Simone Appetit: The muffuletta trumps the pumpkin | SierraSun.com

Simone Appetit: The muffuletta trumps the pumpkin

Simone Grandmain

My thing is, every October I devote each weekly column to a pumpkin recipe. This year, however, just as I was putting away my fifth pumpkin margarita (research), I got a call from Holly Verbeck, owner of Hey Chef!, inviting me to a gathering she and Grog (her husband, classically trained chef, also Hey Chef! owner) were hosting and would I be able to make it?

Hello! Does a pumpkin margarita suck? (Next time, I will remove the seeds.) Whenever Holly and Grog have a party, I am there early, using my camera as a ruse to get a jump on the food before the other guests arrive.

The Hey Chef! folks are like culinary Neiman Marcus catalog — they do it all (heychef.com). Need a gourmet chef in your home? They've got 'em. Wait or kitchen staff for your party? Check. A menu of pre-made meals to stock your home for pleasure and convenience? No problem.

These people put the "F" in foodie. I am always introduced to something new at the Verbeck home, and this time I made the acquaintance of the Muffuletta. So very nice to meet you. We will be life-long friends, I assure you.

At first, I thought the Muffuletta was of African origin because the name sounds to me like something out of "The Lion King" — but it is not. It is actually a huge, beautiful sandwich with layers of meats, cheese and an olive salad which originated among Italian immigrants in New Orleans.

When I say big, I mean it serves 16 (unless I am in attendance), which makes it perfect for your holiday party menu in the months to come. So sorry, great pumpkin — we'll catch up next week.

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Ingredients for the olive salad:

2 cups roughly chopped pitted green olives

2 cups roughly chopped pitted Kalamata olives

1 cup roughly chopped peeled roasted red peppers

1 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup celery leaves, torn

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup olive oil

4 tbls. red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

pinch freshly ground black pepper

For the sandwich:

one round loaf of Italian bread, 8 to 9 inches in diameter and 4 inches high

4 ounces soppressata (Italain dried salami), thinly sliced

16 ounces provolone cheese, sliced

4 ounces Italian deli ham, thinly sliced

4 ounces mortadella, thinly sliced

4 ounces sweet coppa (cured Italian pork) or prosciutto, thinly sliced

4 ounces hard salami or bresaola, thinly sliced

Preparation:

1. Make the salad by combining all ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside at room temperature to marinate.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Assemble the Muffuletta by slicing the loaf of bread horizontally into two large pieces, with the top piece 2/3 thicker than the bottom. Hollow out the top piece by removing the soft bread inside, leaving a 1/2 inch of bread near the crust. Spread half the olive mixture on the bottom piece. Begin layering the meats, starting with the soppressata and adding 1/4 of the provolone between each layer of meat, except the last. After adding each layer of cheese, place in the heated oven until cheese melts, about six minutes. Remove from oven, add next meat layer, then cheese, then oven, etc., until the last meat layer.

3. Spread the remaining olive salad on the last layer of meat and top with the hollowed bread. Press down lightly and return sandwich to oven for about six minutes.

4. To serve, cut into 8 or 16 wedges, depending on if it is the main event, or an appetizer.

Simone Grandmain is an internationally published travel and food writer who currently calls Truckee-Tahoe home. She welcomes your recipes, kitchen "must-haves" and food news at simonegrandmain@gmail.com.