Football season is underway at last!
I’ve always been a huge college football fan, and I attended home and away games every Friday night when our sons were at Highland Park High School.
As a devoted band mom, a small group of friends and I led the effort to reinstate the band’s tartan uniforms and kilts, even tracking down the official Highland Park Tartan fabric in Scotland.
Both our sons were drum majors, and one became Highland Park’s first pipe major in 15 years, bringing back the beloved Bagpipe Corps.
For many football fans, the tailgate party is as much a tradition as the game. Some tailgate masters are downright competitive regarding their menus, especially when they pull out their grills.
For those who prefer watching football in front of the TV, “homegating” can be just as fun and tasty with the added benefit of having one’s kitchen and grill close at hand. Barbecued ribs, grilled burgers, loaded nachos, chips and salsa, guacamole, cheese platters, chili, and deli-style sandwiches are all great options for homegating.
One of my favorite sandwiches is the muffuletta. A New Orleans sandwich tradition that originated in 1906 at the Central Grocery, muffulettas start with a French boule sliced crosswise through the middle, then layered with Italian meats such as sopressata and mortadella, provolone cheese, sliced tomato, basil, and the ingredient that sets it all apart – black and green olive tapenade.
I enjoyed my first muffuletta at the Capitol Oyster Company when Randy and I were at the University of Texas. The restaurant was close to the State Capitol, making it popular with lawmakers. It was also one of our favorite dating destinations, which may explain why the muffuletta remains a vivid food memory.
I’ve adapted my recipe by substituting individual ciabatta rolls for the large boule and using Black Forest ham instead of mortadella, which can be harder to find. I make the muffulettas several hours ahead, wrap them in plastic, and chill them for optimum flavor.
Sliced in half on a platter or served tucked into wax paper sacks tied with kitchen twine, muffulettas will be the hit of your game day celebrations.
6 individual ciabatta rolls
1 red bell pepper, rinsed
2/3 cup chopped green Spanish olives
2/3 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ pound Black Forest uncured ham, thinly sliced
3 ounces Sopressata Italian salami
½ pound provolone cheese, thinly sliced
2 ripe plum tomatoes, rinsed and sliced
2 bunches fresh basil, rinsed and dried
Several hours before serving, broil red pepper until its skin blackens. Transfer to a plastic zipper bag, seal, and allow it to steam until soft. Peel the skin and discard, slice pepper in half, remove seeds, and dice.
In a medium bowl, stir together bell pepper, olives, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, oregano, and black pepper. Tapenade may be made one day ahead.
Slice rolls in half crosswise. Spoon a thin layer of tapenade on the lower half of each roll and top with sliced meats, provolone, tomato, and basil. Spread top half of rolls with tapenade, replace the top, wrap individual sandwiches in plastic wrap so flavors can meld, and chill until shortly before serving.
Yield: 6 sandwiches