Recipes: Engineering a muffuletta

04/23/2014 12:00 AM

04/22/2014 10:24 AM

My robot is old school: Wind him up and he lurches across the desk, orange tin arms swinging, red tin boots shuffling, black tin eyes deep in concentration. And though he makes excellent company, I’m glad I didn’t invite him to the robotics competition. Frankly, things have changed.

Packed into stadium bleachers, hundreds of young engineers in bright T-shirts and funny hats cheered on their creations. These robots were low and wide, smooth on their wheels and dexterous – they could pass, shoot and score. Not one blinked or grimaced. No faces.

Building the bot had taken six weeks in a sweaty basement. It took wrenches, screwdrivers, safety glasses. It took mathematics, elastics, pneumatics. It took calibration, cooperation, concentration. It took many, many sandwiches.

Home from the match, I engineered a muffuletta. The sandwich is wide and low. It’s packed with cheese and ham and olives and improved by the mechanics of the squish. It’s hearty enough to keep a whole robotics team on track. And simple enough to please the old-school fan of the windup.



Prep time: 30 minutes

Wait time: 90 minutes

Serves 6


2 1/2 cups olive salad (recipe follows)

One 1-pound loaf round Italian bread

4 ounces thinly sliced provolone

4 ounces thinly sliced ham

4 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella

3/4 cup grape tomatoes, quartered


Slice bread in half horizontally. Open and pull out some of the crumb (save for breadcrumbs another day).

Pile half the olive salad onto the bread bottom. Layer on cheese, ham, cheese.

Stir tomatoes into remaining olive salad and pile on top. Cover with bread top.

Wrap sandwich securely in plastic. Balance something flat on top and weight it down with something heavy. Let rest at room temperature, 30 minutes.

Slice into 6 wedges.


Olive salad

Makes about 2 1/2 cups


3/4 cup finely chopped green olives

3/4 cup finely chopped black olives

3/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers

1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoons drained and rinsed capers

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano

1 clove garlic, de-germed and finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


Mix all ingredients.

Cover and let rest at room temperature 1 hour before using.


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