Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Vegetarian Roasted Red Pepper + Olive Muffuletta

I've visited New Orleans more than any other city. I really love that place! Every time I go, I have to grab a muffuletta (or three). Many people argue over who makes the best one --Central Grocery? Frank's? -- but really, they are all delicious. What's not to love: light bread, meaty olive dressing, spicy creole mustard, and melty cheese...

You can find spicy olives on the olive bar at almost any specialty store. It's best to get a mix of olives, which will add to the complexity of the dish. Be sure to grab plenty from the spicy bin to give your olive dressing some kick. The bread may be tough to find outside of the South. If muffuletta bread is not available from your local deli, use a light focaccia bread instead. The effect will be somewhat the same.

I like to use fresh cauliflower and carrots in place of pickled ones. This cuts down on the salt in the dish and makes it more enjoyable, in my opinion. This is a great dish to make for a party.

Vegetarian Roasted Red Pepper + Olive Muffuletta
(serves 8)

3 cups spicy, pitted olives (green, black, kalamta)
2 stalks celery (about 1 cup, sliced)

2 cups cauliflower
1 large carrot (about 1 cup, sliced)
2 teaspoons good Italian seasoning mix
4 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 cup olive oil
1 cup white vinegar

2 10-inch muffeletta breads
2 tablespoon mayo
4 tablespoons creole mustard
4 roasted red peppers
14 ounces sliced cheese (provolone, Swiss)

Sliced tomatoes and chopped romaine lettuce (optional)
12 peperoncini peppers 

Using the slicer blade on your food processor, slice the olives, celery, cauliflower, and carrots. Place sliced vegetables into a 2-quart container; add the Italian seasoning mix, crushed garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. Allow mixture to marinate and the flavors to meld for a day or so. Seriously, the longer you leave it, the better it will be.

Next, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice muffuletta breads in half. On the bottom half of each, spread half of the olive dressing. On the top slices, spread one tablespoon of mayo and two tablespoons of  creole mustard and then add half the cheese on each in an even layer.

Place dressed bread open faced on a baking sheet in the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove and add roasted red peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes to each sandwich. Place the top on each sandwich. Slice into quarters. Serve immediately.