The muffaletta hails from New Orleans' famous Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter (just down the street from St. Louis Cathedral).
The key components of a traditional muffaletta are sliced cold cuts (typically smoked ham, genoa salami, and capicola) and provolone cheese on a round, sesame-encrusted Italian loaf smothered with an exceptionally tasty olive salad. YUM!
Here in Texas, it's a little difficult to find the special bread for a muffaletta, so I had to improvise. I decided on these La Brea Bakery mini-loaves from Costco because they have the requisite chewy, dense texture.
I layered on deli smoked ham, turkey (not traditional, but I like it), salami, and provolone.
Then comes the piece de resistance: olive salad. I used this one from a jar.
Olive salad can be found in the condiment or pickle and olive section of many grocery stores or can be ordered here. It is a mixture of olives, vinegar, olive oil, veggies, and seasonings.
I have made olive salad from scratch before when I lived outside of Louisiana and couldn't find it anywhere. Here's the recipe I used, straight from the pages of New Orleans' Times-Picayune if you would like to try it yourself.
Homemade Olive Salad for Muffalettas(click here to print)
1 cup EACH celery, carrots, and cauliflower, coarsely chopped
2 cups high-quality salad olives (green olives w/pimento), drained and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add celery, carrots, and cauliflower and blanch until crisp-tender, about 1 or 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and immediately plunge into ice water to retain the color. Drain vegetables and combine with the olives. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and pepper together and pour over the olive mixture. Cover and let marinate overnight. This will keep for several weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
NOTE: You can use a mixture of olives that you like for olive salad. I sometimes throw in some Kalamata olives for variety.