Friday, January 18, 2008

Olive That Heaven Allows

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2008 at 11:06 AM

click to enlarge italianolivesalad-32oz.jpg

Over the Christmas holidays, I was at a party talking to Sue Caplenor, a Middle Tennessee resident and seasoned traveler who loves New Orleans cuisine. I told her how much I liked the muffuletta at the Italian Market, and I thought I might try making one sometime. She asked whether I had any Boscoli Family Italian Olive Salad. When I said no, she looked like I’d said I was going to make beignets from a Jiffy cornbread mix.

A few weeks later, out of the clear blue sky, a jar of this magic elixir arrived on my doorstep. I was fixing a turkey sandwich and thought, what the hell. I unscrewed the lid, and a wonderfully complex, pungent aroma arose from the large jar. I heaped a few spoons of the oily salad onto my sandwich, mashed down the bread, and took a bite.

Oh. My. God. Even without the salami, the capicola, the mortadella or the Emmentaler, the muffuletta taste was suddenly there, briny and sharp. The olives were the base taste, but an assortment of pickled vegetables (giardineira) including nibs of carrot, cauliflower and celery rounded the flavor, giving the sandwich both accent and crunch. It was like tasting one of those food-lab concoctions that manages to distill the essence of a cheeseburger into a single liquid drop.

I’m halfway through a big honkin’ jar, but panic is already setting in. Neither the Italian Market nor Savarino’s carries the Crescent City staple; nor does Whole Foods. According to a representative at Boscoli Foods in Kenner, La., no one in Nashville carries their olive salad. The good news: Boscoli’s website sells a 16-oz. jar for $6.15—or better yet, a 128-oz. hogshead for a mere $22.50. If sweet Sue Caplenor is really an undercover pickle pusher hooking another po’ boy on Boscoli—well, consider me a grateful addict.

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