Only olive lovers need apply! This monster-size, New Orleans classic sandwich is drenched in a luscious multi-olive "salad" that thanks to a long steep in the fridge penetrates every succulent inch. The original is a medley of meat products; our version is stuffed to near-bursting with roasted eggplant, sweet peppers, and fresh sweet spinach. Take this sturdy sandwich along to your next picnic or the beach, or drop (wrapped very tightly) into a backpack for a long bike ride.The longer it sits in a chilled environment, the better it will taste. It's really a meal in of itself but would be really nice with a little sangria and veggie crudités.
Mixed Olive Salad Relish:
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 cup pitted green olives
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
4 cloves pickled garlic
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed or dried and reconstituted (about 10 tomatoes)
4 teaspoons red wine or white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried, crumbled rosemary
1 teaspoon dried, crumbled thyme
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dried, crumbled oregano
1 teaspoon dried, crumbled basil
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 smallish eggplant (less than 1 pound)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed and spun dry
2 roasted red or yellow peppers, from a jar or homemade
1 (9- to 10-inch) round peasant-style loaf (about 1 to 1 1⁄2 pounds)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F degrees. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet. Cut the eggplant width-wise into 1⁄4-inch slices and rub each slice with kosher salt. Allow to drain in a colander for half an hour. Prepare the relish while the eggplant is draining:
Place the olives, parsley, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes in a large bowl. Toss with the vinegar and dried herbs. With a food processor, chop the mixture in 2 or 3 batches, adding some of the olive oil with each batch and pouring into the processor bowl. Process only enough to chop up the olives and tomatoes; stop often and use a rubber spatula to move the stuff around. The idea is to create not a paste of olives but a chunky mixture. Scrape the relish, along with the remaining olive oil, into an airtight container. Place the spinach leaves in a large bowl (you can use the one that once held the olives). Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar.
Use only high-quality, peasant-style bread with a thick, crisp crust. Anything less than that will disintegrate. Sourdough is particularly yummy choice for this sandwich.
Use garlic-stuffed green olives to eliminate the additional pickled garlic. Try adding a tablespoon of capers or a few cut-up hot pickled peppers, too.
Leftover olive relish is dynamite on pizza.
Roast the eggplant slices:
Rinse the salted slices with cold water, rub with olive oil, and lay in a baking sheet (some overlapping is okay). Roast in the preheated oven for 20 to 22 minutes, flipping once, until the eggplant is browned and tender. Place the hot eggplant slices on top of the spinach and toss to combine (the hot eggplant will slightly wilt the spinach leaves).
Assemble the sandwich:
Insert a thin, sharp knife into the side of the round loaf at a slightly downward angle. Cut the loaf in half, working the knife on the angle to create a shallow bread bowl. Remove some of the bread from the bottom and top interior of the loaf to deepen the bowl (save the bread guts for crumbs or use it to nosh on leftover olive relish).
Spread the olive relish very thickly on each side of the loaf, making sure to get lots of the oil and juices onto the bread. Drizzle on a little extra olive oil if the relish looks a little dry. Layer the bottom with eggplant, spinach, roasted red peppers, more eggplant, and top with last of spinach. Replace top of the loaf and press down very firmly with your body weight on the entire sandwich; dont be afraid to smush it down. Wrap tightly in foil, then wrap again in plastic wrap or a few resealable plastic bags. Refrigerate, putting a few heavy items on top of the sandwich to help press it down even further (one or two unopened boxes of soy milk work nicely). For maximum flavor, allow to sit at least 3 hoursor even betterovernight. To serve, hold the sandwich firmly and cut in half with a sharp serrated knife, then slice again into four wedges.
From Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2007.
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