New Orleans olive salad
First posted 3 July 2003 at 1840 GMT
Last updated 21 July 2003 at 0005 GMT
By Joe O'Connell,
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, USA — Olive salad constitutes a key
ingredient in the authentic muffoletta sandwich. Those who live
around the Mediterranean and New Orleans often enjoy it, but few
elsewhere have sampled authentic muffoletta olive salad.
Over a century ago, the original, authentic muffoletta olive salad
was developed. At the time, fresh vegetables and refrigeration
were uncommon. Fresh olives, celery, cauliflower, carrots and
other vegetables spoil after a few days, so the best way to preserve
them was to pickle them.
Olive salad was developed as a mixture of various pickled olives and
other vegetables with dried herbs and spices. The major ingredients
of the original salad include green and black olives and their olive oil, celery, cauliflower, carrots, sweet peppers, onions,
capers, pepperoncini, and garlic, as well as the vinegar (from
pickling the vegetables), and various dried herbs and spices.
Like fine wine and cheese, the best olive salad is aged, so that the
many distinct flavors meld into a harmonious yet complex whole. In
fact, the vegetables themselves develop depth during the pickling
process, and then they further develop after they are mixed and allowed
to age. In effect, authentic muffoletta olive salad requires that the
separate vegetables be pickled and aged, and then the pickled vegetables
are combined and aged even more, which adds further depth and
For the contemporary palate, the original olive salad tastes rich and
heavy, because of the oil, as well as somewhat bland. Many modern
recipes for olive salad have been updated for modern tastes reducing the
heaviness and adding spice. For example, many recipes substitute
the traditional olive oil with lighter vegetable oils, like cottonseed
oil, and other recipes add spiciness with cayenne or other chile pepper.
Joe O'Connell is senior research specialist for Muffoletta Ltd.,
the official resource for information about the authentic muffoletta.