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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Traditional Muffaletta Sandwich

This is a great sandwich to serve football fans because a lot of people have never heard of a Muffaletta. As a bonus, much of the work can be done in advance.

The Muffaletta (pronounced moo-fuh-LET-uh) is actually a large, round loaf of Sicilian bread which in New Orleans is used to make a Muffaletta Sandwich.  The origins of this sandwich trace back to the French Quarter in the early 1900's, and credit for this delicious sandwich should probably be given to the Italian immigrants as well as the influence from Spanish, French and Creole settlers also.
The texture of the bread is similar to a focaccia bread, with a coarse, sturdy texture. The bread is piled high with layers of deli meat and provolone cheese and finished off with a traditional olive salad.  Many restaurants in New Orleans have different variations of this sandwich on their menus.  Some of them warm the sandwich to melt the cheeses, or change the components of the sandwich, but the flavors are always brought together with the olives, celery, garlic and oregano in the salad mixture.
In order to make this sandwich a bit easier to handle, we substituted Pita Pockets, which had a surprisingly nice texture and held the sandwich together well.  It also made the sandwich more portable and a little less messy.
Be sure to make the Olive Salad early in the day so the flavors have time to develop.  This also makes last minute prep easy if you will be serving these for a party.  Enjoy!
1 large loaf Fresh Italian Bread (round loaf preferred) or use Pita Pockets
Olive Oil (optional)
5-6 oz thinly sliced Genoa Salami
5-6 oz thinly sliced Ham
5-6 oz Mortadella
5-6 oz thinly sliced Provolone Cheese

Slice the loaf of bread in half horizontally and scoop out about half of the soft interior from the top and bottom.

Brush the inside bottom of the loaf with olive oil if you like, or with the juice from the olive salad marinade. Layer on the cold cuts and cheese. Top the cold cuts with as much olive salad as will fit without spilling out. Replace the top of the loaf.  Cut into quarters and serve. Makes 1 loaf or 2 - 4 servings.

If using the Pita Pockets, slice a whole Pita in half and layer your meats and cheese inside, then top with a scoop of olive salad.

Olive Salad - Makes 1-1/2 cups, enough for 2 to 3 large loaf sandwiches

1 cup coarsely chopped Mixed Green and Black Olives
1/4 cup finely diced Celery
1/4 cup finely diced Carrot
2 tsp chopped Garlic
2 TB dried Oregano
1 tsp freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 TB Red Wine Vinegar
2 TB fresh Lemon Juice

Blend all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 3-6 hours. The salad will keep for several days refrigerated but gradually loses its punch.

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