Muffaletta

Scent is supposed to be the sense most tied to memory and I completely believe it. A sniff of Armani Diamonds (my signature scent in 2007) puts me right back in my first classroom at age 22 at Friendswood High School. The smell of my high school (not a particularly positive scent) brings back a flood of memories when I catch a whiff on my dad’s jacket. Wet polarfleece reminds me of skiing, funnel cake and beer reminds me of the State Fair, and gardenia reminds me of swimming at my grandma’s house.

The briny smell of a jar of muffaletta puts me at a beach on Lake Ouachita with my family and best friends, eating sandwiches our moms made on the top of a cooler with slightly damp bread, Pringles (they don’t get smashed), seasonal fruit, and an iced down Fresca. My best friend’s dad always made the best olive salad for muffaletta and even still I love happening upon a gifted jar in their fridge. He shared his recipe a few years ago and I’ve tweaked it a little to fit my taste (he’s a green olive purist, I’m all about the black olives mixed in). So, for the sake of my one loyal reader, my brother Joel, here’s the best muffaletta recipe of all time (and I know, I’ve tried them all). I hope you one day get to eat a muffaletta lakeside, in a swimsuit, followed by a boat nap and, if you’re lucky, a trip to the marina for a dip cone.

Muffaletta

makes a ton, like enough for the season and to share with your best friends

40 oz. jarred green olives with pimientos (a little more is fine)

1 jar giardiniera (it’s next to the olives)

1 can black olives

3 stalks celery

1 bag frozen pearl onions, thawed OR 1 onion

10 cloves garlic

1 1/2 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice, about 12 lemons

1 1/2 cups olive oil

1 TBSP dried oregano

1/4 cup finely grated romano cheese

Drain and finely chop all of the olives, giardiniera, celery, onions, and garlic, reserve the jars the olives came in. You can do this by hand, but I use a food processor and do small batches and pulse about 5 times. You want finely chopped, but not baby food. Mix all of the chopped veg together in a large bowl.

Juice the lemons and whisk with the olive oil. Stir in the romano and oregano until everything is well-distributed. Pack the mixture into the reserved jars (and you might need an extra jar or two), and top them with the remaining juices. Refrigerate and let it all sit together for a few days before you first use it. I prefer it on a sourdough or ciabatta bread with provolone, salami, and capicola, preferably lakeside with a Fresca.

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