Monthly Archives: August 2013

Miracle Food: Sautéed Leeks & Carrots

If you like leeks and carrots like I do, you will be amazed how delicious, yet simple this gluten free vegetarian dish/side course is. 

It has been a keeper for me ever since I discovered the recipe in Mireille Guiliano’s book ‘’French Women Don’t Get Fat’’ (in which the queen of Veuve Clicquot shares her tips how to eat, enjoy food and stay slim French way). She calls leek a ‘’miracle food’’ for low calories, tons of fiber, vitamins and, most importantly, the ability to detoxify and remove excess water from the body (mild diuretic). This particular dish is excellent in combination with many other vegetarian dishes, as well as pastas, rice and, especially fish dishes. Great when hot or cold, travels well, can be prepared well in advance and stored in a fridge for a few days.  
I personally love to sprinkle it with some roasted almonds or shaved sharp cheese and pair this dish with grilled sardines or potato-crusted salmon. If you have any leftovers, you can turn them into a savory frittata, risotto, or even soup (with your choice of veggies added). Or just follow Mrs. Guiliano’s tip and have them on the toasted crusty bread drizzled with some good olive oil and topped with Swiss or Cheddar (warm up until the cheese is melted). There is another leek dish Mireille Guiliano is famous for: the ‘’drinking leek broth’’ for a healthy week-end fasting and weight control. Great to expel uric acid and cholesterol, however, totally distasteful compared to this one.



Try to make it for a change and it will hook you fast (unless you are the leeks hater). Now that farmer’s markets and groceries are abundant in both, fresh leeks and carrots, it’s time to enjoy what we call eat seasonal, eat local and give yourself some boost of energy.

The recipe takes just few ingredients (carrots, leeks, shallots, olive oil and butter) and about 15 minutes of your time. I added a bit of lemon juice and a pinch of dry oregano for an extra layer of taste, otherwise the recipe has been unaltered.

SAUTEED LEEKS & CARROTS
Yields: 4 servings.
Ingredients:
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 oz carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup of water
10 oz leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
2 tbsp shallots, minced
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed (optional)
1 pinch of dry oregano (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Instructions:
Warm 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet. Add carrots, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of water, lemon juice and herbs (if using), season with salt and pepper, and stir in the leeks and shallots. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender. Add the butter, and cook for a minute or two more.

Adapted from: ‘’French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure’’ by Mireille Guiliano, Vintage, October 2007

Say Sardine: Part I

It’s fun to catch the last glimpse of summer having a little
Grilled Sardines alfresco party. Succulent, fatty and so-Mediterranean, freshly
grilled sardines taste totally different from canned and are sometimes called ‘’brain
food’’ for their high nutritional value. Sardines are packed with Omega 3,
B-vitamins, selenium, niacin, calcium and many other good things, and, are unbelievably
tasty.

Which is why, their lusty grilled aroma remains as alluring
as ever all along the beaches of, practically, any Mediterranean country (and,
of course, Portugal). Who can ever forget the traditional Malaga’s chiringuito
experience with sardines skewered on bamboo sticks and grilled over the drift
wood in an old fishing boat berthed in the sand? Or Lisbon’s favourite open-air
salt-packed sardinhas grelhadas served with a simple potato, tomato and grilled
capsicum salad?
Curiously, my first grilled sardines know-how hails from one
disastrous dim-sum dining experience. The story is actually worth telling. Imagine
a cold winter Sunday morning. You read an article from a major press (La Presse),
which goes: ‘’… you can have tons of delicious treats and a mountain of crisp-fried
sardines at this place for just a few dollars … will make you come back to this
newly opened dim-sum restaurant again and again…’’ Yumm, sounds so attractive!
Sure enough, I go to check out the place. When I arrive the place is packed, so
I park myself between the doors with many others. Next thing I notice, I am
squeezed between people who all have well-spread herpes labialis (cold sore) on their face. I feel threatened. My first
instinct tells me to ‘’FLEE’’, but my perseverance wins so I just cover my face
with the scarf and try not to breeze. I think about the reward I am about to
get – sardines… My turn comes up and I am rushing into a crowded dining hall to
be placed among other sardine lovers. A grim-faced female server stops by my
table, says something in Chinese and hands me down few baskets from her cart. I
ask her if I can have some sardines. The woman gives me the stink eye and
leaves without an answer. I take a bite of the gluey samples in hope that
sardines are coming with the next cart. The slippery-cold bock choy and
dumplings which taste like a cross between radish burp and slime bring me back
to the thought that, perhaps, leaving the place at once was not such a bad
idea. But I am on the mission to get sardines… Another elderly server comes
by and slides down something fried that looks like pig-ear crisp, although can be
a sliced cardboard soaked overnight and deep-fried this morning. I begin to speak
louder and gesticulate to make it clear that I want sardines and I don’t see
them among the dishes served. She answers something in Chinese (again) and
drifts away with her cart leaving me no options but to go look for a manager. I
find him in the steamy kitchen which smells like rotten cabbage and can convert
to a ‘’Day of the Sorcerer’’ movie set in a snap.  He confirms to me that they run out of
sardines (what?!).  More than ‘’a few
dollars’’ short, I leave the place praying not to develop a sore on my lip…  But I am now even more determined to get
bloody sardines. I have two options: I can go high-end (Fereira Café, or
similar) and be treated for sure, OR, I can go to La Mer (the fish market) and buy some fresh
sardines and cook them myself. And since my belly is bloated with crap which La Presse journalist called ‘’delicious
treats’’, and my daily resto budget is gone, I do the latter.  Voilà, with a bit of
patience, garlic, lemon, olive oil and salt I finally succeed to have a
mountain of freshly-roasted sardines for a few dollars indeed. I celebrate this
with Rhapsody in Blue
and a glass of chilled Rosé…
My point is, as long as you can buy two pounds of frozen
sardines at $2.99 (at marche Adonis
, for example), you don’t have to go through my try-&-fail dining experience
and can successfully feed a small army on a budget with some of the following fool-proof
tips. 
Frozen sardines are much easier to clean than fresh: use
your fingers to shave the scale in a bowl of water (I find using the back of the
knife still breaks the tender flesh); slit the underbelly and pull the guts out
while the fish is still half-frozen. Leave the head and tail on or cut them off
if you prefer. For fresh sardines and more elaborate technique of making
sardine butterflied (en papillote), follow these tips. I personally don’t
like to fiddle with that, especially when sardines are to be grilled: the bones
play the major role in developing umami during the cooking process. Here are some of my favorite ways to cook and serve grilled sardines:
International: marinated in lemon/garlic/parsley/olive
oil/salt/pepper sauce for 15-30 minutes, grilled on medium-high for 3 minutes
on each side. Excellent with carrot-leeks side dish.
Portuguese: simple and fast – encrust sardines with
layers of kosher salt; keep in the fridge for an hour or so, then just wash the
salt off, pat dry and throw them on a grill (again, 3 minutes each side). PS:
sardines cooked this way are often not gutted (it is best though to apply this
technique with fresh sardines). Serve with lemon wedges and simple salad of
your choice.
Spanish: in escabeche sauce (mix of olive oil, a bit
of red/white vinegar, garlic and herbs simmered for 10 minutes) splashed over
the grilled sardines and served cool – utterly delicious and well worth trying.
Greek:
wrapped in wine leaves. This is one of my preferred techniques – vine leaf wrap
prevents the fat from burning, helps to manipulate the grill easily and keeps
the sardine flesh moist. Works well on the frying pan too. 
Good tip:
use wilted lettuce or wild grape leaves (popular weed in our backyards, see the
image below), if you don’t have real vine leaves handy. (FYI, you can also make
an awesome sauce for the grilled meat from wild grapes.) Just collect the
biggest wild vine leaves, rinse and simmer them in salted water (2 tablespoons/1
liter) for 5-7 minutes. Drain and let cool before wrapping.
PS: Please do not confuse the
wild grapes though with Menispermum Canadense plant which is poisonous. 

 Simple, healthy and unforgettable!
***
GRILLED SARDINES WRAPPED IN WINE LEAVES
Ingredients:
2 lbs (1 kg) or 12-16 medium to large size
sardines
12-16 vine leaves in brine, washed
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced (optional)
1/3 teaspoon fresh or dry thyme, minced (optional)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to
taste
Instructions:
Scale sardines with your fingers under the
running water, gut them and wash. Pat dry and rub the fish with a mix of lemon
juice, olive oil, garlic and herbs, OR just sprinkle with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Wrap sardines individually with vine leaves rinsed from the brine. Preheat the grill to medium-high.
Grill for 3-5 minutes on each side or until flesh flakes well when tested. Serve
with lemon wedges, crusty bread, chilled white or rosé and lotsa napkins. OR, serve grilled
sardines as meze with a shot of ouzo. Enjoy your alfresco!

Say Sardine: Part I

It’s fun to catch the last glimpse of summer having a little Grilled Sardines alfresco party. Succulent, fatty and so-Mediterranean, freshly grilled sardines taste totally different from canned and are sometimes called ‘’brain food’’ for their high nutritional value. Sardines are packed with Omega 3, B-vitamins, selenium, niacin, calcium and many other good things, and, are unbelievably tasty.

Which is why, their lusty grilled aroma remains as alluring as ever all along the beaches of, practically, any Mediterranean country (and, of course, Portugal). Who can ever forget the traditional Malaga’s chiringuito experience with sardines skewered on bamboo sticks and grilled over the drift wood in an old fishing boat berthed in the sand? Or Lisbon’s favourite open-air salt-packed sardinhas grelhadas served with a simple potato, tomato and grilled capsicum salad?
Curiously, my first grilled sardines know-how hails from one disastrous dim-sum dining experience. The story is actually worth telling. Imagine a cold winter Sunday morning. You read an article from a major press (La Presse), which goes: ‘’… you can have tons of delicious treats and a mountain of crisp-fried sardines at this place for just a few dollars … will make you come back to this newly opened dim-sum restaurant again and again…’’ Yumm, sounds so attractive! Sure enough, I go to check out the place. When I arrive the place is packed, so I park myself between the doors with many others. Next thing I notice, I am squeezed between people who all have well-spread herpes labialis (cold sore) on their face. I feel threatened. My first instinct tells me to ‘’FLEE’’, but my perseverance wins so I just cover my face with the scarf and try not to breeze. I think about the reward I am about to get – sardines… My turn comes up and I am rushing into a crowded dining hall to be placed among other sardine lovers. A grim-faced female server stops by my table, says something in Chinese and hands me down few baskets from her cart. I ask her if I can have some sardines. The woman gives me the stink eye and leaves without an answer. I take a bite of the gluey samples in hope that sardines are coming with the next cart. The slippery-cold bock choy and dumplings which taste like a cross between radish burp and slime bring me back to the thought that, perhaps, leaving the place at once was not such a bad idea. But I am on the mission to get sardines… Another elderly server comes by and slides down something fried that looks like pig-ear crisp, although can be a sliced cardboard soaked overnight and deep-fried this morning. I begin to speak louder and gesticulate to make it clear that I want sardines and I don’t see them among the dishes served. She answers something in Chinese (again) and drifts away with her cart leaving me no options but to go look for a manager. I find him in the steamy kitchen which smells like rotten cabbage and can convert to a ‘’Day of the Sorcerer’’ movie set in a snap.  He confirms to me that they run out of sardines (what?!).  More than ‘’a few dollars’’ short, I leave the place praying not to develop a sore on my lip…  But I am now even more determined to get bloody sardines. I have two options: I can go high-end (Fereira Café, or similar) and be treated for sure, OR, I can go to La Mer (the fish market) and buy some fresh sardines and cook them myself. And since my belly is bloated with crap which La Presse journalist called ‘’delicious treats’’, and my daily resto budget is gone, I do the latter.  Voilà, with a bit of patience, garlic, lemon, olive oil and salt I finally succeed to have a mountain of freshly-roasted sardines for a few dollars indeed. I celebrate this with Rhapsody in Blueand a glass of chilled Rosé…
My point is, as long as you can buy two pounds of frozen sardines at $2.99 (at marche Adonis, for example), you don’t have to go through my try-&-fail dining experience and can successfully feed a small army on a budget with some of the following fool-proof tips. 
Frozen sardines are much easier to clean than fresh: use your fingers to shave the scale in a bowl of water (I find using the back of the knife still breaks the tender flesh); slit the underbelly and pull the guts out while the fish is still half-frozen. Leave the head and tail on or cut them off if you prefer. For fresh sardines and more elaborate technique of making sardine butterflied (en papillote), follow these tips. I personally don’t like to fiddle with that, especially when sardines are to be grilled: the bones play the major role in developing umami during the cooking process. Here are some of my favorite ways to cook and serve grilled sardines:
International: marinated in lemon/garlic/parsley/olive oil/salt/pepper sauce for 15-30 minutes, grilled on medium-high for 3 minutes on each side. Excellent with carrot-leeks side dish.
Portuguese: simple and fast – encrust sardines with layers of kosher salt; keep in the fridge for an hour or so, then just wash the salt off, pat dry and throw them on a grill (again, 3 minutes each side). PS: sardines cooked this way are often not gutted (it is best though to apply this technique with fresh sardines). Serve with lemon wedges and simple salad of your choice.
Spanish: in escabeche sauce (mix of olive oil, a bit of red/white vinegar, garlic and herbs simmered for 10 minutes) splashed over the grilled sardines and served cool – utterly delicious and well worth trying.
Greek: wrapped in wine leaves. This is one of my preferred techniques – vine leaf wrap prevents the fat from burning, helps to manipulate the grill easily and keeps the sardine flesh moist. Works well on the frying pan too. 
Good tip: use wilted lettuce or wild grape leaves (popular weed in our backyards, see the image below), if you don’t have real vine leaves handy. (FYI, you can also make an awesome sauce for the grilled meat from wild grapes.) Just collect the biggest wild vine leaves, rinse and simmer them in salted water (2 tablespoons/1 liter) for 5-7 minutes. Drain and let cool before wrapping.
PS: Please do not confuse the wild grapes though with Menispermum Canadense plant which is poisonous. 

 Simple, healthy and unforgettable!
***
GRILLED SARDINES WRAPPED IN WINE LEAVES
Ingredients:
2 lbs (1 kg) or 12-16 medium to large size sardines
12-16 vine leaves in brine, washed
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced (optional)
1/3 teaspoon fresh or dry thyme, minced (optional)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions:
Scale sardines with your fingers under the running water, gut them and wash. Pat dry and rub the fish with a mix of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and herbs, OR just sprinkle with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Wrap sardines individually with vine leaves rinsed from the brine. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Grill for 3-5 minutes on each side or until flesh flakes well when tested. Serve with lemon wedges, crusty bread, chilled white or rosé and lotsa napkins. OR, serve grilled sardines as meze with a shot of ouzo. Enjoy your alfresco!

Moussaka Please

Somehow high sky, crickets (this summer we also have an abnormal amount of cicadas in Quebec) and crisp August nights remind me of my Mediterranean travels and always put me in the mood to make a good, hearty Moussaka. It has been a year since I made it last time and promised the guy named Alex to post it, so here I am re-creating the Greek version of it, only a year after. Sorry for the delay, Alex, time is a rubber band in the Greek terms and I hope you will still enjoy making it.
There are zillions of different recipes/ingredients of Moussaka (this dish is not just Greek, but an Eastern Mediterranean staple): with or without meat, potatoes, eggplants, zucchinis, béchamel or yogurt sauce, etc. Ultimately, it’s a combination of: layer/layers of the correctly spiced and cooked meat sauce (lamb or beef); layer/layers of either eggplants, or potatoes, or both (sometimes zucchinis are there too); cheese and béchamel, or yogurt sauce topping. There’s been a debate in blogs and forums as to the sauce. Apparently, it is a shame in orthodox Greek tradition to replace classic sauce béchamel with yogurt/eggs/cheese mix. But I’ve seen dozens of great recipes in favor of yogurt mix, especially when it comes to gluten free recipes. Anyways, since ’’tous les gouts sont permis’’ (all tastes are allowed) in North America (otherwise Rachel Ray would not be a celebrity chef), I will let you decide whichever you prefer and will give you both, béchamel and gluten free versions. 
Photo credit Greece: Philippe Theonas
My version is a tribute to Naxos Island, a famous Greek land of potatoes (and many other good things), so, obviously, this Moussaka has potatoes in it. 
Contrary to our ‘’you slow you blow’’ mentality, Greek people know that ‘’anything goes’’ and are never in a hurry. Their cuisine reflects this and is simple in its core: you just have to have a FRESH INGREDIENT to it, be it a cucumber, yogurt or a ground meat. And, of course, spices and herbs like oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, etc. And a good splash of wine in everything you cook.
My family knows already that making moussaka heralds series of all kind of Greek meze in our kitchen. This time, having had my own share of what is called ‘’I hate reboots’’ period, I was happy to indulge myself in making a whole bunch of the Greek treats like wine wrapped sardines, rice & meat balls, eggplant spread, fish fillet in tahini sauce, almond cookies, all kind of salads, etc. Some of which I will certainly post next. 
Photo credit Greece: Philippe Theonas
So lets’s further on to our Greek moussaka, and then bring it out and eat it outside having a panoramic view of the sea and the waves lapping pebbles at our feet (in our minds). Or just bring it in and watch the immortal ‘’Zorba the Greek’’ while having it and let the time stand still. Cheers! 
Photo credit Greece: Philippe Theonas
LAMB MOUSSAKA WITH EGGPLANT & POTATOES



Ingredients & Instructions:


Vegetables & Cheese:
2 large globe eggplants (or 4 Japanese or white eggplants), sliced
3-4 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
olive oil
salt
1 cup Kefalotiri or Myzithra cheese, grated (Parmesan or similar sharp cheese is often used in North America as a replacement)

I. Vegetables & Layers:

Slice the eggplants, salt them sparingly and let sit for about 15 minutes. Drain from liquid, pat dry and dispose on the baking sheet in one layer. Brush with olive oil and grill/broil lined in one layer for about 4-5 minutes on each side until golden brown.
Peel and slice the potatoes (1/4 inch thick) and either boil them for 4 minutes and drain, or fry/broil them in oil for 5-8 minutes until golden, but still slightly undercooked. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Layer a casserole with potatoes, overlapping slightly (use half). Sprinkle with cheese. Top the potatoes with eggplant slices. Sprinkle with cheese. Layer a casserole with potatoes (use half). Cover with meat sauce (SEE BELOW). Repeat the layers or until the ingredients last. Sprinkle each layer with cheese. Ladle the sauce béchamel (SEE BELOW) to cover the final layer and sprinkle with cheese on top.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. Let cool for at least 15 minutes for the juices and flavors to set up.

II. Meat Sauce:

1 lb ground lamb or beef (if you want to turn it into Beef Moussaka)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon allspice, freshly ground
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup tomatoes, peeled and chopped
½ cup red or white wine (or organic apple cider vinegar mixed with water half & half)
1 bay leaf
salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and brown the ground meat. Add onions, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and black pepper. Mix well, add salt and cook for 7-10 minutes. Add wine, mix and bring the sauce to simmer for about 30 minutes or until liquid is almost evaporated. Set aside.

III. Sauce béchamel:

1 stick unsalted butter (or ½ cup or 114 grams or 4 oz)
4 cups milk
3 egg yolks
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
white pepper to taste 
salt to taste
Warm up the milk without letting it simmer. Remove from heat. Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour over a gentle heat using a whisk until it turns slightly yellow and starts to bubble. Remove from heat and add milk little by little whisking gently, return to low heat until mixed well and sauce slightly boils and thickens. Add nutmeg and white pepper and mix well. Put the egg yolks in a separate bowl and whisk well. Slowly add sauce béchamel to the egg yolks, whisking all the time until the mixture is well mixed and bring back to the very low heat without letting boil. 

Note: For Gluten Free Yogurt Sauce equivalent: beat 3 eggs with a tablespoon of cornstarch (dissolved in a bit of cold water to prevent lumps). Add two cups of natural yogurt, ½ cup of shredded cheese, salt, white pepper, pinch of nutmeg and whisk well. Some recipes add 1 tablespoon of rice flour to the mix, but I find it optional.

The Muffuletta: Best Travel Sandwich Idea

The Italian week begins today in our city and I’m sure hundreds of ‘sexy backs’ will be lining up soon for that ”screw-the-diet-it’s-once-a-year-only” sfogliatelle testing, La Traviata and Fellini’s film festival. Which gives me an idea that it’s time to reveal my favorite Italian-American travel companion originating from New Orleans – the Muffuletta sandwich and its star ingredient: the olive salad. The ingenious mix arguably created by Salvatore Lupo, the Sicilian deli store keeper, a century ago: crushed olives, minced garlic, chopped giardiniera (a mixture of pickled vegetables), celery, carrots, parsley, capers and spices soaked in the olive oil is exactly what makes this anti-Zen sandwich so irresistible. The classic Muffuletta is made with seeded Italian bread split and layered with this salad, spicy Capicola ham, Genoa salami, Mortadella and layers of thinly sliced Provolone, Mozzarella or Swiss cheeses. This time I made it with baguette, but a softer & spongier bread variety, such as, focaccia (feel free to use gluten-free focaccia) would be a much better choice. Unless you can find or bake a true Sicilian sesame bread as the staple recipe requires.

Maria Lupo Tusa, daughter of the Central Grocery’s founder, tells her story of the sandwich in her 1980 cookbook, ”Marie’s Melting Pot”: ”One of the most interesting aspects of my father’s grocery is his unique creation, the muffuletta sandwich. The muffuletta was created in the early 1900’s when the Farmers’ Market was in the same area as the grocery. Most of the farmers who sold their produce there were Sicilian. Every day they used to come of my father’s grocery for lunch. They would order some salami, some ham, a piece of cheese, a little olive salad, and either long braided Italian bread or round muffuletta bread. In typical Sicilian fashion they ate everything separately. The farmers used to sit on crates or barrels and try to eat while precariously balancing their small trays covered with food on their knees. My father suggested that it would be easier for the farmers if he cut the bread and put everything on it like a sandwich; even if it was not typical Sicilian fashion. He experimented and found that the thicker, braided Italian bread was too hard to bite but the softer round muffuletta was ideal for his sandwich. In very little time, the farmers came to merely ask for a “muffuletta” for their lunch.”
Salvatore Lupo in Central Grocery (top), Muffuletta sandwich now & New Orleans of That Time via Wikimedia Commons
The Muffuletta sandwich has been our travel hubby for a few years now and I can hardly think of any better fit for a road or a long-haul flight. I guess whatever was the lowdownthat pushed the airlines to stop serving meals on domestic flights, it was for good since it made the hungry travelers experiment with the road snacks and seek for some good food alternatives that can actually enhance the positive side of the travel. Now, why Muffuletta sandwich? Why not Cuban or Reuben or Philly? Three reasons: a) because of that garlic-spiked olive salad layer and all kind of savoury Italian deli cold cuts and cheese in it; b) because it travels well (without mayo or mustard in it) – the bread’s taste actually gets better when soaked with the olive spread; c) because it is huge, so it’s great for sharing.
Here is a scientific explanation why: the research shows that our taste buds become almost insensitive during the flight. At 35,000 feet altitude a good portion of our taste buds switch off and most of the neutral food start tasting the same. However, since our tongue has between 2000 and 8000 of these buds, we can still recognize the five taste elements, including: salty, sour, bitter, sweet and umami. And although our perceptions become little different, the tiny tongue receptors will be able to catch the Muffuletta’s goodness. Not to mention the smell: just bring it on a plane, unwrap it and you will see how many pairs of eyes will ignite around you once the coach class fills up with the bouquet of an Italian market. And how timely it will feel when surviving a storm, or a delayed flight, or an exhausting road trip! For a split second, you might actually agree that it might be the best sandwich in America…
If possible, make the olive salad few days in advance to let the flavours marry in the fridge. Chop fresh celery, carrots and olives coarsely. Mix them with drained and coarsely chopped marinated (giardiniera) ingredients. Add garlic and olive oil and mix well. Pack into a clean (preferably sterilized) jar and let the salad sit in the fridge until you are ready to make a sandwich. My tip: add a spoon of the fish sauce or minced anchovies to have that BRINY state jumpstart in your olive salad (you will taste the difference). Tip No. 2: if using baguette or other crusted bread, cut out a slight niche for a salad as seen in the image. Spread some olive oil on both halves of the bread, then layer one half with the olive salad, the cold cuts and the cheese. Here is a good 1-minute video instruction from chef Paul in New Orleans. 
The sandwich gets better the longer it sits, so wrap it in a wax or butcher paper that will keep moisture inside and allow the olive salad to marinate the bread in the sandwich for at least few hours in the fridge.
***
THE MUFFULETTA OLIVE SALAD
Ingredients:
2 cups pimento stuffed green olives, well drained and crushed
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, well drained and crushed
1 cup jar pickled cauliflower/or mix w/banana peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
1 cup jar pickled pepperoncini, drained and left whole
1/2 cup cocktail onions, drained and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup jar pickled capers, drained
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 head fresh garlic peeled and minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce or 2 minced anchovies (optional)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a large and mix well. Place in a large jar and store tightly covered in refrigerator. Allow to marinate for at least 24 hours before using.
Tip: apart from Muffuletta sandwich, I successfully use this olive salad as antipasti or side dish by adding some freshly chopped carrots, celery and a splash of olive oil.
THE MUFFULETTA SANDWICH
Ingredients:
1 round loaf Italian bread or Focaccia
1/4 pound Mortadella, thinly sliced
1/4 pound spicy Capicollo, thinly sliced
1/4 pound hard Genoa salami, thinly sliced
1/4 pound Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/4 pound Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
1 cup olive salad with oil
Instructions:
Split a loaf of Italian bread horizontally. Spread each half with equal parts of olive salad and oil. Place cold cuts and cheeses evenly on bottom half and cover with top half of bread. Cut in quarters. Enjoy!
Adapted from the combination of my old notes on authentic Muffuletta from New Orleans and Saveur.com