VEGETARIAN MUFFULETTA

vegetarian muffuletta

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

Today is Mardi Gras – French for Fat Tuesday – and I can only imagine the good times are most certainly rolling down in New Orleans. No doubt, the population is likely doubled as parade goers descend upon the city to enjoy the last day of festivities before the Carnival season draws to a close. While Carnival is a period of indulgence leading up to the Christian Lenten season, its culmination on Fat Tuesday is all about feasting on rich and decadent foods before the fasting of Lent begins, especially meat-laden dishes (carne vale – Latin for “farewell to meat”).

vegetarian muffuletta recipe
vegetarian muffuletta
vegetarian muffuletta
One of the meatiest signature dishes of New Orleans is the muffuletta – a submarine-style sandwich consisting of a round loaf of Sicilian sesame bread filled with meat, cheese and olive salad, which originated at Central Grocery in the French Quarter. According to the founder’s daughter, Marie Lupo Tusa, she says in her cookbook that Sicilian immigrant farmers who sold their produce at the nearby Farmers’ Market used to come to the grocery each day for lunch. It was the Sicilian fashion to eat everything separately. However, as they sat on barrels and crates while they ate, they were forced to balance a plate of olive salad, salami, ham, cheese and bread on their knees. To make it easier for the farmers, her father decided to slice the bread and sandwich everything in between it, at first experimenting with a thicker braided bread, but ultimately deciding it was too firm and opting for the softer muffuletta bread instead. It was only a matter of time before farmers simply started ordering “muffuletta” for lunch.

vegetarian muffuletta recipe
vegetarian muffuletta
vegetarian muffuletta
My husband, being a Louisiana boy and all, loves a good muffuletta. Back when we first started dating, he brought me home with him and took me to a local place in Shreveport for a muffuletta date. He had spent the weeks prior to our trip raving about the sandwiches. Now, as we lived in Los Angeles, we had gotten used to most places having a vegetarian option of just about anything for me. Imagine our disappointment, then, when we finally arrived in Shreveport to discover there was no vegetarian muffuletta to be had (granted, this was 1999, and there are plenty of veggie versions available now). Alas, he was forced to order his muffuletta to go and drove straight to Subway to get me a veggie delight. I don’t know who was more disappointed, he or I, since I did not get my muffuletta fix, and he didn’t get to share a Louisiana tradition with me. No worries, in the end – this vegetarian muffuletta is the just solution for that. Whether you’re giving up meat for Lent, trying to cut back on meat, or just looking for a delicious and filling vegetarian sandwich, this is a muffuletta you can enjoy long after Fat Tuesday.

vegetarian muffuletta
vegetarian muffuletta
vegetarian muffuletta -14
 
VEGETARIAN MUFFULETTA

For the Giardiniera

Ingredients (serves 6-8):
1 red bell pepper, chopped
¼ head cauliflower, chopped into small florets
3 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
¼ cup salt
¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
water to cover

Directions:
Chop all veggies and place into large glass or non-reactive bowl. Add salt and toss to coat. Fill bowl with enough water to cover veggies. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in fridge overnight. Drain and rinse veggies the following day. Toss veggies with vinegar, olive oil and oregano and marinate in fridge for at least 12 hours.

For the Olive Salad

Ingredients (serves 6-8):
½ cup green olives, pitted and chopped
½ cup marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
Giardiniera, from above
Black pepper, freshly ground

Directions:
Chop olives and artichokes and mix together in bowl with the giardiniera. Season with black pepper to taste. Optional: add some chopped serrano peppers or red pepper flakes to add heat.

For the Muffuletta

Ingredients (serves 6-8):
1 focaccia loaf or other round Italian bread (or individual rolls)
6-8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
6-8 slices provolone cheese
½ red onion, thinly sliced
Olive salad, from above

Directions:
Slice the top inch off of bread or roll. Set aside top. On bottom half of bread or roll, layer olive salad, then provolone, then red onions, then mozzarella, then more olive salad. Place top half of bread back on top and cut into 6-8 individual servings.

Notes: Though it’s not traditional, there are plenty of other veggie ingredients you can add for variety: avocado, tomato, arugula, eggplant, mushrooms, just to name a few. It’s considered blasphemous to heat the sandwich, as it’s traditionally served at room temperature, but by all means toast away if it pleases you.

Want to read about my first trip to New Orleans? Find it: here

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