Muffuletta Sandwiches

In New Orleans the two best Muffulettas ? bar none ? can be had at Central Grocery or at Napoleon House on Chartres Street.

Muffuletta Bread
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 package active dry yeast (about 1 tablespoon)
About 3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
Sesame seeds

In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, combine water and sugar. Stir in yeast. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine 3 cups flour, salt and shortening. Add yeast mixture. Process until dough forms a ball, about 5 seconds. Stop machine; check consistency of dough. It should be smooth and satiny. If dough is too dry, add more warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time, processing just until blended. If dough is too sticky, add more flour, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, processing just until blended. Process 20 seconds to knead.

Lightly oil a large bowl, swirling to coat bottom and sides. Place dough in oiled bowl; turn to coat all sides. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Lightly grease a baking sheet. When dough has doubled in bulk, punch down dough; turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Form dough into a round loaf about 10 inches in diameter; place on greased baking sheet. Sprinkle top of loaf with sesame seeds; press seeds gently into surface of loaf. Cover very loosely with plastic wrap; let rise until almost doubled in bulk, 1 hour. Place rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap. Bake loaf in center of preheated oven 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F; bake 25 minutes. The loaf is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on bottom. Cool completely on a rack before slicing. Makes 1 loaf.

Olive Salad
1 (32 ounce) jar pimento-stuffed
    green olives, chopped
2 cups pitted ripe olives, chopped
1 1/4 cups chopped pickled cocktail olives
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 cups blanched chopped cauliflower
1/4 cup minced garlic
2 medium carrots, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to blend well. Store in jars with tight-fitting lids in the refrigerator. Makes about 3 quarts.

Not only can you use this as a dressing for Muffuletta Sandwich, it also makes a delicious addition to tossed green salads, pizzas, and is a great relish to spread on crackers.

Muffuletta Sandwich
1 (10-inch) Muffuletta Bread loaf
3 ounces honey ham, thinly sliced
3 ounces Mortadella with pistachios,
    thinly sliced
3 ounces Genoa salami, very thinly sliced
1 heaping cup Olive Salad
5 slices Provolone cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut bread in half crosswise to form a sandwich bun. Layer the honey ham on the bottom of the loaf. Next add the Mortadella, then the salami. Spread the Olive Salad over the meats evenly. Top with the slices of Provolone cheese and place the top on the sandwich. Press down to compress slightly. Wrap the sandwich in foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has begun to melt into the Olive Salad. Slice sandwich into 4 quarters. Use wooden picks to secure layers, if desired; remove picks before eating.

Makes 1 to 4 servings, depending on appetite!

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