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New Orleans olive salad

Muffoletta salad

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, USA Olive salad constitutes a key ingredient in the authentic muffoletta sandwich.  Those who live around the Mediterranean and New Orleans often enjoy it, but few elsewhere have sampled authentic muffoletta olive salad.

Original salad

Over a century ago, the original, authentic muffoletta olive salad was developed.  At the time, fresh vegetables and refrigeration were uncommon.  Fresh olives, celery, cauliflower, carrots and other vegetables spoil after a few days, so the best way to preserve them was to pickle them.

Olive salad was developed as a mixture of various pickled olives and other vegetables with dried herbs and spices.  The major ingredients of the original salad include green and black olives and their olive oil, celery, cauliflower, carrots, sweet peppers, onions, capers, pepperoncini,  and garlic, as well as the vinegar (from pickling the vegetables), and various dried herbs and spices.

Like fine wine and cheese, the best olive salad is aged, so that the many distinct flavors meld into a harmonious yet complex whole.  In fact, the vegetables themselves develop depth during the pickling process, and then they further develop after they are mixed and allowed to age.  In effect, authentic muffoletta olive salad requires that the separate vegetables be pickled and aged, and then the pickled vegetables are combined and aged even more, which adds further depth and complexity.

Modern salad

For the contemporary palate, the original olive salad tastes rich and heavy, because of the oil, as well as somewhat bland.  Many modern recipes for olive salad have been updated for modern tastes reducing the heaviness and adding spice.  For example, many recipes substitute the traditional olive oil with lighter vegetable oils, like cottonseed oil, and other recipes add spiciness with cayenne or other chile pepper.

Joe O'Connell is senior research specialist for Muffoletta Ltd., the official resource for information about the authentic muffoletta.

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