Vegan Muffaletta–Doing the French Quarter Proud

Vegan Muffaletta
(serves 10-12)
So what in heavens’ name is muffaletta? According to Professor Wiki, it is a sub-style sandwich that originated among Italian immigrants in New Orleans’ French Quarter. The reason I wanted to make a vegan version is that I remembered it as a sturdy sandwich great for picnics. But since pretty much everything else was salami pepperoni and cheese, I kinda wondered if it was worth it.

Lo and behold, it was! I used the traditional ‘olive salad’ base, topped it with grilled vegetables, creamy nut cheese, tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar and voila! A picnic sandwich to rival an Italian farm worker’s. In fact, friend Sarah Dickerson commented: “This is the best sandwich I’ve ever had,” at a recent picnic prelude to Founder’s Fest.

Three soft round loaves (the one in the pictures is a wonderful sourdough rye from Nantucket Bakery, but it was too hard)
Assorted grilled vegetables (we used yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant and peppers)
One recipe Thick and Creamy Macadamia Nut Cheese (see below)
One recipe Olive Tapenade (see below)
six cups spinach
Four tomatoes (found nice greenhouse grown ones at the Farmer’s Market)
½ cup basil, cut in a chiffonade
Balsamic vinegar to sprinkle

To grill vegetables: toss in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and grill them over high heat for 5-10 minutes, turning after a few minutes and keeping on the heat until browned and tender. Alternately, you can broil the veggies, turning them after about five minutes. Set aside to cool.

To compose sandwich: slice the loaf in half leaving 1/3 to ½ inch on bottom. If there is a lot of bread, score the top and pinch out in cubes to use later for croutons.

Smear tapenade over the bottom of the bread, then top with a layer of spinach.

Then a layer of grilled veggies.

Then a layer of nut cheese. Snip the basil over the top… it will stick really well.

Then a layer of tomatoes sprinkled with a little more balsamic vinegar.

Press the top over all this deliciousness and slice into pie-shaped wedges or cross-wise.

Mmmmmm. Serve with a farmer’s market salad.

And a strong finish with homemade strawberry ice cream (coconut milk base) and fresh strawberries…

As Scrooge himself knew, certain courses would foretell of certain ends. In our case, empty glasses, and…

Happy diners!

Thanks again to Bob Hazen for the amazing photos.

Thick and Creamy Macadamia Nut Cheese

I use this in so many applications—on pizza, in pasta dishes instead of ricotta or cream cheese. In this case, left to firm in the fridge, it beautifully balances with the grilled veggies and tapenade. You can try this in a regular old blender. I never have, so can’t guarantee the results. You could also try in a small food processor.

1 ½ cups raw cashews, soaked 4-6 hours
½ cup raw macadamia nuts
¼ cup pine nuts
1-2 T lemon juice (start with one)
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. fine sea salt

¼ cup filtered water (give or take)

In a high speed blender, begin blending the first six ingredients (have your tamper handy). Depending on how much water your cashews have absorbed, you may need a little more water. You want this to be the consistency of mascarpone or blended ricotta—very thick and creamy. This requires that you blend while continually pushing down the ingredients. Add a little more water if necessary. The mixture should be smooth and fully incorporated. Taste and decide if you’d like to add a little more lemon juice or salt.

Olive Tapenade
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 cup pitted green olives (imported, high quality)
2 T capers, rinsed
2 cloves garlic
½ cup roughly chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1T lemon juice

Pulse the garlic in a food processor until minced. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until everything is chopped fine, but not pureed.

This is so salty! I ‘thinned’ it with some bland tasting edamame spread I’d made a few days earlier. This tamed it a bit. But you can also just spread thinly.


One thought on “Vegan Muffaletta–Doing the French Quarter Proud

  1. It WAS the best sandwich I ever had!!! Love these photos of the work in progress. And I loved the hard sourdough rye

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