A sandwich showdown with Columbus Salame

All three sandwichers

Last month, Columbus Salame reached out to me with a proposition: They were rolling out a new product line, Farm to Fork Naturals, and wanted me to emcee a fun little event with bloggers competing, Top Chef-style, to turn out their most creative sandwiches with the new deli meats. I, of course, said yes. I mean, how fun is that?

I've been chummy with Columbus for a little while now. Under the auspices of my other site, Punk Domestics, I hosted a Twitter chat for them a while back, and then went to visit the production facility in South San Francisco to see how their cured meats are made. I've become a fan of their Artisan line, which uses sustainable, antibiotic-free meat, and cures the meat in natural casings using very much the traditional methods that I got to experience in Italy in January. For Farm to Fork Naturals, they are applying this sustainable sensibility to their pre-cut deli meats, which is really their bread and butter. Er, lard. 

The competition was thus: Bloggers would have a pantry of ingredients, including of course various forms of salame. Then, we would dispatch them across the street to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, where they would have 10 minutes and $10 to acquire one or more secret ingredients to set their sandwich apart from the pack. Upon their return, they would have 20 minutes to assemble their sandwiches, which would be judged by a panel of food media experts based on creativity, use of the ingredient, presentation and, most importantly, flavor. The stakes were high: The winner would get bragging rights, a big basket of Columbus product … and $500. 

To kick the event off, though, Columbus wanted me to develop four appetizer recipes so that we would have some nibbles for the bloggers and judges; these were expertly executed at the event by Rebecca Jean Catering. (They even interviewed me on their blog. Neat, no?) Because I wanted to inspire creativity in the sandwich makers, I tried to showcase the salame in as many different ways as possible: Cold and hot, soft and crispy, savory and sweet, traditional and not so much. 

Our suckers, er, blogger competitors were Lynda Balslev of TasteFood, Chef John of Foodwishes and Michael Procopio of Food for the Thoughtless.

Lynda, Chef John, Michael

Handsome bunch, aren't they? Turns out they're a creative lot, too, each taking radically different directions in their sandwichery. Lynda drew inspiration from the fennel salame, nabbing some fennel pollen to lay down on her salame, fig and fennel pollen sandwich, which also used shavings of fresh fennel for even more fenneliciousness. She's posted her recipe here

Michael's eye was drawn immediately to a packet of marrow butter, which he used in combination with the fat he rendered when making some crispy salame slices to make a umami-tastic grilled salame and turkey sandwich. Here's his recipe

Chef John came back with two secret ingredients, pine nuts and pluots, which he combined with diced soppressata to make a sweet-savory relish to punch up turkey and teleme. Read his recipe here

Twenty minutes later, they served their sandwiches to our panel of esteemed judges: Susannah Chen of YumSugar, Jonathan Kauffman of Tasting Table SF, John Birdsall of CHOW, Anna Roth of SF Weekly and Valeria, the senior marketing manager at Columbus. 

Panel of judges

Who won? Well, I'm going to make you read their posts to find out. But suffice to say that a good time was had by all, and the winner graciously gave their monetary proceeds directly to the San Francisco Food Bank. And boy, could they use it.  

In developing the recipes for the appetizers, I went outside my comfort zone by using more prefab, store-bought foods than I normally do. All of these recipes can be DIY-ed up; they would work as well with homemade pizza dough, homemade olive spread, and so on. But I was pleasantly surprised at how well many of these ready-made foods worked, and if you're canny at reading labels, you can often find versions that are not chock-full of chemicals. The one exception is the steamed buns. I picked up the trick of steaming instant biscuits from Jaden at Steamy Kitchen. You could try steaming homemade biscuits, but I do not guarantee the results.

DIY or no, these four appetizers are certain to make their way into our regular entertaining repertoire, and I think the caterer, Rebecca Jean Catering, will do so, too. 

Recipe: Muffuletta Stromboli

Summary: This crowd-pleasing dish mashes up stromboli, the classic rolled pizza, with New Orleans' famous muffuletta sandwich.


  • 2 pizza doughs, rolled out to approximately 10" x 12" rectangle, 1/4" thick
  • 1 10 oz jar green olive tapenade
  • 1 2 oz jar capers in brine
  • 1 4 oz jar pimientos, drained
  • 1/4 lb sopressata or dry salame
  • 1/4 lb smoked turkey
  • 1/4 lb sliced provolone or mozzarella
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp water


  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF if you have convection; 400ºF if you do not.
  2. Put the tapenade, pimientos and 1/2 of the capers, drained, into a food processor and pulse 10-12 times until even in consistency.
  3. Roll out the pizza doughs. Spread a thin layer of the tapenade mix all over each, leaving a 1/2" border all around. Lay down a layer of salame, again leaving 1/2" border; do not overlap slices. Repeat with the provolone, turkey and mozzarella. You may have excess meat and cheese.
  4. Roll the dough into a spiral, rolling away from you. When completely rolled, pinch the seam and ends shut. Place each on a separate lined baking sheet, seam side down. Mix the egg yolk and water, and brush all over the roll. Make three diagonal slices in the top, just deep enough to penetrate the outermost layer of dough.
  5. Place in oven. If you have convection, use it for the first five minutes. If you do not, start the dough at 400ºF and drop to 375ºF after five minutes. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  6. Cool 10-15 minutes, then serve warm with marinara dipping sauce (see below).

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Recipe: Marinara Dipping Sauce


  • 1 28-oz. can tomato puree
  • 1 8-oz. can tomato paste
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed


  1. Saute onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add the tomato paste and combine, cooking 1-2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Add the tomato puree. Cook, stirring frequently, until smooth and thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Recipe: Salame Cornetti

Summary: When the salame is room temperature, the cones can be formed by simply pinching the corners of the salame together.


  • 5 oz. gorgonzola
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 oz crushed pecans
  • Splash of sweet marsala
  • Cream
  • Pecan halves


  1. 2 to 3 4-oz packets fennel salame or sopressata, room temperature
  2. Blend the cheeses, pecans and marsala until very smooth. Dilute with cream if necessary to get to make it loose enough to pipe through a piping bag.
  3. Fold each slice of salame in half, then roll corner to corner to form a small cone. Pinch tightly to close, and rest seam-side down.
  4. Using a star tip, pipe the cheese filling into the salame cornets. Cap with a pecan half.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: None

Recipe: Quickie Salame Bao


  • 1 roll instant biscuits (10 biscuits)
  • 20 slices dry salame or genoa salame
  • 5 slices roast turkey
  • Several pepperoncini, sliced in strips
  • ~4 oz. plum or mango chutney
  • 10 squares parchment paper, approx 3” on each side


  1. Set a steamer insert into a pan with 1/2” water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low boil.
  2. Roll the biscuits in a slightly oval shape, and fold in half. Place each biscuit on a square of parchment paper.
  3. Working in batches, place the biscuits on the steamer. Cover and steam 15 minutes, until puffy. Remove and let cool.
  4. Open each bun on the seam. Add a dollop of the chutney, a few strips of pepperoncino, two slices of salame and 1/4 slice of turkey. Fold closed and serve.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 10

Recipe: Endive Cups with Waldorf Filling and Crispy Salame


  • 1 4-oz package dry salame or genoa salame
  • 20-30 Belgian endive leaves, approx. 3” long
  • ½ c. walnuts or pecans, very finely chopped
  • ½ c. celery, very finely chopped
  • ½ c. red grapes, very finely chopped
  • 1 gala or fuji apple, peeled and cored, very finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Slice the salame into thin matchsticks and spread them evenly over a lined baking sheet; do not let them overlap. Bake 3-5 minutes, until the fat renders out. Remove to paper towels to drain.
  2. Mix the nuts, celery, apple, grapes, mayonnaise and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture into the endive leaves, and top with a few crisp slivers of salame.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: None

Number of servings (yield): 20-30

Business RelationshipColumbus Salame paid me as a contractor me to host and promote this event, as well as for the development of the four appetizer recipes.

  • Wow! That’s a lot of work, and a lot of deliciousness. And just in time for the holidays. I love it when recipes say “Cooking time: None.”

  • Thanks again, Sean! It was a lot of fun. Your apps rocked!