Laissez les bon temps rouler as our Mardi Gras celebration continues!
Your Galley Pirates have debated for weeks what to do about this recipe; whether to be bravely authentic and, we think, culturally and historically enriching, or to trim to the winds of political correctness. In New Orleans, this has traditionally been known as “Wop salad”; as recently as my Captain’s childhood, it was known as nothing else. More recently, some out-of-towners have pointed out that such nomenclature involves what is now considered to be an ethnic slur, and many (but not all) restaurants have yielded, renaming it “Italian salad.” You may file it under whatever name you see fit; our nod to its naming-past is out of love for the unique New Orleans version of the “melting pot”…rough-around-the-edges as it may be.
Oh, and by the way, call it what you may, but it is DELICIOUS.
The key distinguishing ingredient for the salad is olives. Many recipes call for olive salad–a heavenly condiment prevalent in New Orleans and used primarily in muffaletta sandwiches, it is a mixture of chopped salad olives and marinated giardiniera-type vegetables (our favorite is Rouse’s jalapeno olive salad…if you are in New Orleans, stop at this family-owned regional grocery and buy us a few jars!) In the absence of olive salad, chopped salad olives with pimientos are just fine as well–you will need about 1 cup of olives, or 1-1/2 cups of olive salad.
In addition to the olives, you will need about 6-8 cups of good romaine lettuce leaves, a couple of tomatoes (the Wop salad calls for Creole tomatoes, but those are only grown within a mile of the Mississippi River in that famous mud/soil, so substitute heirloom or other good quality ones), 8 garlic cloves, 1/2 to 1 cup of coarsely grated Italian hard cheese (Parmesan, Pecorino-Romano, etc.), and a vinaigrette comprised of a cup of olive oil, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of Italian herbs/seasoning, and 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce (that last item is another signature of the dish). ( The traditional recipe also involves about 16 anchovy filets, but my Captain would make me walk the plank or clean the bilge for a month if I so much as brought them aboard, so this will be the last even parenthetical mention of them!)
Shave the garlic cloves on a mandoline or slice as paper-thin as possible. )If you don’t have patience for this, mince them finely or even put them through a press into the vinaigrette, but don’t call it New Orleans Wop/Italian salad then!)
Toss all ingredients and let them sit for a good 20 minutes to let the garlic, olives, and vinaigrette work their magic.