Welcome to Italian Week, No Meat Athlete style! Or Italian Half-Week, since it’s already Wednesday. For those who don’t know, a muffaletta is an Italian-style sandwich from New Orleans. Until I saw it on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, I had no idea it wasn’t really from Italy. But who cares where it’s from; it’s really good.
Muffalettas generally consist of roasted peppers, artichokes, tomatoes, or other vegetables, fresh mozzarella cheese, olive tapenade, balsamic vinaigrette (to put mayo or anything else on it is a sin!), and prosciutto or other meats. But no meat on this one. Actually, the only other place I’ve ever had a muffalatta serves theirs with no meat, so it’s not much of a stretch to make a meatless one.
My version of the sandwich is served on ciabatta bread, of which you can bake your own from pizza dough. I had an s-load of schoolwork to do yesterday, so baking my own bread was pretty much out of the question. I figured I’d have to settle for a refined white flour loaf in the store, so you can imagine my elation when I found a wheat ciabatta from Chabaso bakery in the store. Yes, in No Meat Athlete world we get elated by stuff like this. We (read: I) also get elated by Italian wine, so I picked up a bottle of Banfi Centine, a blend of sangiovese, cabernet, and merlot that I really like and is a great value at around ten bucks. My school work wasn’t going to do itself, but hey, it’s not every day that it’s Tuesday, so I treated myself to a few heavy pours.
The homemade muffaletta turned out to be as good as any I’ve had at the Italian deli where we get them. The only part I didn’t love was the black olive tapenade; it was just a little too black-olivy. So in the recipe I’m giving you, I’ve changed it to include green olives as well. I didn’t roast my own peppers, again because of a lack of time, so I bought jarred. I also had to get jarred artichoke hearts, olives, and capers, so we ended up spending almost as much for these as we would have if we had just bought them at the deli. But what fun would that be? Plus there’s leftover of almost all the ingredients, so I’ll probably make these again this weekend for lunch.
Our rating? 4.5 cows out of 5! The only thing holding these back from all-out NMA glory was the tapenade. Now that I’ve changed the recipe, try them yourself and see how they tickle your tastebuds. And why not crack open an Italian red to have with them? Come on, it’s Italian Week! And it’s Wednesday!
Vegetarian Muffaletta Recipe
Ingredients (for the tapenade):
- 1/2 cup pitted black olives
- 1/2 cup pitted green olives
- 1.5 Tbsp capers
- 1.5 Tbsp canola oil (or olive oil, for best flavor)
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic
- fresh thyme leaves from about 3 sprigs, or 1/2 tsp dried
- salt and pepper
Process all ingredients except salt and pepper in a food processor until uniform but still coarse. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Ingredients (for 4 sandwiches):
- One loaf ciabatta bread, cut into 4 squares and sliced open like rolls
- 4 small roasted red bell peppers, jarred or home-roasted
- 4 to 6 marinated artichokes, quartered (I used jarred marinated, already quartered)
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
- 4 slices tomato
- 8 fresh basil leaves, torn
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven or grill if you want to serve the sandwiches warm. In a bowl, combine basil, vinegar, garlic, roasted peppers, and artichokes; let sit for 5 minutes. After optionally warming bread, spread some of the tapenade on one side of each of the ciabatta rolls, then top with tomato, roasted pepper and artichoke mixture, and mozzarella. Drizzle with extra vinegar from bowl and olive oil. Easy!