Vegan: Broccoli Rabe and Antipasti Panini with Olive Salad
Note: For the four weeks between January 14th and February 11th, I'm adopting a completely vegan lifestyle. Every weekday I'll be updating my progress with a diary entry and a recipe. For past posts, check here!
This sandwich is based on a muffuletta, but it wasn't as simple as removing the meat and cheese and shoving in vegetables in its place. You have to first think exactly what it is that made the meat and cheese work in a real muffuletta in the first place. For me, the success is in the texture: moist and compact, but still toothsome and giving with a balance of flavors—funky, salty, sour, herbal, a bit of dried fruit from the well-aged cured meats.
Juicy, garlicky broccoli rabe braised in a dry white wine provide moisture and texture; roasted peppers add a bit of fruity tartness and smoky depth; marinated artichoke hearts are herbal and funky; and sun-dried tomatoes have that dried fruit thing going. Stick'em together, and—hey!—you got something that works just as well as the original and for all the same reasons, while simultaneously being brand new.
The olive salad and olive oil soak into the bread just like with a traditional muffuletta, but since I can't get real muffuletta bread 'round these parts with its uniquely absorbent-but-crusty, sturdy-but-soft texture, I have to make do with a regular round seeded Italian loaf I found at DiPalo across the street from SEHQ (they get it from Parisi bakery). The best way to give it a nice texture? Toast it in a panini grill.
If you've got an electric panini press, this is the perfect time to pull it out. If not, you can cook it in a regular skillet weighted down with a second skillet on top, flipping it half way through to crisp up both sides.
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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.