Monday, September 27, 2010

Foodie Friday Favorite - Buffalo Meatloaf with Spinach and Fingerling Potatoes

Adapted from Bon Appetit.
This recipe was my first attempt at meatloaf, about 3 years ago. We were living in a tiny apartment in Austin, and had a very old (and not in a good way) oven/stove combo. As a newlywed, It was important to me to learn how to cook some of my husband’s favorite dishes. Not wanting to compete with my new mother-in-law and her meatloaf, I thought the ground bison in this recipe would set it apart as a different meatloaf, yet still capture the intention. It was months later when I learned the seemingly obvious fact that it didn’t matter how different (or similar) the recipe was. It wasn’t the same, and it wasn’t made by the Husband’s mom. We have come to enjoy this meatloaf and to me it symbolizes the next level in our cooking abilities and experimentation that took place shortly after we got married. (The recipe also happened to appear in the first issue of Bon Appétit that we purchased, to read on a camping trip where we watched the Persied Meteor shower. Coincidence? Probably not, since that one magazine led to our subscription…)

When I made the recipe the other night, I thought about how far our cooking has come in these three years. I love using ground bison and usually get at least two pounds whenever I pick some up. It’s a great healthy substitute for ground beef, and has sweeter flavor notes.

The beauty of this recipe is that it is a full, balanced meal. It does have a fair amount of cooking time, so on a weeknight start the potatoes as soon as you get home, and then do the other prep.

1 pound fingerling potatoes (or baby Yukon gold, if fingerlings are not available)
5 teaspoons olive oil, or more, as needed
1½ cups chopped crimini mushrooms (also called baby bella)
1 cup chopped onion (red onion gives the most flavor, but use whatever you have on hand)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound ground buffalo meat (Central Market and Whole Foods have ground bison in the meat case, and other grocers have pre-packaged ground bison in the meat section)
1 large egg
½ cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs, also now available in non-Asian sections of the store)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon (more or less as preferred) crushed red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, diced
10 to 15 ounces fresh spinach

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Toss the potatoes in the olive oil. Place the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.Meanwhile, prepare the meatloaf. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms and onion until mushrooms are beginning to brown and onion is slightly translucent. Remove the skillet from the heat and mix in the herbs. Cool the mixture slightly.In a large bowl, gently mix together the buffalo, mushroom mixture, egg, panko, salt, and pepper. At this point, the 20 minutes for the potatoes should be over. Remove the potatoes from the oven and push them to the sides of the pan. Shape the meat mixture into a loaf-like shape in the center of the pan. 6 inches long by two to three inches tall works the best. Roast the meatloaf and potatoes for 30 minutes.Prepare the sauce. Combine the tomato sauce and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. After the 30 minutes have passed, pour the sauce over the meatloaf. Roast for 20 minutes more.
Once the meatloaf comes out of the oven, let it rest while you prepare the spinach.  Heat the remaining oil and garlic in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and toss to wilt. If you prefer your spinach a little more done, cover the pot and steam the spinach for two to four minutes.
Slice meatloaf and serve alongside potatoes and spinach. Serves 6, and the leftovers are excellent. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper and Fontina Grilled Cheese and Tomato-Lentil Soup.

Roasted Red Pepper and Fontina Grilled Cheese and Tomato-Lentil Soup.
A portion of the soup is left over from the Yom Kippur dinner we shared with my folks this weekend. The lentils add a warm, slightly nutty flavor to my basic vegetable soup, and had a texture similar to butternut squash bisque. For dinner tonight, we’re using the lentil soup but adding some tomatoes, to make it more consistent with the tomato soup/grilled cheese comfort food of the Husband’s childhood.

Roasted Red Pepper and Fontina Grilled Cheese
4 slices country bread
2 to 4 slices tomatoes, marinated in olive oil, 2T fresh basil, 2T fresh oregano, and salt and pepper for 30 minutes
Fontina cheese
Roasted red pepper, one whole, sliced in half (Easiest way to roast a red pepper is in the toaster oven. If you don’t have one, or if you are unfortunate and like us, have a nice one that no longer works, the second easiest way is on the grill, if you have a gas grill. Otherwise, stick it in a hot oven. Once the pepper is roasted, seal it in a zip-lock bag until it cools, about 20 minutes. Remove it from the bag and peel the skin. The skin will come off easily at this point. Slice it in half, clean out the seeds, and you’re all set.)
Wilted leaf spinach, enough to cover slice of bread
Dried crushed red pepper flakes
Optional: pancetta, prosciutto, thinly sliced leftover roast beef

Marinate tomatoes. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly toast bread in pan on one side. Lightly butter untoasted side of each bread slice. Place 2 bread slices, buttered side down, on work surface. Top each with 2 meat slices, if using, then spinach leaves, then red pepper slices, then 4 cheese slices. Sprinkle with salt and crushed red pepper. Top with remaining 2 bread slices, buttered side up. Heat olive oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add sandwiches to skillet and cook until golden on bottom, about 4 minutes. Turn sandwiches over; transfer skillet to oven and bake until golden and cheese melts, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Carefully lift off top bread slices from sandwiches and insert tomato slices into each, then cover with bread tops and serve.

Tomato-Lentil Soup
Make Lentil Soup, see recipe below. (If making Tomato-Lentil soup on the first go, add additional tomatoes when adding the first can, then add the cream towards the end of the cooking process.)
2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
2T cream
Fresh basil, for garnish

To turn the leftover lentil soup into tomato-lentil soup, we reheated the leftovers in a pot and added another can of diced tomatoes. We also added cream and used the immersion blender to blend until almost smooth. Serve in warmed bowls with sliced basil on top.

Vegetable Lentil Soup
1 onion, cut into rough ¼” pieces (or whatever size you prefer for soup)
3 or 4 carrots, cut
3 or 4 celery stalks, cut
The leafy inside part of the celery bunch, chopped
1 leek, chopped (we used the lower half of the leek)
1 garlic clove, chopped into very small pieces
2 quarts vegetable broth, and maybe more for thinning as the soup cooks
2 cups red lentils (or lentils of your choosing)
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
Fresh herbs (we used parsley, basil, oregano, tarragon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Sautee onion, carrot, celery, celery leaves, and leeks in olive oil until crisp-tender over medium to medium high heat. Add garlic, cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add broth, bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering vegetables for 10-15 minutes. Add lentils, tomatoes, and herbs and cook for 30 minutes or until lentils are soft. At this point, you can leave the soup as it is, or you can blend some or all of it. I used the immersion blender until about half of the soup was smooth, with some vegetables remaining in larger pieces. Add broth to thin if needed. Salt and pepper to taste, or allow each diner to salt and pepper individually (whenever we cook and my mother is one of the recipients, we always leave out the salt and pepper and let each person add their own).


It’s fall. Maybe it’s not technically fall, but school has started and temperatures at night here are hitting the upper 60’s. We had the windows open last night, at least until I realized the humidity was defeating the purpose of the cool temps and the house was actually getting hotter. Fall means apples, soups, squashes, and savory flavors. It means more food cooked in the oven than on the grill (though we do grill year-round). It means football and chili, and wishes every week for our games to be broadcasted at home so things like chili can be made while the game is on. It means cooking dinner as it gets dark outside, instead of finishing dinner then sitting on the porch as the sun sets. It means the return of favorite cooler-weather meals, like the chicken pot pie we had last week for the first time in months.

(I just did a search, and it turns out that fall does officially start this week, on Wednesday, so this post isn’t too far off. I think I felt that way because in my mind, it is hard to believe it is 2010, let alone nearing the end of September.)

And no, the leaves do not look like the picture above here yet. And may never. We tend to go from the brown of summer to the green of early fall to the brown of winter. This is much closer to what fall looks like here.

Part of fall for us this year means time to save a little more money than usual. The summer of weddings and travel has exhausted us, and not just physically.

A substantial portion of 

our budget goes towards food. Therefore, saving money means making meals using as many things as are already in the kitchen as possible. I’m not good at planning meals this way. Part of my favorite part of the week is planning the menu, then grocery shopping for the ingredients we don’t have, with little regard for whatever we might already have. Saturday mornings are spent pouring over magazines and cookbooks, discussing recipes and pairings, and generally having a lovely breakfast filled with thoughts of other meals. Sadly, such dreaming will have to change for awhile. The meal planning for this month will involve a careful study and consideration of foods already in the pantry, fridge, and freezer (and there’s a lot of it). New creativity will come not with selecting recipes (or inventing recipes) to complement one another, but with combining ingredients in ways that minimize the weekly shopping list.

Pantry meal #1, dinner last night (and a post shortly), came from a little online searching with certain ingredients in mind, and then some tweaking of several recipes I encountered in my searching. It's Roasted Red Pepper and Fontina Grilled Cheese with Tomato-Lentil Soup.