It’s hard to think of Summer as meat loaf time but in this house both J & D could eat meat loaf anytime. Just the name throws me, we should come up with another name…around here, it’s likely to be an actual name like Freddy or Winston or something. And, if you know J at all it wouldn’t surprise you that he is a Winston expert. If there is a diner or small family restaurant in America (especially named after someone, he loves restaurants that are Aunt-somebody-or-other’s, or Bill’s, or Angelique’s, etc), he will either get the meat loaf or the corned beef hash. It’s not that he’s not adventurous, but he has a need to try everyone’s version – and he likes most.
I’ve always been on the fence about meat in loaves. As a kid, they were pretty uninspiring (the whole ketchup and bacon on the top does not interest me, though I could see how chopped bacon mixed into the loaf could be sexy) and I could take or leave them but I’ve tried to live up to the expectations of my expert meat loaf testers. The kid does not like big chunks of vegetables (which is unfortunate, since my additions are likely to be hidden veggies) in hers, especially onions and she prefers her shaped into a face or some other kooky shape (hearts, snakes, etc). It helps her name each one as their own personality when they are faces – ha!
Ultimately, it is an easy food to alter to anyone’s taste (except maybe vegetarians, which I’m sure Seitan is a functional substitute but one that I am not fluent in) as you can add a liquid binder that suits your fancy (sour cream or yogurt, BBQ sauce, just egg) and any veggies you prefer (though I still stick to onions and mixed bell peppers, I don’t know why you couldn’t sub or add carrots, winter squash, peas, broccoli or cauliflower, greens, etc, though I might stay away from ‘wetter’ veg such as summer squash, eggplant, or tomatoes). I find a mix of meats adds to the flavor but there is no rule on this; I generally prefer a fattier meat mixed with a leaner meat both to cut down on extra fat but also to give enough that it builds flavor. I have made great loafs with venison and pork, beef and turkey, etc. A great use for stale or extra bread or crackers, this week I have a glut of the marvelous Seedy Sourdough Round from Stone Broke Bread so that will be my fiber/mineral filling addition. We also have a lovely bunch of Lemon Cucumbers and a slew of various Cherry and Prairie Fire Tomatoes which make a lovely quick and healthy Gazpacho, and because my people can’t not eat Winston without potatoes, some new potatoes smashed and treated with a little Summer Pesto. The weather has cooled enough, I could consider this for a nice Sunday meal. Enjoy!
Winston, the marvelous meat loaf
- 2-2.5 lb of ground meat, preferably at least 2 different kinds. Today we will have local ground grass-fed beef and organic pork
- 2 Large eggs
- 1-2 cups of bread or cracker meal (to make ‘meal’, toast bread lightly if needed, then whiz up in processor until desired fineness – oats also work great if Gluten-free is desired)
- 1 cup combined chopped or minced veggies (I will mince 1/4 cup onion so the child won’t balk, and 3/4 diced multi colored bell peppers)
- 1/2 cup liquid binder, today I will use sour cream because it’s what I have on hand
- Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1 heaping Tbsp Finely chopped herbs or dry herbs (savory herbs like oregano, marjoram, savory, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley would all be delicious)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking dish (I’m likely to use a 9×9) with a sheet of parchment paper in the bottom or a spray of coconut/olive/avocado oil to reduce sticking.
In a large mixing bowl, combine meats – mixing together thoroughly. Add 1 egg to start, the liquid binder, and the vegetables – mix thoroughly. Add herbs and a tsp of Sea Salt & Pepper each. Then add the bread meal and mix until just combined (do not overmix once you put in the bread meal, this will make the loaf tough). If the mix still looks too dry and is hard to combine, add another egg and again, mix until just combined. The whole thing should come together as one big lump; if still too dry, add a bit more liquid binder, if too wet, add a bit more bread meal (start with Tbsp of either and work up Tbsp by Tbsp).
Turn out into baking dish and shape to your liking. The shape should be an even thickness so that it cooks appropriately (I can tell you, faces are hard because as the meat cooks, the features dissolve as it contracts – ha!).
Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until the center is 155 degrees. When temperature reaches this, pull from oven and let rest 10-15 minutes. Slice to serve.
Rock Bottom Summer Gazpacho
- 4-5 (fist-sized) Cucumbers (we have round lemon cukes), cut in half or quarters and seeded (the chickens love the seeds), zucchini or summer squash works great, too
- 2 cups chopped heirloom Tomatoes (if cherry, I cut in half – choosing to seed tomatoes is up to you, if you do you could also set some aside in a jar to ferment and save seeds for next year)
- 1/4 cup chopped or torn fresh Basil (of any preferred flavor, we have Lemon Basil this year which is great)
- Olive Oil
- White Wine Vinegar or a White Balsamic
- Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
In a food processor or blender with a good blade, add seeded cucumbers or summer squash, halved or chopped tomatoes, and basil with a good glug of olive oil and vinegar and process until desired consistency (we like ours not chunky but not super smooth), add more olive oil or vinegar to change flavor/consistency. Add Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least 30 min. Serve in easy to swig-soup glasses or small bowls.
New Potatoes Smashed with Pesto
- 2 lbs golf-ball sized New Potatoes (a mix of red and yellow and/or blue is nice but any work nicely), boiled for 20 min in a pot of water 1″ above potatoes with 1 tsp sea salt until just tender, drained and cooled to handle
- Olive Oil
- Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 cup Pesto of choice (right now I have a homemade classic Pesto of Basil/Parmesan/toasted Pine Nuts/Lemon Juice/S&P whizzed up and ready)
While potatoes are cooling a bit, prepare a sheet pan with a bit of olive oil or parchment paper and then a glug of olive oil. Place potatoes on sheet pan and smash with fork or potato smasher until about 1/2″ thick. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and sprinkle Sea & Salt & Black Pepper over them evenly (if not using Pesto afterwards, add a shake of garlic and/or onion powder to potatoes for extra goodness).
If you are going to cook these with Winston, the meat loaf, add the sheet pan to another rack in the oven at about 50 minutes into cooking (or 10-15 min before meat loaf is done cooking. When meat loaf comes to temperature and is removed, turn up the oven temperature to 425 degrees and finish baking potatoes until desired crispiness (if not cooking with meat loaf, preheat oven to 350 degrees, cook for 10-15 min, and then change oven temp to 425 to finish) or about 10-15 minutes more.
It is at this point, when the potatoes are done cooking, you could sprinkle on some parmesan cheese and let melt or toss with the Pesto and Serve. I could just eat these and be the happiest camper ever.