Three Little Halves blogger and illustrator Aleksandra Mojsilovic reimagines party prep with affordable, edible table displays.
When I was growing up, Fat Tuesday was always a stressful event. I was generally a happy and stress-free child, except when deprived of food. So when my grandmother attempted to explain the fasting ritual of the forthcoming Lenten season, I took her quite literally. I am deeply convinced that the very same feeling consumed Salvatore Lupo while he was assembling his first muffuletta, otherwise how can one explain all of these ingredients in a sandwich the size of Yankee Stadium?
If, like me, you are a lover of this famous New Orleans rite of passage, you are deeply cursed. Once you try the great original at the grand Central Grocery, chances are no muffuletta will ever come close, and you will spend the rest of your culinary life making sandwich after sandwich, chasing the ideal in vain.
A while ago I simply gave up and switched to much safer territory where no benchmark exists as yet. This Mardi Gras season try putting your muffuletta under the press and turning it into panini. Not only it is a great way to adapt the original into something new, it makes it easier to eat.
12 ounces pitted mixed olives (kalamata, Sicilian, Castelvetrano—the more the merrier), cut into ¼-inch dice
4 ounces roasted red peppers, cut into ¼-inch dice
⅓ cup celery, cut into ¼-inch dice
2 tablespoons capers, minced
1 tablespoon capers’ brining liquid
Pinch of dried oregano
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium loaf seeded Italian bread, focaccia or 4 bread rolls, split
6 ounces mozzarella, sliced
2 ounces capicola (coppa), sliced
2 ounces mortadella, sliced
2 ounces Genoa salami, sliced
3 ounces provolone, sliced
1. In a medium bowl, mix the olives, red peppers, celery and capers. Add the brine, oregano, crushed red pepper and olive oil. Let the mixture stand for 1 hour.
2. Open the bread on a work surface. Spoon the olive salad on both sides of the bread and spread it evenly. Arrange the mozzarella slices on the bottom half of the bread, then top with the coppa, mortadella and Genoa salami. Arrange the provolone cheese on the top half of the bread and close the bread carefully. Wrap the muffuletta tightly in plastic and let it stand for about an hour. Unwrap and slice the muffuletta as needed so that it fits into a panini press or grill pan.
3. If using panini press, preheat the press. Add the muffuletta and cook until golden and crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes. If using the stove, preheat a lightly oiled grill pan to medium low. Add the muffuletta, then press a heavy pan on top to weigh it down. Cook until golden and crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.