The universe certainly does work in mysterious ways. Not more than two or three days prior to, I was trolling the internet for a recipe to try my hand at (what should be) the world famous olive salad from Central Grocery in the French Quarter. The olive salad is legendary in New Orleans as it graces the most famous sandwich to come out of the Big Easy, the muffaletta.
Olive lover and Crescent City expat that I am, the heavens opened for me when I spied jars of olive salad straight from Gambinos at my local grocery store. All of which would be fine and dandy except that the damn stuff is $5 for a 16 oz jar at Fry’s.
Back to the universe, that weekend I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I inherited what remained of a bushel of mixed olives from a booth at our local Oktoberfest. Turns out there was exactly one gallon of green olives and slightly more than a pound of Kalamata olives in said bushel. Precisely the amounts I needed for the olive salad recipe I had intended to make. Hallelujah!
I made a few modifications to the recipe based on ingredients I could purchase at the lone grocery store I went to. Had I tried a few more stores, I may have actually found the pickled cauliflower the recipe called for. Instead I decided on Mezzeta’s California Hot Mix. Its basically a giardiniera (carrots, cauliflower, celery, pickles, onions and peppers) with jalapenos mixed in. Armed with 3 jars of this, I had roughly the equivalent I needed to omit the celery, carrots and pepperoncini called for in the original recipe. Its not perfect, but a girl (who no longer lives in the South) has to make do.
- 1 gallon large pimento stuffed green olives
- 3 16 oz jars gardiniera (or hot mix)
- 2 small jars capers, drained
- 1 small jar celery seeds
- 1 small jar oregano
- 1 large head fresh garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Omit if using hot mix – 1 jar pepperoncini, drained (small salad peppers)
- 1 pound large Greek black olives, pitted
- 1 jar cocktail onions, drained
- In small batches, loosely chop everything in a food processor. This mixture should be chunky.
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or pot and mix well.
- Place in a large jar and cover with 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 vegetable oil.
- Store tightly covered in refrigerator.
- Allow to marinate for at least 24 hours before using.
Living in Phoenix, I may be muffaletta-deprived but at least now I’ll have delicious olive salad at the ready. You can always get the essence of the famous sandwich by trying my Mini Muffaletta appetizers. They passed muster amongst the other New Orleans natives I met at a Mardi Gras party earlier this year so you know they gotta be good!
Kat’s tip: The recipe above yields 1.5 gallons. Portioned in small mason jars, this would make a wonderful hostess gift or present. If you really want to get fancy, you add some cold cuts and crackers to a little gift bag. I know that I would swoon with delight!
Inspiration: Many thanks to Chuck Taggart at www.gumbopages.com for this and countless other recipes; and for many hours of other delightful reading. Oh, and of course, to Central Grocery. Lord knows how I miss thee!