Meatloaf My Way

meatloafAlmost every European and Mediterranean cuisine makes forcemeat in some form or other, whether it is a terrine, pate, kibbeh or meatloaf. The type of meat or poultry and the add-ins and seasonings are all that changes. Meatloaf is a good way to stretch your meat and while I love it hot, it is also delicious as a leftover in sandwiches or even crumbled on top of pizza. And unlike with baking, you can feel free to play with the seasonings here to personalize to your and your family’s tastes. As a little girl, when my mother made meatloaf, she was something of a purist. She used no egg binder and no minced vegetables – just meat, seasoning and bacon over the top covered by chili sauce. However, she did place whole hard-boiled eggs in the middle of the loaf as a surprise for me and my siblings. While I loved her meatloaf growing up, I actually prefer my version nowadays. I do still occasionally add the hard-boiled egg as a surprise and I always use chili sauce like she did instead of ketchup.

Meatloaf

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

3 pounds of ground beef or a mixture of ground veal and beef or lamb and beef. It should be 2/3 ground beef to 1/3 ground lamb or veal.

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely chopped red, yellow or orange pepper

1/2 cup minced carrot

3 cloves of minced garlic

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup of chili sauce

1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground allspice

several good grinds of cracked black pepper

1 bunch,  finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1.5 cups of fresh bread crumbs (about 2-3 slices – I use a multigrain bread, but any will do)

3-4 slices of bacon (If you don’t wish to use any pork product, then ask your butcher for some beef fat (suet)) to lay over the top to keep it from drying out.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 10 x 6 inch deep bread pan (This can also be made free-form in an oval, but I always use a bread pan.)
  2. Either by hand or in a food processor, prepare your vegetables and then saute them in the EVOO with about 1/4 teaspoon of the salt for about 3 minutes or until just softened. meatloaf1Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs and parsely to the mixture. Allow to mostly cool.
  3. In a large bowl (I always use either glass or stainless steel for raw meat.) add your meat, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the allspice, cracked black pepper and the beaten eggs. Mix through. (I use my hands for this. If you are squeamish, buy some nitrile or surgical gloves and put those on first and toss them when you are finished.) Now add the vegetable mixture and again mix through, breaking up any clumps.
  4. Pack the mixture into the oiled pan meatloaf2and using strips of bacon or suet, cover the top. meatloaf3Place the pan in a larger pan with at least 3-inch sides and add enough hot water to partially come up the sides of the pan with the meat loaf. Place this in the oven and bake for 1.5 hours.
  5. At the end of the baking, remove the pan from the pan with the water and carefully pour off any excess fat. Place the pan on a cooling rack and cover with a piece of parchment or foil. Place a weight (a brick or large can) on top for 30 minutes. This will consolidate the meat and make it easier to cut when it is hot. You can skip this step but if you have the time, it is nice to do.
  6. Remove the weight and parchment/foil and carefully turn the meat onto a cutting board. (Before you do this there might be some additional fat to pour off. It will depend on the meat you used.) Slice it and serve with additional chili sauce on the side. I like to serve meat loaf with “smashed” potatoes and broccoli with lots of garlic. Leftovers can be wrapped well and refrigerated for up to a week.

Gateau Breton – French Shortbread Cake

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I have been making this recipe for over 30 years. It is ina book I keep of hand-written recipes and the more beloved they are, the more stained the page. The page for this recipe is very stained! It is a deceptively easy recipe, but if you don’t use the best quality ingredients – and all of them – then please do yourself a favor and make something else. For years I would scrupulously write down recipes for people only to have them later complain to me that it didn’t taste like mine when they made it. After trying to determine the problem, I found out that they decided to not use real butter or left out the bourbon or cut the sugar or didn’t add the coffee to the chocolate. It finally got to the point that I stopped giving out recipes. Make this cake as written and you will not be disappointed.

This wonderful almond shortbread cake is best made at least one day ahead and will keep at least a week if it isn’t all eaten up. It can be cut into thin slivers for those forever on a diet and becasue it is so rich, a little goes a long way. This would take a starring role for any “high” tea and goes equally well with coffee or a little dessert wine. Unfortunately, I have no recollection where the recipe originated, so my apologies to that cook. I have made a few minor changes to it over the years as I do with most things.

Gateau Breton

Yield: One 9-inch cake that will easily serve 8-10

Ingredients

1.25 cups of unsalted butter, at room temperature (2.5 sticks)

3/4 cup granulated sugar (I always store my sugar in a glass jar with a few vanilla bean pods embedded)

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

1/3 cup ground almonds (they can be blanched or unblanched – both work)

1.5 teaspoons vanilla paste or vanilla

1 Tablespoon Kirschwasser (cherry liqueur, which is also wonderful for mascerating fruit)

1.75 cups all purpose unbleached flour, sifted

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon of ice water or milk and lightly beaten

2 Tablespoons sliced almonds (with skins or blanched)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lavishly butter a fluted flan pan with a removeable bottom. (If you don’t have one, buy one. They are so useful.)
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (I have done this entirely by hand, but the results are better and it is so much easier with a standing mixer and if y ou intend to do much baking you should really get one. I had one that lasted over 30 years, so they are an investment.)
  3. Beat in the whole egg and 2 egg yolks one at a time.
  4. Beat in the almonds, kirsch and vanilla. And then fold in the flour using the lowest speed on the mixer.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the lavishly buttered pan and using a spatula, spread it evenly. If you made this by hand, the batter will be stiffer and harder to spread – not impossible, but more difficult. It also won’t be as fluffy.
  6. Brush the beaten egg yolk mixture of the top. I would suggest placing the pan on a baking pan since sometimes the butter can ooze through the bottom a bit. Gateau Breton ready for ovenBake until the top is golden, about 30-35 minutes. This cake is almost impossible to dry out because of the high butter content.
  7. Cool in the pan on a wire rack and then carefully remove from the pan. gateau breton2When totally cool, wrap it well in foil lined with waxed paper or parchment.

 

Cioppino

There are a few dishes that seem to be very similar despite being from different countries.  For example, cioppino and bouillabaisse are twins in my mind, both of them difficult to spell and both delicious tomato based seafood pots of YUM.  When I first moved to San Francisco, I had not realized that cioppino was native to the city.  While it took me a good year to finally get around to trying it, I was not disappointed by the time the moment came!

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While it was delicious, it never really made it into my cooking repertoire because of the all the ingredients needed, so I’d recommend saving it for a fancy date night at home, or when you really feel like you need a little bit of San Francisco.

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I ended up modifying this recipe quite a bit just based on what was at my local grocery fish counter, the lesson being, you can really adjust the types of seafood you use.  Just make sure to cook all the shellfish first and then the fish and scallops.

Ingredients

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a 28-to 32-ounce can whole tomatoes including juice, puréed coarse
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 10 small hard-shelled clams, scrubbed well
  • 1/4 pound medium shrimp, shelled, leaving tails and first joint intact
  • 1/4 pound sea scallops
  • 1 pound scrod or other white fish fillet, (I got orange roughy and it was great)
  • 1/2 bag of mussels
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Directions

  1. In a heavy kettle (at least 5 quarts) cook garlic in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until pale golden. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened. Add pepper flakes and bell pepper and cook, stirring, until softened. Add vinegar and boil until evaporated. Add wine, oregano, and bay leaf and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in tomato purée and tomato paste and bring to a boil.
  2. Add mussels clams and simmer, covered, 20-30 minutes, checking often and transferring clams and mussels as they open with tongs to a bowl (discard unopened ones).
  3. Add shrimp, scallops, and fish to soup and simmer, covered, 5 minutes, or until seafood is just cooked through. Stir in gently clams and mussels, and sprinkle with parsley.

Adapted from Epicurious Cioppino recipe

Zucchini and Basil Soup

Sometimes in the winter, you just want a warm soup that takes minimal effort.  After all, we’re spending so much energy just staying warm, it would be nice if the soup were easy to whip together!  I feel this way about soup particularly when I’m sick in the winter.  For some reason after making my own soups, I’ve spoiled myself and hate buying soups if I can help it to recover from illness (they just never taste the same!)  But of course when I’m sick the last thing I want to do is be hovering over the stove.  (I decided to solve this problem the last time this happened by making extra soup and storing it in the freezer for the next sick day: gold star for self.)

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In any event, I’ve been making lots of butternut squash and tomato soup, and finally decided to try this zucchini basil soup from an Ina Garten cookbook I’ve head on my shelf for some time.  I had been extremely wary of it, for no apparently reason, given that one of my favorite Korean soups includes warm cooked zucchini.

I sometimes wonder if my feelings on zucchini are related to back when my family grew them in the backyard, and there were just so many delicious zucchini flowers that turned into gigantic zucchinis that just never made it into my (non-existent) “favorite vegetable” list.

In any event, this with a drizzle of basil olive oil and a sprinkle of grated parmesan really warms the soul on a cold winter night.  It also has a nice spicy twang thanks to the red chili pepper flakes, which made for a wonderful pairing with a California Zinfandel.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped  yello onion
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 3 lb zucchini (I used about 4 medium-large ones)
    1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt
  • 1 cup good dry white wine (I used a dry Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock (Kitchen Basics has a nice one)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • grated parmesan cheese or serving

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large port over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes or until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute.  Add the zucchini, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, 1 tbsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper and sauté for 5-10 minutes or until the zucchini is tender.
  2. Add the wine, chicken stock, and basil, bring it to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the zucchini is very tender.
  3. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture.
  4. Serve with a grating of cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Make it Ahead.

Spiced Butternut Squash and Farro Salad

Oftentimes at work, we have vendors come through telling us about their amazing products, from flavored vodka to pistachios.  The flavored vodka vendors brought a manicurist, a masseuse, a bunch of Pottery barn soft, fuzzy robes that redefine “fuzzy robe” because they are so soft, and well, flavored vodka.  More directly relevant were the Pistachio folks who came through, and set up a veritable feast with every dish including pistachios.  It was basically a pistachio party, and my favorite takeaway was the inspiration for this butternut squash and farro salad.

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I love making grain salads that incorporate random tidbits from my kitchen, and when the grain salad incorporates free bags of pistachios, even better.  This was so good that it could have been a meal in and of itself.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of farro
  • 1/4 tbsp paprika
  • 1/4 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 lb butternut squash (peeled and chopped into 1/2″ cubes)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup of pomegranate arils (or just whatever one pomegranate yields)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 4-8 oz goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup pistachios

Directions

  1. Cook the farro according to package instructions.  (Usually just put the farro in a pot with enough water to cover it, bring it to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the farro is tender about 30 minutes).
  2. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Take out a baking sheet, line with foil and drizzle some EVOO.  Put cut up butternut squash on the pan, sprinkle all the spices on the butternut squash then stick in the oven until the squash is tender, about 35 minutes.
  3. Drain and transfer the farro to a large mixing bowl, and add the butternut squash, EVOO, pomegranate seeds, arugula, and pistachios.
  4. Serve with a dollop of goat cheese, good both warm and at room temperature.

Carrots and Spicy Harissa Yogurt

One of our favorite “date night at home” menus includes a cast iron steak cooked to crispness on a cast iron skillet plus some roasted vegetables.  The struggle has been trying to find inventive sides to go with the steak just for some variety.   Lately I’ve been really into these colored carrots that seem to taste better than the average Bugs Bunny carrot, really only because I’m easily distracted and impressed by colorful food on my plate!

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This recipe would be a lovely side course to serve at a dinner party, as well, as it would plate beautifully and be a creative way to jazz up the side potatoes routine.

Ingredients

  • 1 head of garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt
  • 8-12 medium to small carrots
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp Moroccan harissa (or paprika and chili powder)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, toasted
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parley
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Slice the head of garlic in half widthwise and toss in oil just to coat.  Wrap in foil.  Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour and then mash into a paste.
  3. Slice the shallot into paper thin rings and toss in a bowl with some lemon juice to coat.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the broiler.  Peel the carrots and trim the tops and ends.  Cook the carrots in the boiling water until they are just shy of fork tender.  Remove the carrots and lay on a baking sheet.  Toss them with oil.  Place the baking sheet under the broker until the carrots are slightly blistered.
  5. Put the yogurt in a small mixing bowl.  Stir in the harissa until you get your desired spice level.  Do the same with the roasted garlic paste.  Then add the lemon juice and salt to taste.
  6. To serve, spoon some of the yogurt on each plate, put carrots on top, and finish with the sunflower seeds, pistachios, the shallot, parsley and mint.

From Twenty Dinners by Chris Taylor 

No Bake Nutella Cheesecake

I wasn’t planning on making any special desserts for Valentine’s Day, mainly because I had just made a week’s worth of post-dinner desserts in the form of pot de creme.  However, when Lisa sent me this round-up of recipes, I knew that I had to make the Nutella cake.  The thought of  basically taking a tub of Nutella and then not having to bake anything to create a dessert was too tempting to pass up.
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This cake vanished in a matter of days, and was wonderfully dense and like eating blocks of fudge on top of a graham cracker like crust.  I would probably make it with a graham cracker crust next time. Thanks to this recipe, I also learned what Digestives are.  True to their name, apparently they were originally used to help with digestion!  (A product name that describes exactly what it does? Brilliant.)

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While I could have added Hazelnuts, I couldn’t seem to find them in my grocery store and had not thought to add them to my nuts.com order, and as it turns out – I think it was much better without the extra nuts!
Ingredients
  • one 8.8-ounce package of Digestive cookies, or substitute graham crackers or chocolate wafer cookies
  • 75grams (5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) soft unsalted butter
  • 400grams (one 371-gram jar is fine) Nutella, at room temperature, divided
  • 100grams (2/3 cup) hazelnuts, well-toasted and chopped (see note), divided
  • 500grams (two 8-ounce packages is fine) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 60grams (1/2 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Directions
  1. Break the digestives into the bowl of a processor, add the butter and a 15-milliliter/1 tablespoon of Nutella, and blitz until it starts to clump.
  2. Tip into a 23-centimeter/9-inch round springform and press into the base either using your hands or the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to chill.
  3. Beat the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar until smooth and then add the remaining Nutella to the cream cheese mixture, and continue beating until combined.
  4. Take the springform out of the fridge and carefully smooth the Nutella mixture over the base. Place the tin in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. Serve straight from the fridge for best results.