A quick look back at all the pandemic cooking I’ve done reveals a penchant for soup and sandwiches. That’s mostly because it’s easy and economical to keep ingredients for them on hand: good-quality rolls in the freezer, sliced cheese and deli meats in the fridge.
For soups, I rely on a stock of vegetables that store well, such as broccoli, parsnips and squash. Dry and canned beans and tomatoes and some frozen vegetables, such as bell peppers, add variety to my soup-making endeavors.
The hot and spicy sandwich recipe here reminds us of the classic New Orleans-style muffaletta we first enjoyed there at Central Grocery. Layers of deli meats with a spicy olive relish on a crusty round loaf are memorable, indeed.
At home, we layer nearly all combinations of thinly sliced cheese and fully cooked meats on crusty small sourdough rounds or square, chewy ciabatta buns. A quick mix of chopped olives, celery, carrots and vinaigrette re-creates the marinated olive salad that makes the sandwich distinctive. Use a refrigerated bottled olive spread to save time, if desired.
Grainy mustard and hot chile oil stirred into mayonnaise make a zesty sandwich spread . Thinly sliced and rinsed red onion, along with a piece of a roasted, jarred red bell pepper, adds flavor and texture .
Broccoli soup does not need gobs of cream, melting cheese or lots of seasoning to taste good. With today’s recipe, the broccoli is cooked, uncovered, in water. That water, which tastes beautifully of broccoli, forms the base of the soup. For a richer soup, swap out the water with low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth. A puree of most of the cooked broccoli gives the soup body; pieces of cooked broccoli add texture.
To stick with the theme of the sandwiches, I add a little Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning to the boiling broccoli. Taste a bit of whatever Cajun or Creole seasoning you go with first so that you’re heat-aware before you sprinkle it in.
Tame the heat in the finished soup with a drizzle of olive oil or cream and some crumbled cheese. Or, swirl in toasted pistachio or walnut oil for a restaurant-quality flourish.