Eggplant Muffuletta #SeriousSandwich & Meeting @Emeril

Emeril meets Family FoodieVo-Vo and Vo, are on vacation again.  You all know Vo-Vo and Vo are my parents.  Let me tell you a little about their vacations, they are obsessed with cruises. I am not kidding, as in two or sometimes even three cruises in one year. Well, this time they are on a 28 day cruise. Being an only child, this feels like a really long time for them to be away. We are used to having Vo-Vo and Vo at all the kids games and rarely does a week go by that we don’t see them.

I’m just busting at the seams with news and can’t wait for them to return. What news? I had the amazing opportunity to meet Emeril Lagasse and he was gracious enough to allow me to ask him some questions and to discuss our love of Portuguese recipes. It may sound like an interview, but that wouldn’t do this justice because it felt like having coffee and Pasteis de Nata with a friend.

As Portuguese immigrants, my parents have loved and admired Emeril since the first day they saw him on television.  I first learned of Emeril because my parents were so proud that someone who was Portuguese was cooking on television.  When they heard Emeril talking about his mother’s Portuguese recipes, they were hooked.   Emeril is often the topic of conversation around the family table in my parents home.  It usually goes something like this:

“Have you heard that Emeril opened a new restaurant?”
“You have to watch Emeril’s new show, it’s even better than the last one.”
“I am making Bacalhau for Sunday Supper.  Not how I used to make it in Portugal, I think the way Emeril makes it is much better.”
“I wonder why Emeril doesn’t do BAM that much any more. He was so funny when he did that.”

If you spent any amount of time in Vo-Vo’s Cozinha, you may think that Emeril was related to us. As Portuguese immigrants, being on television as a celebrity chef is something that is hard for my parents to imagine. They are so proud of their heritage and Emeril represents it well.

Emeril's Kicked Up Sandwiches Cookbook

When I was contacted by Morrow Cookbooks to cook along with Emeril’s new cookbook, Kicked-Up Sandwiches, I never said a word to my parents.  I just posted it on my blog. There is only one other thing that my parents enjoy watching as much as Emeril , and that is my blog. To them, having my own blog and a social media following is almost as big as being on television. They watch for every post, every instagram and follow every Sunday Supper Event. When Vo-Vo saw the post, “What? You are working with Emeril?”  Well, not exactly… but that didn’t really matter, to her.

Imagine what my parents are going to do when they realize, that I did get to meet Emeril and I was as excited as they would have been. You know that old saying, your mother is always right.  In this case my Mother was right.  Emeril was as wonderful as she has imagined him to be.  He was gracious, kind and genuine and his smile lit up the room.  I truly wish that Vo-Vo and Vo could have been there with me for this interview. They would have loved listening to Emeril gush about his favorite Portuguese dishes and the spark in his eye when he spoke of his mother, Hilda.  Bacalhau, Sardinhas, Caldo Verde and Favas were some of his favorite Portuguese recipes.  He is proud of his Mom and confided that she is a wonderful cook and he has learned so much from her.

When asked about Sunday Supper, Emeril believes that Sunday Supper is an important way to start every week.  It sets the tone and establishes strong family time together and should be a staple in every home.  Since he is the cook of the house, he has exposed his children to a variety of global flavors. His children love to try new food and will even eat Portuguese style sardines.  Emeril credits their willingness to try new flavors on the time they spend around the family table. The only thing he can’t seem to get them to acquire a taste for is bacalhau. Just like my 4, they like fresh cod but have a hard time with the salted cod the Portuguese are used to.  Emeril agreed, there is nothing quite like Salted Cod, Onions and Potatoes or Bacalhau Gomes de Sa.

I asked Emeril what inspired him write a cookbook on sandwiches. He told me he loves sandwiches because it is something everyone can relate to and something that evokes memories in all of us. Everyone has a favorite sandwich. Whether you like your sandwich piled high or very simple, there are usually memories associated. Emeril’s Kicked-up Sandwiches cookbook does just that.  My boys will tell you their favorites were the Sopressata and Genoa Salami Calzones and French Bread Pizza Sandwiches with Hot Italian Sausage. I will tell you that the Egg Salad Supreme Sandwich was out of this world.  Why, because it brought me back to my childhood days and memories of my favorite deli in Kearny, NJ.  The difference being this one is truly kicked-up at notch!

Reis and I had so much fun trying sandwich after sandwich from this cookbook.  There was nothing ordinary about the calzones, pizza sandwiches or egg salad sandwiches.  Emeril’s version is truly a Kicked-Up Serious Sandwich.  Each recipe has a secret little twist on ingredients that takes it to another level.

I know it is hard to believe, but I even baked  some Rustic Italian Bread. I am not a baker by any means but even I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try a bread recipe from this cookbook.  Boy am I glad I did, it reminded me so much of Portuguese Bread.  Crusty on the outside and so soft and chewy on the inside.

Emeril meets Family Foodie

This was a day I will never forget. I entered the room feeling like a star struck teenager about to meet her idol for the first time.  But the conversation flowed easily between us and I left feeling like I had just traded favorite recipes with an old friend.

As we were leaving the mall and I was smiling from ear to ear, I received this tweet and my smile couldn’t get any bigger:

Emeril Tweets Family Foodie

Truly, the pleasure was all mine. I am looking forward to having Vo-Vo and Vo return from their cruise and spending time around the family table sharing my memories and making Emeril’s Eggplant Muffuletta for them. This is no ordinary Muffuletta, this is a Serious Sandwich that I know they will love. Made with oven-roasted eggplant slices instead of salami, a homemade New Orleans–style olive salad, and a fresh basil spread. Just like all the fabulous sandwiches in this cookbook, this muffuletta tastes so good you’ll never even miss the meat!

Eggplant Muffuleta

Eggplant Muffuletta

Ingredients
  • 2 medium eggplants (about 1K pounds), trimmed and cut into K-inch-thick rounds
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 loaf seeded Italian bread
  • Basil Spread (page 318)
  • 2 cups New Orleans–Style Olive Salad
  • 4 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 4 ounces sliced provolone cheese
Instructions
  1. Position an oven rack as close to the broiler unit as possible, and preheat the broiler.
  2. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on two lightly greased baking sheets. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush both sides of the slices with the olive oil. Season both sides with the salt and pepper. Broil the eggplant, in batches, until the slices are tender and lightly browned and have released most of their moisture, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and keep warm.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and move the oven rack to the center position.
  4. When you are ready to assemble the sandwiches, slice the loaf of bread in half horizontally. Using a pastry brush, spread the bottom half with a generous amount of Basil Spread.
  5. Spread the olive salad (with its olive oil—do not strain) over the top half of the loaf. Layer the sliced mozzarella and provolone on top of the olive salad, and then layer the slices of eggplant. Place the bottom half of the sandwich on top and lightly press. Quickly and carefully turn the loaf over so that the olive salad side is on top.
  6. Place the muffuletta on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake until the cheese has melted, the muffuletta is heated through, and the bread is slightly crisp, about 12 minutes.
  7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully transfer the loaf to a cutting board. Press lightly, and cut the loaf into 4 sections. Serve immediately.
recipe courtesy of Emeril’s Kicked-Up Sandwiches