Sunday, October 17, 2010

Spicy Barbecue Meatloaf

Meatloaf -- it's the quintessential 1950s American comfort food. I had my fair share of meatloaf growing up. Most of it was pretty bland -- ground beef, tomato sauce, egg, onion, and bread crumbs (or oats) with a subtle nod to flavor in the form of garlic (maybe), salt, pepper and oregano. Yep, it's boring stuff. Truth be told, I'd rather have a hamburger patty than meatloaf. But, my husband loves the stuff (his mom's version, anyhow). I had some use-or-lose ground sausage in the fridge, so it meant either rice and sausage casserole (of which I was missing a variety of ingredients) or meatloaf. I opted for meatloaf. And boy am I glad I did. This stuff was crazy good. And, it's entirely my own creation.

Spicy Barbecue Meatloaf

3/4 cup onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork sausage
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 tbsp dried parsley1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup spicy barbecue sauce

1. Combine first three ingredients in saute pan and cook until onion softens. Remove from heat.
2. In medium bowl, combine onion mixture, beef, sausage, bread crumbs, parsley, salt, pepper and egg. Mix gently until thoroughly incorporated. Add barbecue sauce and mix until incorporated. Pour into glass pie dish and spread around.
3. Bake at 375 for 45 to 50 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Serve immediately.

Substitution Suggestions: You can switch around the ratio of beef and pork you use. And, you can add in other flavors as well, but I wouldn't change a thing in this recipe.
For the bread crumbs, I used a loaf of stale Pane Italian that we never got around to eating before it went hard. Thank goodness for a food processor, which made quick work of the bread. I liked that the crumbs weren't uniform and that they were bigger than grains of sand (like the boxed stuff).

Lessons Learned: Note to self -- make more homemade barbecue sauce. I used poblanos, jalapenos and tomatoes from my garden (with some extras from the Farmers Market) to make a spicy barbecue sauce about a month ago, which I then canned. On its own, the barbecue sauce is pretty spicy. Mixed in with the other ingredients, it added the perfect amount of heat and sweetness. I'll post that recipe at some point.
Don't overmix the meat or it'll go tough. I used my hands since it takes less effort than trying to use a fork or spoon.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cherry Tomato Sauce

I planted a garden for the first time ... and with one exception (the zucchini), everything actually grew ... and grew ... and grew. It's mid-October and I'm still picking poblanos and tomatoes. Since I'm the only one in the family who likes fresh tomatoes, I needed to come up with something to do with all the extra cherry tomatoes that came from the two plants in the garden. Enter cherry tomato sauce. I love this recipe because you don't need to peel or seed the tomatoes (which can be a real pain when you are in a hurry). I paired this sauce with the Parmesan gnocchi and I thought I'd died and gone to food heaven. So, so, so good!

Cherry Tomato Sauce

1 sweet onion
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
Sugar to taste (optional)

1. Mince garlic and onion (a food process works well for the onion). Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion. Saute for five minutes or until onion is soft.
2. In batches, puree cherry tomatoes in food processor until chunky. Add to onion mixture.
3. Add salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

Substitution Suggestions: I've used other types of tomatoes with the same excellent results. I've also added basil leaves and a splash of balsamic vinegar during the simmering process. Both worked very well. I've also added butter to the olive oil. Again, delicious. Browned sausage (the Hillshire Farms type) also works in it if you want to add protein.

Lessons Learned: These measurements are all suggestions. This recipe does not require a lot of measurement, which is one of the reasons why I love making it. As quoted, it will feed at least four adults with an entree portion.
I cry every time I try to chop an onion despite trying every wives' tale in the book. I'm just sensitive, I guess. So for me, the food processor is a must!
And, the tomatoes really do need to stay chunky, not smooth. Don't leave them whole unless you like hot cherry tomato juice squirting up at you when they burst from the heat.
The sugar is optional. I like a little sweetness with the savory dish, so the sugar adds just the right amount since my tomatoes weren't overly sweet. The key is to taste as you go. Start with just a little, then work your way up to the desired sweetness. (The sweetness will build as the sauce simmers and reduces.) I got too much in it once and while it was still good, it was a little too sweet.
I like a lot of onion, so I use a whole onion in my sauce. You can absolutely cut the onion back, but it will change the texture of the sauce. The goal is not to have a smooth sauce (like the slop you pour out of a glass jar from the grocery store). Having created my own sauces from fresh, homegrown tomatoes, I may never willingly resort to store-bought sauce again! I'll be planting more tomatoes next year. Two cherries and two big boys are just not enough! As it is, I've raided my friend's garden twice!