If you have ever had a muffuletta, then you have had olive salad. It is a delicious combination of green olives, black olives, olive oil, celery, cauliflower, carrots, sweet peppers, onions, capers, parsley, pepperoncini, oregano, garlic, vinegar, herbs, and spices, or so Wikipedia tells me.
But it doesn’t take a lot of imagination, or Googling, to figure out that those cagy Mediterranean folks have been combining olives, olive oil, other vegetables, and herbs and spices for untold years. In Italy, they call it sottaceti, or “under vinegar,” and it is nothing more than a way of pickling interesting things that they might serve as an antipasto.
Of course, we all know olive salad from Central Grocery in New Orleans, and their famous muffuletta sandwich (olive salad, mortadella, salami, mozzarella, ham, and provolone), but this delicious salad has countless other uses. Add it to pasta or rice for a salad, to a burger or hot dog for a delightfully different take on a classic American foundation. Add olive salad to an omelet, make an appetizer of it by anointing sliced, grilled dark bread (see the deli at most grocery stores for their in-house baked breads) for a different look at bruschetta. Add a few dollops to your grilled cheese sandwich, toss in cherry tomatoes and cubed feta cheese for another salad idea, or even add it to your egg salad.
Olive salad really is just about as versatile a prepared food, and a great quality one at that, as can be found. Oh, wait! What about adding boiled shrimp, ham salad, or as a garnish on a roast beef sandwich? OK, enough, but you get the idea!
As the olive salad is already prepared, these recipes are simple and quick to put together:
Rotisserie chicken and cashew olive salad
I have listed red pepper flakes as an option in all of these recipes, but I know some like it a bit spicier than others. I think besides the small amount of heat, red pepper flakes add a depth of flavor:
1 rotisserie chicken de-boned (takes about 4 minutes)
Olive salad, 1-2 cups (just depends on the ratio you like)
1 cup salted cashews
Pinch or two of red pepper flakes
Mix the ingredients well, serve as a salad, sandwich, or taco. Add sliced jalapenos if you want a little spicy kick.
Hot dog with olive salad
1-2 grilled hot dogs per person
Hot dog buns
2-3 tablespoons olive salad
Optional red pepper flakes, just a pinch or two, and sliced jalapenos for a bigger kick.
Make sure to grill the hot dogs on a hardwood charcoal fire, the smoky flavor is just the best. Use traditional hot dog buns or, my favorite, King’s Hawaiian hot dog buns. Grill the dogs, add to a bun, and load with olive salad. Spice it up if you like with the jalapeno slices!
Pasta and olive salad
1-pound small pasta shapes (elbow, farfalle, penne, etc.)
1-2 cups olive salad
Grated parmigiano reggiano
Optional red pepper flakes and additional olive oil
Cook the pasta according to package directions, making sure it is al dente, never overcook pasta until it is mush. Mix in the olive salad. If you are an olive oil snob, add a little more of that extra good oil you are holding back. Toss the pasta to mix well, plate, and garnish with the parmigiano reggiano. This salad is good cold or still warm.