This tasty dip takes its name and inspiration from muffulettas, the quintessential sandwiches from New Orleans. Muffulettas are stuffed with cold cuts, cheese, and olive salad, and so is this hearty and satisfying dip. In addition to serving it with crusty bread, you can also serve this versatile recipe with crackers over a block of cream cheese or toss leftovers into a Caesar salad. For that matter, it’s little surprise that this concoction makes a fine sandwich filling.
Food historians tell us muffulettas were likely invented in New Orleans by Sicilian immigrants. Elderly Sicilians who lived for many years in the French Quarter told of street vendors and Italian grocers selling muffulettas. These days the sandwiches are sold all over the city, from delis to pool halls to corner groceries.
The word muffuletta means “little muffin” and refers to the distinctive large, round, sesame-topped loaves used for the sandwiches. Italian bakers made the loaves to sell to Italian delis. In turn, the delis wrapped the sandwiches in the same paper the bread came in, so the sandwich took on the name.
Beyond the bread, the other signature ingredient in a proper muffuletta is olive salad, a tangy, briny combination of coarsely chopped pickled vegetables, olives, pepperoncini, olive oil, and dried herbs, plus secret ingredients that are closely guarded by their creators. As is often the case with local iconic foods, muffuletta makers vie for customer loyalty by touting the authenticity and quality of their product. Although one can find recipes for homemade olive salad, many New Orleans markets and eateries sell their custom olive salad in jars so that travelers can take home a jar or two as a delicious souvenir.