Over the summer, in the hot, hot weather, I had a few people over for a last minute meal. I couldn’t bring myself to cook much, so I decided to make a big salad. Another last minute decision was to lay out my ingredients on a big platter rather than toss it it in a bowl. It seemed more substantial somehow. It got raves, so I made it several other times and posted as my Southern Buttermlik Cobb Salad. Since then, the big platter salad has become a favorite of mine. For relatively little effort, you get a showstopper meal or side salad. I’ve got all sorts of iterations in my arsenal, and I am sure they will make appearances here. But with Mardi Gras coming up, I decided to create a beautiful version inspired by the classic muffaletta sandwich, with olives, Italian pickled vegetables and peppers, cured meats and cheese. The dressing is tart from using the well-flavored brine from the giardinera (you could also make the dressing from olive brine). This gorgeous plate is hearty enough for a full meal with a nice loaf of French bread, or a great side for a Louisiana style meal. I prepared this for my family, and several people started picking at it with their fingers, so I suppose you could make it an appetizer as well.
Below is a basic guide to the salad. You could use a different green on the bottom and use whatever olives you prefer. I find lovely little bite-size salami in my grocery, but you can cut larger pieces if that’s what you find. I use salami and soppresatta, but you could add some mortadella or spicy salami. I buy a thick piece of provolone, sometimes sliced at the deli counter, so I can cut it into nice, hearty chunks. Use mild or spicy banana peppers as you like. You could purchase toasted baguette slices, but I tend to use half a baguette and serve the rest with dinner.
Muffaletta Cobb Salad
For the Dressing:
¼ cup brine from jarred giardiniera
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon Creole mustard
½ Tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 cup olive oil
For the croutons:
½ a small baguette, thinly sliced
Olive oil spray
Salt and pepper
For the Salad:
2 romaine hearts
6 ounce round of provolone cheese
8 ounces bite-sized Italian salami
3 ounces sliced soppressata
1 (25.5 ounce) jar giardiniera Italian pickled vegetables, drained (reserving brine for dressing)
1 (6 ounce) jar pitted black olives, drained
1 (10 ounce) jar pitted green olives, drained
½ cup banana pepper rings from a jar
For the Dressing:
Place the brine, vinegar, mustard, Italian seasoning and garlic in a pint jar with a tight-fitting lid. Screw on the lid and shake well to combine. Add the olive oil, cover and shake again until well combined and emulsified. The dressing can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated. Shake well before serving.
For the Croutons:
Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the sliced baguette on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spray one side with olive oil, then flip over and spray the other side. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes until crispy. Cool completely and store for up to a day in a ziptop bag. If you don’t have olive oil spray, brush the bread lightly with olive oil on both sides.
Cut the romaine into ½ inch wide ribbons, wash well and dry. Cut the provolone into bite size chunks. Cut soppressata slices into quarters.
Lay the romaine evenly over a large platter. Arrange the giardiniera in the center of the salad, then make attractive rows of the salami, soppressata, provolone, croutons, olives and pepper rings. Drizzle with the dressing right before serving.