NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665

September 30, 1999

Prairie Fare: A Twist on Tailgating

Football, the World Series, long walks along paths strewn with crunching leaves the colors of precious metals and rare gems. Emanating from an illusive source and an undetermined distance, an acrid whiff of wood smoke. The icy fingers of early morning air, a tingling caress for the nose. These are the gifts of autumn.

Fall is a time for celebration, and virtually all of my celebrating involves food. Because the harshness of winter will soon erase the splendor of summer's wane and force us inside, I suggest we do much of our near-term eating (celebrating) outdoors. I suggest we all have at least one tailgate picnic before the snow flies.

For this occasion, I'd recommend something simple, yet something with the zest of a perfect fall day: a sandwich. But not just any sandwich. Might I recommend a muffuletta, which is a submarine-style sandwich consisting of an oblong roll into which are nestled slices of provolone cheese, hard salami and deli ham. What sets the muffuletta apart from similar sandwiches is its topping, an olive "salad," which is a blend of olives, onions and other sundry ingredients intended to aid zing and an Italian flair.

Credit for creating the muffuletta apparently goes to the Central Grocery Co. in New Orleans. Calling the creation Sicilian Olive Salad, the current owners of Central Grocery, which opened in 1906, are now selling their sandwiches via the Internet ( In fact, they offer to send their sandwiches by next-day air--for a price of $100 for six sandwiches, for example.

I'm guessing some of you might want to try making muffulettas before placing an order with Central Grocery. What follows is a recipe I've adapted from several I found. To make muffulettas, cut into your oblong rolls at a 45-degree angle so that the bottom half is V-shaped. If desired, spread butter or margarine on both halves. Layer the cheese and meat on the bottom half of each roll, spoon on the muffuletta and replace the top half of the roll.

Tailgate Muffuletta
Yield: 12 servings (about 2 cups)

6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 5-ounce jar cocktail onions, drained
2 tablespoons capers, drained
cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives
1 cup black olives
2 tablespoons dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place garlic, onions, capers, oil and vinegar in food processor and chop finely. Add olives, oregano and basil and pulse so olives are only coarsely chopped. Place mixture in a covered bowl and refrigerate at least one hour (or up to one day ahead). Before serving, adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use 3 tablespoons of mixture per sandwich.

What's Your Take on This, Julie?

When autumn's palette bursts with color, it's a good reminder for all of us to paint our plates and our palates with foods containing natural pigments--orange and gold carotenoids and red anthocyanins. Of course, maple and oak leaves are still for mulching, not munching, but research is now suggesting that the same plant chemicals (phytochemicals) which provide nature's beautiful hues can have health benefits.

For instance, the beta-carotene in orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, mango and cantaloupe may help prevent many types of cancer. The body also converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which keeps our skin and eyes healthy. The lutein and zeaxanthin in dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale may help prevent macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. Lycopenes, the red pigments in tomatoes, watermelon and red peppers, may help prevent heart disease and prostate cancer.

Other phytochemicals are colorless. For instance, onions and garlic contain allylicsulfides, which may help prevent stomach cancer. At 70 calories and 6.5 grams of fat per serving (3 tablespoons), Tailgate Muffuletta takes advantage of the taste and variety of these phytochemical-rich vegetables.

Garlic, for instance, has been eaten for thousands of years for its possible health benefits. Garlic contains more than 100 sulfur-containing amino acids. One is alliin, and it gets broken down by natural enzymes during the crushing process to form the active compound allicin, which gives garlic its taste and possible medicinal effects.

If you're looking to garlic for health benefits, keep in mind that the allicin in crushed garlic degrades in cooking after 20 minutes and after three hours at room temperature. Among other properties, garlic appears to have antibacterial effects, it may trigger the immune system to fight tumors and it may decrease LDL cholesterol levels.

Along with your phytochemical-rich sandwich, enjoy some physical activity during the fall season. Autumn activities such as raking leaves or washing windows help you meet the Surgeon General's goal for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on five or more days of the week. Plus, you'll get to enjoy the colorful fall landscape.


Sources: Dean Hulse (701) 231-6136
Julie Garden-Robinson (701) 231-7187


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