Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Meatloaf with Roasted Vegetables

I may be one of the last people in the United States to discover what a wonderful, delicious and even healthy treat meatloaf can be. My past experiences with meatloaf have admittedly been limited.

With parents that turned vegetarian early in my adolescence, the closest I ever came to sampling meatloaf at home was when my mother would make "nutloaf" ~ a questionable mix of ground nuts and mushrooms (along with many other ingredients) shaped into loaf form and baked until it tasted completely dry. I love my mother - who is universally acknowledged as a great cook - but could never summon any positive feeling for that nutloaf in either my heart or stomach. Since that time I’ve pretty much avoided creating, eating or ordering any foods which include the word "loaf".

Over the past few months though, I’ve been experimenting with a gluten free recipe adaptation* that combines a traditional meatloaf recipe with sensational roasted vegetables. The result is not only healthier than a stereotypical meatloaf, it is also beautiful to look at and quite tasty to eat.

I would love to know what suggestions my vegetarian readers have for adapting this recipe even further to become a totally meatless roasted vegetable loaf. I have a feeling it could be great that way too... without ground nuts.

Meatloaf with Roasted Vegetables

What You’ll Need:

Roasted Vegetable Medley...

1 small red onion
1 small yellow onion
2 large red bell peppers
2 – 3 large zucchini, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper


1 ½ cups gluten free ketchup
1 cup gluten free breadcrumbs (I use Gillian’s)
1.75 lbs ground beef (15 – 22%)
¼ cup Merlot
1 ½ cups of roasted vegetable medley
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, crumbled
2 eggs
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp dried rosemary
½ tsp crushed red pepper
1 ½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper

How It Works:

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. While it is heating up, you can work on your prep work: mincing up the zucchini, red peppers, onions and garlic. Once they are all cut up, throw everything into a single mixing bowl. Douse the vegetables with about two glugs of olive oil and if you aren’t squeamish about touching food it works best if you use your own hands to thoroughly combine all of the vegetables and oil. When this is done, spread the medley across a baking sheet (with sides/rim) and sprinkle them well with salt, pepper and a light dusting of marjoram. Bake in oven uncovered for 20 – 25 minutes or until the onions have softened and browned just slightly.

Reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees. In a very large mixing bowl, combine your gluten free breadcrumbs, fresh mozzarella, crushed red pepper and ground beef with your tablespoons of basil, marjoram and rosemary. Add 1 ½ cups of your roasted vegetable medley, along with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Mix it all really well – again, using your hands works best.

In a separate bowl, throw together the eggs, ½ cup of ketchup and merlot. Whisk it together rapidly and when it is fully integrated pour it into your beef mixture. At this point you may wish to use a sturdy spoon (or two) to fully combine the sauce into the beef and breadcrumbs.

Grease a 9 x 5 x 3 pan (your basic bread loaf pan) and then add enough of your meatloaf mixture to fill the pan halfway. Smooth the top – about halfway up the pan – with a butter knife or spoon and then coat it with another ½ cup of ketchup. This will add a lovely and moist interior stripe… extra flavor in every slice! Now spoon the rest of your meatloaf mix into the pan and shape the top into loaf form. Spread the remaining ½ cup of ketchup over the top of the loaf.

Place your loaf uncovered in the oven and bake it until the top is brown and all juices run clear when you stick a knife into it. In our oven (which runs hot) this takes about 1 hour. Remove the pan from the oven and allow your loaf to rest for a few minutes before serving ~ this tasty and filling loaf will slice much more evenly if its not too hot.

Top each slice with a heaping spoonful of your remaining roasted vegetable medley - which can be warmed up in a frying pan if it has cooled. What a gorgeous and healthy meal!

Serves 6 – 8 as a main course. Excellent with a side salad!
*Original recipe from The Flavors of Bon Appetit 2006, p. 42

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Delicious Beef Stroganoff

There is nothing like pregnancy to bring forth all of your deepest cravings for the comfort foods of your childhood. I have to admit that the past three months have tested my gluten free resolve – much more than at any point in the year since I first embarked on a gluten free lifestyle. There is nothing like morning sickness to make a former bread eater yearn with some desperation for a plain old Saltine, or just one piece of buttery wheat toast. If you’ve gone through this kind of a struggle in your transition to living gluten free, please know that my heart is with you. It does get better, and if you persevere I believe that you will discover many health benefits and other positive effects from the rigor of your new dietary practice.

The comfort foods of your childhood... what were they? For me, there were a few standouts. Cinnamon toast thickly layered with butter and sugar, peanut butter quesadillas (sounds yucky, I know ~ but they were sensational!) pasta with corn and parmesan cheese, and my mother’s classic standouts: homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, honey baked (breaded) chicken with peaches, pasta with pesto sauce, spaghetti with meatballs and my absolute favorite... beef stroganoff with mushrooms. I feel wistful just remembering it.

Before my diagnosis with gluten intolerance my husband H and I had discovered a rich and tangy recipe for beef stroganoff using just a tad of mustard. It knocked our socks off and we liked to serve it to both family and friends over a bed of fresh egg noodles. Much to my chagrin, I realized after going gluten free that both the sauce and noodles for this culinary treasure contain a fair share of gluten (in the form of flour). For many sad months we lived without beef stroganoff in our lives.

After discovering the supple properties of Tinkyada fettuccine though, I dusted off our beloved Gourmet Cookbook recipe and figured out how to adapt it into gluten free stroganoff using corn starch and extra mushrooms. The combination of shallots, mustard and black pepper gives it a fantastic kick – not spicy, just very flavorful. I recommend this recipe highly and suggest that vegetarians consider trying it out without the meat (perhaps substituting Shiitake mushrooms for the meat’s thicker texture).

Now that I am a mother my own children often request this dinner and I smile to myself, realizing that I have passed forward something special. Maybe someday they too will look back with fond memories upon this elegant and comforting meal: ‘Mom’s beef stroganoff’.

Delicious Beef Stroganoff
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook (Ruth Reichl, Editor)

What You’ll Need:

Half a stick of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of corn starch
1 cup of beef broth (or vegetable stock for vegetarians)
1 lb beef tenderloin sliced thinly (we use top sirloin for a lower cost) into 1 – 2 inch strips*
½ cup thinly sliced shallots
8 oz Cremini mushrooms, washed and quartered
3 tablespoons of sour cream at room temperature
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

*Vegetarians may substitute Shiitake mushrooms sliced thickly and adjust cooking time accordingly.

Served over:

A bed of gluten free Tinkyada fettuccine

How It Works:

As my readers know I am a big fan of getting all prep work out of the way before you actually start cooking. I would suggest slicing up your shallots, quartering your mushrooms and cutting your meat into strips first. Have each ingredient ready in its own container (beef should be patted dry and dusted with salt and pepper on both sides) so that the cooking process can go smoothly and quickly. Measure out your corn starch and beef broth, since you will need them both immediately once you start cooking.

Although you won’t need them until the end of your cooking process, now is a good time to take the sour cream and mustard out of the refrigerator so that they can adjust to "room temperature".

Next, put your pot of salted water to boil so that you can add the Tinkyada (or other gluten free) fettuccine which takes much longer to cook than "normal" pasta. When the water boils, add your pasta and cook it until it is truly soft – which generally takes me longer than the time indicated on their package. Rice pasta is truly not very tasty unless it is fully cooked...

Once you’ve done all this, you’re ready to go! Start out by melting a few tablespoons of butter in a small cast iron saucepan (or heavy sauce pan) over a low medium heat. When it is melted you will begin to whisk in your corn starch to make a roux. Continue to whisk for at least two minutes and then slowly pour in your beef broth, continuing to stir. Reduce your heat to low and simmer the mixture, whisking here and there for between 2 and 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cover it.

In a large (wide) frying pan, melt a tablespoon of butter and a glug of olive oil at a high medium temperature. Do not allow the butter to burn. Add your strips of beef in two batches and cook them until they are browned on each side but still a tiny bit pink in the center (between 1-2 minutes per side). Transfer the sautéed meat to a waiting plate or dish, leaving their juices in the pan.

Throw another tablespoon of butter into your warm pan full of drippings and allow it to melt. Now add the thinly sliced shallots and sauté them until they soften and turn a delicious tan color. Pour in your quartered mushrooms and cover the pan, making sure to stir occasionally. As they sauté your mushrooms will give off a bit of liquid. Cook them until their flesh has changed color and they are soft and moist. This may take up to 10 minutes. Check them every few minutes to make sure that they are not overcooking.

Spoon your strips of meat and any accumulated juices back into the pan full of shallots and mushrooms. Stir everything together and reduce heat to simmer meat and mushrooms together.

Bring your covered saucepan with the roux back to a burner and re-heat it over low heat. Now is the time to whisk in the three tablespoons of sour cream, mustard, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper (or to your own personal taste). When the sauce is well combined, pour it into the pan full of meat and mushrooms and mix together well so that everything is covered in sauce.

If you haven’t done so already, strain your fettuccine and make a nice bed of noodles on each plate. Spoon the stroganoff sauce over the plates of fettuccine (making sure that your guests all get a nice helping of the actual sauce in addition to meat and mushrooms) and serve while hot!

Serves 6 comfortably.