The Italians soon settled in comfortably into New Orleans culture, and their contribution to local culture and cuisine has been immeasurable; in fact, you frequently see “Creole-Italian” referred to as one of the local sub-cuisines. This kind of cooking is epitomized at places like Mandina’s, Liuzza’s, and the many places in the city that serve muffuletta sandwiches.
According to the tale I heard from my Cajun uncle, the muffuletta sandwich was invented by Signor Lupo Salvadore, who opened the now-famous little Italian market called Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter in 1906 and created the muffuletta sandwich, named for a favored customer (although I had also heard that the sandwich was named for the baker of the round Italian bread on which the sandwich is served).
Either way, it’s an awesome sandwich, though the version I make is a little tweaked. I don’t like the green olives in my tapenade, the salty/sour doesn’t do it for me, so I changed it a bit. (Sorry, Unc!)
1 cup rough-chopped black olives
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoon minced shallots
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely diced carrot
1 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
Salt to taste
To make the sandwich:
1 large loaf of fresh Italian bread (circular loaf preferred)
4 ounces thinly sliced Genoa salami
4 ounces thinly sliced cappocolo, culatello, or other cured Italian ham, thinly sliced
4 ounces mortadella
4 ounces mozzarella, thinly sliced
4 ounces provolone, or Fontina, thinly sliced
Thoroughly mix all the olive salad ingredients together. This will yield about 1-1/2 cups, enough for 2-3 large loaf sandwiches.
To make the sandwich, slice the loaf of bread horizontally and scoop out about half of the soft dough from the top and bottom.
Brush the bottom of the loaf with olive oil or juice from the olive salad marinade. Layer on the cheese, then the meats. Top with as much olive salad as will fit without spilling out. Replace top of loaf. Cut into quarters. Serve with root beer or (my favorite) cream soda.
This will serve 2-4 depending on appetite.
OPTIONS: If you’re not sure you’ll like the olives, you can either leave them out completely, or replace them with 1/2 chopped sweet banana peppers (make sure they’re the sweet peppers, not the hot!)
Actually, if you mix up everything but the olives and/or peppers, you could make a tiny “test” batch of each to decide which you prefer before you assemble your sandwiches.