By Chef Linda
Behind every great sandwich is a good story. Reportedly, Salvatore Lupo, an Italian immigrant working in New Orleans in the 1930s created this sandwich as a way to combine all the individual luncheon components that the workers had purchased from his store, Central Grocery. Every day he'd watch the local workers sitting on crates and barrels, carefully balancing loaves of bread (often they bought round loaves called “muffuletta”), cheeses, meats, olives and pickled vegetables, eating each item separately. Lupo suggested that the workers cut the bread and layer all the items inside and eat it like a sandwich…and they did. Soon they came to Central Grocery asking for the ingredients assembled for them on the muffuletta bread. And so the world was introduced to the Muffuletta.
Culinary pundits declare that it's not the meat and cheese that makes a muffuletta, it's the briny, pickled flavors of the olive salad that put this sandwich in a league of its own. I'll buy that, because when you pair that divine olive salad with the smokey flavors of lightly charred vegetables and press it all together between a split loaf of fresh bread, no one would miss the meat. Not even Sal.
Roasted Veggie Muffuletta
1/2 cup giardiniera (pickled Italian vegetables, sold at deli counters or in grocery store in jars)
1/2 cup green, pimento-stuffed olives
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Pinch crushed red pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing vegetables
1 medium eggplant
1 large zucchini
2 red bell peppers
2 large portobello mushrooms
1 cup artichoke hearts, in water or oil
1 cup pepadew peppers, drained
1 large round loaf Italian bread
To Make Olive Salad: Place giardiniera, green and kalamata olives, capers, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper and 1/3 cup olive oil in a food processor. Pulse to combine, without over-blending. Set aside. Can be made several days in advance.
To Prepare Vegetables: Trim ends and peel eggplant, then cut into 1/4-inch rounds. Trim ends from zucchini. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/4-inch strips. Stem and seed bell peppers. Remove stems from portobello mushrooms. Brush all the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Grill vegetables in batches over medium heat until charred or browned. Allow the skin from the peppers to char until blackened. Place cooked vegetables on a large plate. When peppers are cool enough to touch, remove blackened skin and return to the plate with the other vegetables. Slice the portobello into thick strips.
To Make the Muffuletta: Cut the loaf of bread in half horizontally. Hollow out the two halves of the bread and reserve the extra bread for another use.
Spread the olive salad on both halves of the bread. Layer grilled vegetables, beginning with the bottom half, until they are gone. Use artichoke hearts and pepadew peppers as the final layers and cover with the top of the bread.
Place the bread on a plate and cover with another plate. Rest something heavy on top for several hours or overnight, like cans of tomatoes, to press the layers together. Serve chilled or at room temperature, cut into wedges.