Olive Mix and the Muffaletta – I was raised in Lo…

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Olive Mix and the Muffaletta – I was raised in Louisiana, and any trip to New Orleans automatically meant a trip to Central Grocery, in the French Quarter. That shop was my first taste, not only of this delicious sandwich, but of exotic foods in general. They stocked, and still stock, all sorts of European ethnic foods. If you get a chance to go, my father’s picture is on a newspaper clipping to the left of one of the cashiers, pinned to the wooden partition. It was taken in the 70’s, I believe! We would buy a muffaletta sandwich and something to drink, and either eat it there or outside. We would also be sure to purchase a jar or two of the olive salad mix to take home.

Going to Central Grocery is still a part of my “Visit to New Orleans Routine” – (only two more weeks until I am there for the TESOL Convention!), only I might add a bag of Zapp’s Potato Chips to the lunch. I will have to talk to them about my purchase last year, however. Usually, I can store the jar of Olive Salad in the pantry until it is opened. This time, however, after storing it, I opened it and it started bubbling up and over the sides of the jar like a volcanic eruption! My father-in-law’s jar did the same! I guess it needs to be refrigerated pronto from now on!

In this entry, I hope to share with you some alternatives to going all the way to New Orleans to experience this delicacy – although any reason to go to New Orleans is good for me! I have had recipes for Olive Salad – or Olive Mix, as it is sometimes called – passed along to me, but have not made them. Actually, in the Costco deli section, there is a great olive mix that can be used. You can also order Olive salad over the Internet!

Muffuletta Olive Salad from Fabulous Foods.com

Note from Cheri: Although technically a salad, this recipe is usually served as a spread as a basis for New Orleans’ famous Muffuletta Sandwich. However, it is a versatile ingredient that can be used to season pastas, vegetable and meat dishes as well. Think of using this much in the same way you could use pesto. You can find Giardiniera in Italian markets and in the pickle sections of most supermarkets.

1/2 C black brine cured olives, such as kalamatas

1/2 C green olives

1 C finely chopped celery, with leaves

1 C Giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables)

1/3 C chopped fresh Italian parsley

3-4 clove garlic

1/4 C olive oil

1/2 – 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pit olives (if necessary) and combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until mixed, but still somewhat chunky — do not puree (see photo). For the best flavor, cover and refrigerate for a few hours before using.

Here is another recipe, which seems more authentic – only because it has so much more stuff in it!. It is from Gumbo Pages.com – a recipe for the sandwich is included:

The Muffaletta Sandwich

For the olive salad:

1 gallon large pimento stuffed green olives, slightly crushed and well drained

1 quart jar pickled cauliflower, drained and sliced

2 small jars capers, drained

1 whole stalk celery, sliced diagonally

4 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced diagonally

1 small jar celery seeds

1 small jar oregano

1 large head fresh garlic, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 jar pepperoncini, drained (small salad peppers) left whole

1 pound large Greek black olives

1 jar cocktail onions, drained

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or pot and mix well. Place in a large jar and cover with 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 Crisco oil. Store tightly covered in refrigerator. Allow to marinate for at least 24 hours before using.

For the sandwich:

1 round loaf italian bread

1/4 pound mortadella, thinly sliced

1/4 pound ham, thinly sliced

1/4 pound hard Genoa salami, thinly sliced

1/4 pound Mozzarella cheese, sliced

1/4 pound Provolone cheese,sliced

1 cup olive salad with oil

Split a muffuletta loaf or a loaf of Italian bread horizontally. Spread each half with equal parts of olive salad and oil. Place meats and cheeses evenly on bottom half and cover with top half of bread. Cut in quarters. Enjoy!

Serves four timid dieters, two hearty New Orleanians or one incredible maiale.

Now, there are many variations, including this complicated one from The Culinary Institute of New Orleans.

Now, for the variations. As mentioned above, there are many things that Olive Salad can be used on. I was visiting Emeril Lagasse’s site, and he has recipes for Muffaletta, Muffaletta Calzones, and Fried Calamari with Creole Olive Salad. Sounds yummy!

I believe that it was my sister, or my father, that first told me about a pasta salad that was being made with muffaletta ingredients. Until I get her recipe, here is one from Sara Moulton.com:

Muffaletta Pasta by Jeff Lane

Makes about 15 (2 cup) servings or enough for the whole neighborhood

1 pound shaped pasta (such as spirals, wagon wheels, penne)

kosher salt

2 pounds andouille sausage, cut into ½-inch cubes

1/2 pound tasso (Cajun spiced ham), cut into ½-inch cubes

1 (32-ounce) jar olive salad

4 large stalks celery, coarsely chopped

2 bell peppers (any color), coarsely chopped

1 large red onion, coarsely chopped

1 bunch green onions, white and green parts chopped separately

1 pound salami, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 pound Italian-style grated cheese mixture (or ½ pound each Provolone and Swiss cheeses, grated)

Ground black pepper

Cook pasta in salted water in 8 quart stockpot following package directions until al dente; drain in colander and set aside.

In same stockpot, saute andouille and tasso in 2 tablespoons oil from olive salad (or olive oil if salad doesn’t include oil) until sausage is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Add celery, pepper, red onion, and white part of green onions. Saute, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just tender, about 8 minutes.

Stir in olive salad with any remaining oil, salami and the cooked pasta. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until all ingredients are hot. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Transfer to large serving bowl and sprinkle with green part of green onions, if using.

Note: If you have trouble finding these ingredients in your part of the country – olive salad, andouille sausage and tasso are available on the internet at Cajun Grocer.com

I plan on making something like this for my husband’s choir potluck this week, as well as for packed lunches!Semolina Restaurant in New Orleans has an interesting hot pasta dish with Muffaletta ingredients.

Last, but not least, my father put together Muffaletta bites for a party once. Basically, he sliced good french bread into thin slices, chopped up luncheon meat and put a layer of that on the slices, which were spread on an oiled cookie sheet. He then added a bit of chopped olive salad and some provolone or mozzarella cheese on top, and baked the slices in the oven until the cheese was bubbly.

I am a big fan of pizza, and this translates well to pizza – no tomato sauce, please! Here is Emeril’s version of Muffaletta Pizza and another fromRecipe Gold Mine. I don’t make dough of any kind right now, so I prefer to use pocketless pita from Kontos. They taste great!

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