On the menu: Muffaletta
Friends, where do I even start?
My field season is over. I spent the last couple of months glued to weather forecasts and constantly observing roadsides during my weekly commute to see what was blooming. I was basically on a bee hunt. What’s terrifying is that I only sampled a few times, but it sucked so much out of me that I lost nearly all culinary inclination. Next summer I’m supposed to sample twice as often for twice as long. But let’s not think about that just yet.
In other news, Kevin and I are engaged! It’s been two months since he proposed, and we’re over the moon about it. I always imagined writing some big, beautiful blog post about our engagement filled with photos of us over the years and stories about our relationship…but now that it’s actually happened, my instincts are exactly the opposite of my imagination. I don’t want to say a lot about it. It’s impossible to put how I feel about him into words. I just wanna marry the guy. He’s it.
This mindset, much to the dismay of my family and some friends, has also been my approach to wedding planning. I’m the first of my generation in my large and traditionally-minded family to get married. They were expecting a lavish affair. We don’t want that. We’re simple folk who don’t want a lot of fuss. We’re in love, and we just want to be husband and wife! It’s been difficult to discuss the wedding, particularly with the two people I’ve been looking forward to discussing it with the most, because neither one approves of my wishes. How do I tell the two people I thought knew me best that what they think I want is not what I actually want? I’ve tried, and either I’m not communicating it clearly or they’re not listening. Or I’m not being forceful enough with my opinion. I’m too much of a pacifist to put up this much of a fight. The wedding has quickly, and sadly, become discussion non grata.
So we’ll probably just elope. At least that’s what we say every time we talk about the wedding.
And then perhaps we’ll eat a big slice of muffaletta on the beach after we’ve said our vows. The olive salad will spill all over my dress and he’ll pick it up off my lap and throw it to the gulls, who are watching our cute, coupley, coastal picnic with envy. Or maybe we would eat something a little less messy.
Muffaletta is one big mess. But it’s a flavorful mess, filled quite literally to the brim with meats, cheese, and the thing that makes this version special: a vibrant olive salad perked up with giardinera, capers, and red onion. I remember watching Rachael Ray make a muffaletta, years ago, by hollowing out a round loaf of bread, filling it up so that the top wouldn’t fit back on, and serving it in wedges. Turns out that’s how they are traditionally made.
This version bucks tradition. I thought the round loaf was beautiful, but I like the greater bread to filling ratio that a horizontally sliced loaf provides. And the better control over its contents said ratio gives you. It’s a fantastic sandwich, pungent with pickled vegetables and briny fruits and thick with slick, rich cold cuts. It’s all brought together in a ciabatta loaf with a heavy hand of strongly seasoned olive oil. It oozes oil and olive salad with every bite. Even with the spills, it’s absurdly portable and it’s just a joy to eat. We ate ours at the top of the tallest mountain in town after a hike that was unexpectedly difficult. It was the best reward.
The irony of my muffaletta story is not lost on me.
adapted from inpatskitchen at Food52
1/2 pound deli ham
1/2 pound genoa salami
1/2 pound provolone cheese
olive salad, recipe follows
extra virgin olive oil
dried Italian seasoning
makes much more than you need for the sandwich, but it is infinitely usable!
1 1/2 cups pimiento stuffed green olives, finely chopped
1 cup giardiniera, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for at least an hour in order for the flavors to blend.