mistakenly) ordered it from an unassuming casual restaurant. However, when I finally saw the colourful and tight-packed muffulettas from Central Grocery, I understood why it had become so famous.
The great thing about making this sandwich at home is that you can control how much of each ingredient you put into the sandwich (I could never handle the triple layers of salami that a classic recipe would call for!), and you can also knowledgably source your own meats. Because I live in Toronto, I love making visits to Kensington Market and getting my cured pork products from the best Ontario meat purveyors, and then hopping over to get my cheese and vegetables from the other shops nearby. As for the bread, I make my own!
- 1 cup each of green pimento-stuffed olives and kalamata olives (but any nice mix of olives will do), chopped
- 2 roasted red peppers, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 pepperoncini peppers, finely chopped
- 1 handful of parsley, chopped
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 dash black pepper
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 loaf Italian bread (I love focaccia but an Italian sesame round is also great)
- 4 oz provolone cheese, thinly sliced (about 8 standard slices)
- 4 oz salami, thinly sliced
- 4 oz mortadella or light ham, thinly sliced
- Make the olive salad the night before. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients listed under “olive salad” other than the olive oil. Drain out any excess liquid. Add the olive oil to the mixture and stir to combine again. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to make the sandwich, slice the Italian bread in half horizontally and spread the olive salad evenly on both sides.
- Arrange the salami slices on the bottom half of the bread, then add a layer of provolone, followed by a layer of ham or mortadella.
- Carefully close the sandwich and wrap the entire sandwich tightly in plastic. Let the sandwich stand for at least 10 minutes prior to cutting and serving so that the flavours get a chance to mingle.