No, not THAT meatloaf

Posted: July 9, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: delish, Johanna, meatloaf, slow but worth it, sneaky veggies | 8 Comments »

I’m posting this from my office, so I’m not leading with a picture. You’ll just have to wait for the update.

The first time I ever ate meatloaf, I was 23 years old. I made it after seeing the meatloaf that my boss made for her daughter. And I mean a few months after I saw my boss’s meatloaf. Because you see…. I didn’t know from meatloaf.
My grandmother (hi Gie!!) is a wonderful cook. An amazing cook. And everything about her food is so filled with love, with care, that it makes things 10 times better.
For all this, my mother never enjoyed Gie’s meatloaf. I don’t know why, having never had it. So when I was growing up, we never ate meatloaf. I guess that’s part of being a parent — you don’t ever have to cook or eat the shit you don’t like again. But seriously. I am 25. I can remember every single time I’ve ever eaten meatloaf. Because it’s 5 times. (For the record, one of those times was a Rachael Ray recipe for Mini Meatloaves with Gorgonzola-Sage Gravy and Garlic Proscuitto Mashed Potatoes. The meatloaves tasted like baked hamburgers. Disgusting. )

My way of approaching meatloaf is different than most people’s, I guess. I figure this, since everybody that I’ve ever given meatloaf to has said “It’s really good, but it’s not meatloaf” — I think I’ve mentioned before that I understand their disbelief — no ketchup. An actual flavor. Not what they’re used to. But I feel like these things make us have a narrower view of food, instead of broader. Why does it have to have ketchup or bbq sauce or orange marmalade or whatever on top? Meat tastes good on its own! Especially when it’s cooked correctly! Why go covering it with sugary, salty, sodium-infused STUFF?

On Thursday night, I made meatloaf. As I’ve mentioned, I approach it differently than most. Back over the winter, I found a recipe for braised short ribs from Anne Burrell. After the ribs are browned, a whole bunch of pureed vegetables are browned, and then tomato paste is added and also browned, and the whole thing is deglazed with wine and set as the base for the sauce for the braise.

Thinking of a meatloaf as a roast with a funny texture, as I do, lead me to thinking that preparing vegetables like in a braise (up till the deglazing part) could give me a way to sneak as much veggie goodness as actual MEAT into the dish!
Since I am susceptible to the power of suggestion, and based on Lyssa’s Leek Week, I pureed 1 leek, 2 ribs of celery, 1 shallot, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 carrots, and one orange bell pepper. You can really go out there with this — use as many veggies as will fit in your food processor, do it in two batches, basically go to town. I loved the extra something that the bell pepper gave – maybe add a cubanelle/fryer pepper. If you’re feeling brave, perhaps a jalapeno! Basically puree a ton of vegetables, and put them in a hot skillet with a tablespoon or two of oil. Season liberally with salt.

Then, just let them sit, until browned gunk forms on the bottom. Scrape the veggies up, flip them around, and let gunk form again. Repeat one more time, and after the third round of gunking, add a teaspoon and a half of tomato paste, stir, and let that all brown for a minute or two.
I was using a non-stick skillet, so I was of course terrified that I would get no browning. I needn’t have feared, although I would recommend a cast-iron or stainless one. Better browning, more even heat.
When the tomato paste has gotten all nice and incorporated and browned, feel free to pour in a little deglazing liquid of your choosing. I used about 2-3 ounces of Jesse’s Sam Adams Blackberry Whitbeer. But whisky, red wine, any kind of beer, stock…. anything would be good. You just don’t want the veggies to get too wet – they’re going IN something, after all.

Scoop the veggies out of the skillet, and spread them on a plate or a cookie sheet to cool in an even single layer.

Once the veggies cool, combine 1 pound of ground beef (we used 85/15, I believe), some salt and pepper to taste, a tablespoon of Bisto (it must be Bisto) sprinkled over the meat, and the veggies. Add some breadcrumbs, until you have the proper consistency, and form into a loaf on a sheet pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

There is no glazing. There is no egg, although there could have been. I used plain old seasoned dry breadcrumbs from the cardboard container. I’m out of Worcestershire, and I decided not to add anything else fancy this time.
It was delicious. Delicious. I am going to make this again, seasonal appropriateness be damned. This is good enough that I will gladly turn the oven on in July for it. I urge you to try to make this. It is good. It is healthy. You could seriously add about a pound of vegetables, and use sirloin, and feel really good about yourself. Just get the puree done.

Do not touch this with ketchup. Or BBQ sauce. Not even mine. Just try it first. I promise you, it is worth it. Do not believe my friend Nicki, who once said, “Meatloaf doesn’t taste like anything. It’s not supposed to. It’s all about the sauce, about what you put on top of it.”
Because if that’s true then why not eat a hamburger?


Posted: June 16, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: cheap, delish, Johanna, sandwich, vegetarian | 3 Comments »



There are many foods in this world that I love. And most of them, I eventually get sick of. Or at least, most of them I wouldn’t want to eat 7 days a week.
But there are a couple foods I love so much that I can’t help but eat them every chance I get. At the top of that list, my darlings, is this: Fried Eggplant.

I know, I know. Fried Eggplant?? WTF??

Just wait.
So while planning the weekly shopping for this week, I realized that I really wanted to work fried eggplant into the menu. And while I can eat just plain old eggplant, fried, as a meal….. it’s not exactly well-balanced. And I have a Jesse to think about too, to whom I wouldn’t feel right feeding JUST a fried eggplant.

I love eggplant parm, but my favorite thing about fried eggplant is the way the crispy crust contrasts with the soft, sweet eggplant. And when you do parm, it all becomes a bit soggy. I need that contrast. I need that crunch. It’s hard to get the crunch when the eggplant is buried under a mountain of sauce and cheese (not that I don’t LOVE sauce and cheese).
While thinking and wondering how on earth I was going to work fried eggplant into dinner, I had an epiphany!!!

Eggplant Parm could be deconstructed!!! It was nothing more than fried eggplant, tomatoes, and cheese! WHo said it had to be all melty and sauce? NOBODY, that’s who!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you…..

Eggplant Parm

Eggplant Parm

Eggplant Parm!!!

1 medium eggplant cut into even-thickness discs. Sprinkle a teeny bit of salt on each circle and set them salt-side up on a cooling rack. The salt draws out the bitterness of the eggplant. After 20 minutes, OR when there are little beads of liquid on the surface of the eggplant discs, rinse off the salt with cool water and dry them as thoroughly as possible with paper towels, a dishtowel, a hairdryer, do what you have to do.
1 -2 cups flour, divided. Put 1/2 cup on a plate. Put the rest in a deep bowl or soup plate.
1 cup Panko. Put this into the deep bowl/soup plate with the flour.
1 egg, beaten with 3 tablespoons of water.

Slice 1 large tomato into discs mirroring the size of the eggplant discs.
Slice 1/4 pound of mozzarella into discs as well.

Put enough oil in your skillet to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Heat it up until some of the panko/flour mixture fries instantly. Then, start the dredging assembly line!!! Flour, egg, Flour/panko. You are going to have to convince the second breading to stick to the eggplant. It will not want to. You will have to press, and smash, and coax it onto the egg-dredged eggplant rounds. And don’t forget to roll the skin side around in the dredge. Eggplant takes some convincing. But it will be worth it. I promise.

Put the lovely little breaded eggplant discs in the pan. My pan holds 4 at a time. They should float a little…. otherwise they stay down in the icky oil that gets clogged up with fallen-off flour and it’s not a good time. Fry them until they’re roughly golden-brown, flip AWAY FROM YOU so you don’t splatter yourself with hot oil (not like I’ve EVER remembered that lesson), and when they’re done, remove them to a cookie sheet with a cooling rack on it, in the oven at about 200. OR you could preheat your oven, and turn it off when you start frying. You just want the rounds to stay warm and dry out a little, because the oil will make the crust soggy, and that’s just not cool.

Fried Eggplant

Fried Eggplant

Mmmmm. Hello little ones. I’ll be back for you, promise!!

Once you’ve fried your eggplant, and let it cool (very important), stack it and your sliced tomato and mozzarella on a lovely bun. I used brioche hamburger buns from Fresh Direct, because I’m fancy:

Sliced mozzarella and tomato

The sandwich was delish. I’d recommend stacking the tomato on the bottom, then the cheese, then the eggplant, so you still experience the joy of the crispy crust. Repeat as often as your supplies will allow, and enjoy.

Just for you:

Posted: April 13, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: beans, burgers, cheap, delish, quick, vegetarian | 3 Comments »

Have you found yourself lately thinking, “Y’know, I wish that Joh would post some fun, delicious, progressive recipes for us vegetarians” ?? Have you wondered what in heck you’d eat were you to come to a cookout at my place and not be able to stomach a burger, hotdog, or steak? Are you just hoping that I’ve finally updated this stinkin’ thing, so you can comment on my fabulosity once again??

You’re in LUCK!!!

Tonight, through a convergence of circumstances that can most accurately be described as “shite”, we had a delicious, nutritious, vegetarian dinner! BlackBean Burgers, with mango chutney!!
THey were delish. Seriously. And so easy!!
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained.
1 tablespoon onion flake reconstituted, or some chopped onion/shallot. Basically by 1 tablespoon, I mean a handful, thrown in a prep bowl with some water to get all fresh again.
chili powder
garlic powder
dried parsley

Everything after the onion should be added to taste. Except the breadcrumbs, which should be a shallow palmful. Less, if you have big palms. You’ll have to come measure my palms to get something exact, suckas!!!!!
For those who’ve been reading along, this is a LOT like my falafel procedure. Smash up or food process the black beans, then add the seasonings and breadcrumbs and process again. Or smash again.

I dusted the patties with a little flour, and pan-fried them in a little vegetable oil (strained from my latest fried pickle exploits….nomnomNOM) until they were crispy on the outside and warm through. I put them on toasted Sandwich Thins, which are by far the most amazing inventions of mankind since fork-split English Muffins. I smeared the bottom of the bun with Mango Chutney that I had in the fridge, and it was heavenly.
These are really good. I’d post a picture, but right now Jesse is using the USB cable to help him build the site for our SuperSecretSideProject, which will be awesome. :) I promise.

For now, consider making black bean burgers. They’re delish. And cheap. very cheap. And when you’ve just smashed your lovely French Press by knocking it over in an attempt to not break anything else on your countertop….. cheap, tasty, healthy dinner is always for the win. :)

A long time coming

Posted: March 1, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: delish, Johanna, pasta, pumpkin, Rachael Ray, sausage | 4 Comments »

Two words for you, my friends. Canned Pumpkin.

I’m sure there are more words I could give you, but these are the vital ones. Here are a few more: Sausage, Sage, Cream, Broth, Penne Rigate. Amazing. Outstanding. Delicious. I’ve been thinking about this recipe for ages. Since June, when I had a chance to make it but missed out because of a random babysitting job.

This is an awesome recipe and it totally goes along with my pumpkin obsession.
Here are a few fun facts about me: I don’t really like all things pork related. I mean, I really really like bacon. I’m not 100% in love with most other pig products, although I will try them, obviously. I’m coming around to sausage, in no small part because of this recipe. Browned sweet italian sausage, onion, garlic, sage, chicken broth, and canned pumpkin. Tossed with whole-wheat penne. Basically, it was intense. I even had seconds. Topped with tons of grated parmesan. Even cold, it’s delish. Make this recipe. Check it:

Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.