Grilled Eggplant Muffuletta

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I’ve been eating portobello muffulettas at a deli nearby and dreaming of making my own for a while. The classic New Orleans muffuletta is made on a one pound round loaf of bread, and includes ham, salami, provolone, and an olive salad.  They’re so big, they’ll feed four people! There are multiple variations of muffulettas out there, like the vegetarian one I’ve been eating lately. Sometimes, since the bread is hard to find outside of New Orleans, people make them at home on single-serving submarine buns. It’s not a muffuletta without the olive salad, though.
It’s cookout season here, so I paired my olive salad with sliced, grilled eggplant. Since I wanted something to marinate the eggplant in before grilling, I made salad dressing first. I also made my own bread. This sandwich took me two days to make, but it was worth it – I even dreamed about it last night.  You could speed it up by using bottled vinaigrette and 4 sub rolls. Do make the olive salad a day ahead if you can, though. (Jarred olive salad is also available in some supermarkets, but I’ve never had it so I can’t vouch for it.)

I am sending this giant sandwich to  Heather’s BYOB – Bake Your Own Bread and Susan’s Yeastspotting.UPDATE 6/22/2012: Instead of homemade olive salad, I’ve been using Boscoli Italian Olive Salad. It’s tasty, but packed in olive oil, which can make for a greasy sandwich. So, I drain the portion I need for the sandwich in a wire mesh strainer over a small bowl while I slice the eggplant. Then I use the drained olive oil and some added bottled vinaigrette to marinate the eggplant. If I’ve already made the bun, the sandwich goes together in a snap.

Grilled Eggplant Muffuletta
Serves 4.
Muffuletta Buns

Makes 2 buns. I made one bun and used the rest of the dough to make bread sticks for soup later.

2 cups white bread flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1-3/4 cups warm water (about 105 F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for bowl
3 tablespoons agave nectar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
Measure white flour, vital wheat gluten, and whole wheat flour into a bowl and combine with a fork. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm water, yeast and about 1-1/2 cups of the flour. Cover and let stand at room temperature for an hour (or as long as overnight in the refrigerator.) This mixture will bubble up and expand.
Add the olive oil, agave nectar, and salt; combine with a fork. Stir in the flour. Knead with mixer on low for 5 minutes, or turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes by hand.
Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium bowl. Transfer dough to the bowl and turn over to coat all sides with oil. Cover and let stand at room temperature for an hour to rise. Dough should double in size.
Divide dough into two equal portions. Oil a large pan (or two). Pat and stretch one portion of dough into a 9 or 10-inch circle. Top with 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds. Repeat with remaining portion.
(To make bread sticks, divide remaining half of dough into eight pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 8 inches long. Place the ropes side by side on the pan and top with sesame seeds. As the bread sticks rise, they will stick together, but you’ll be able to break them apart after the bread is baked. If you like crusty bread sticks,  place them far enough to stay separate, but do be aware that they’ll then cook faster than the muffuletta bun.)
Let bread rise a second time until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Heat oven to 375. Bake for 25 minutes. To test for doneness, rap the bottom of the loaf with your knuckles; bread is done when it makes a sound.
Allow loaf to cool to room temperature and slice.
Salad Dressing
Makes about 1-1/3 cup. You’ll need about 1/2 cup for the sandwich.
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red or white wine vinegar
1/3 cup water
2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (or black pepper)
Pinch red pepper flakes
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Shake before using.
Olive Salad
Makes enough for 1 sandwich. I accidentally bought olives stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes instead of pimientos, but they were good too.
3/4 cup green olives with pimientos, minced
1/4 cup kalamata or black olives, minced
1/3 cup minced celery, about 1 stalk
1/3 cup minced carrot, about 1/2 carrot
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons minced and seeded pepperoncini
3 tablespoons salad dressing
Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Taste for salt and spices. (I didn’t add anything, but I’ll probably add big pinches of salt and oregano next time.) Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Grilled Eggplant
1 large globe eggplant, about 1-1/4 pounds
About 1/3 cup salad dressing
Before starting the coals in the grill, slice the eggplant into 3/4-inch rounds. Pour dressing into a non-metal pan, or pans, big enough to hold the eggplant slices in a single layer. Add the eggplant and turn over to coat both sides in dressing. Cover and set aside at room temperature, turning over at least once.
Prepare coals in a charcoal grill. Grill eggplant slices, covered, until fork-tender, about 12 minutes. Turn over and move eggplant around the grill every 3-4 minutes to avoid burning.
To assemble the sandwich, spread about 1/2 the olive salad on a bun. Top with the eggplant and the remaining olive salad. Cover and slice into 4 wedges.

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5 Responses

  1. am getting hunger and this post is not helping !! the bread looks soooo good,am almost tempted to take it and run :):)

  2. This is FANTASTIC, Claire! I’ve always wanted to make a Muffuletta from scratch – and here you’ve started that craving again. Your bread is beautiful, and I’m saving it to make over the summer sometime. I love the thought of your veg-version, as well. YUM! Thank you for sharing it w/ BYOB =)

  3. WOW, this looks so delicious! Kudos for making your own bread!

  4. Hi Claire Having spent quite a bit of time during the 80s and 90s in NO. Like you I love Muffaletta and I have made my own bread as well. Courtesy of Terry Thompson-Anderson’s excellent book, ‘Cajun and Creole Cooking’. I have bookmarked your recipe for future use. AND you’re right it must have the olive salad

  5. I love home made bread, eggplant (or aubergine as we call it in the UK!) and olives, so this sandwich sounds amazing to me.

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