From the category archives:

Greens

This week, it’s a really tasty version of the much-maligned meatloaf, along with some delicate little potatoes and some sturdy greens. It’s a very meat-and-potatoes kind of dinner, but satisfying nonetheless. And you can make a delicious cold meatloaf sandwich with the leftovers.

 

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Shopping list

    1 pound mixed ground beef, pork and veal, sometimes labeled “meatloaf mix” in stores (or just all ground beef)
    2 slices of bacon
    1 egg
    Yogurt or milk
    Butter
    Gruyere, sharp white cheddar or parmesan
    1 small onion
    Half a head of garlic
    1 lemon
    Small bunch “sweet” dandelion greens
    2 Russet (baking) potatoes
    Ketchup
    Brown sugar
    Cider vinegar
    Mustard
    Worcestershire sauce
    Dried thyme
    Panko, fresh bread slices or bread crumbs
    Olive oil

Meatloaf (Mmmm….Loaf!)

meatloaf 017The French call it pate, and it sounds so much nicer! But plain old American meatloaf should not be looked down on. It’s great for dinner, but also for lunch, in a sandwich on buttered bread with extra ketchup. Use a standard 9 by 12 baking pan even for this small amount–you don’t want the meatloaf swimming in its own grease.

Serves 2 with leftovers
2 slices bacon (optional)
Olive oil
Butter
1 small onion
2 small cloves garlic
1 egg
heaping 1/2 cup bread crumbs (see note)
Large pinch dried thyme
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Big pinch salt
Black pepper
1 tablespoon yogurt or milk
1 pound mix of ground pork, veal and beef (or all beef)

For optional glaze:
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cider or red-wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

If using the bacon, cook it over low heat in a heavy skillet until about halfway done–it should not be crispy. Remove it from the pan and set aside.

Chop onions in small pieces, and slice the garlic fine. Set the skillet (can be the same one you did the bacon in, and you don’t even need to clean it out) over medium-high heat and add a small glug of olive oil and about half a tablespoon of butter. When it’s warm, add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant, just a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat.

In a medium bowl, combine the egg, bread crumbs, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Add a large pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Whisk in the yogurt or milk with a fork, and stir everything well. Add the meat and stir with a fork, combining everything well but not working the meat too aggressively. If the meat is sticking to the sides of the bowl, add another tablespoon of milk or yogurt. Finally, stir in the onions and garlic.

Place the meat in a baking pan, shaping it by hand or with a spoon into an even loaf shape, only about 1 1/2 inches thick.

Whisk together the ingredients for the glaze, then spoon this evenly over the top of the meatloaf. If you’re using the bacon slices, lay them over the top of the meatloaf. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or so, until the glaze is dark and bubbly and the meat is cooked through (160 degrees on a meat thermometer). Let rest about 10 minutes before serving.

Note: For bread crumbs, one of the best options is Japanese panko, because they’re both crunchy and fluffy. You can also make bread crumbs yourself, by whizzing a slice or two of bread up in the blender (tear it into a few pieces first), then optionally laying them out on a baking sheet and toasting them for about 10 minutes in the oven to dry them out. Store-bought bread crumbs are not ideal, as they tend to yield a gummier texture, but they’re not a disaster. You can also crush up a bunch of saltine crackers. If you need a gluten-free binder, quinoa sounds totally crunchy-granola, but is actually pretty good–it needs to be cooked before adding to the recipe, and use a bit less.

Pan-Roasted Half-Potatoes

meatloaf 014These delicate little potato halves are a neat trick, creating a texture that’s crispy on the outside and fluffy within. They don’t take much effort at all (except for peeling the potatoes), but they have a slightly fancy appearance.

For 2 servings
2 medium baking potatoes
Butter
Salt
Pepper (optional)

meatloaf 004Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel your potatoes and slice them in half lengthwise on the wider axis, so the potato halves will be as flat as possible. Toss half a tablespoon of butter in a heavy baking pan (metal yields browner potatoes than Pyrex; a cast iron skillet is good too) and slide the pan in the oven to let the butter melt. When it’s foaming and sizzling, pull it out and add the potatoes: Coat them on both sides with the butter, then set them in the pan cut-side down (as at left). Sprinkle with salt, and grind over a bit of salt if you like.

Bake until the undersides are nicely brown and the insides are fluffy, usually about 45 minutes. Serve with the pretty browned cut side facing up, poked open with a knife and with an additional dab of butter, if you like.

Pan-Fried Dandelion Greens with Cheese

meatloaf 009This uses the same technique as the Wilted Arugula in Episode 15, but takes a couple of minutes longer to cook because the dandelions are tougher. When buying greens, look for those labeled “sweet”–they’re not actually sweet, just less bitter than the standard dandelion greens; you want the ones that a bright green, not dark green, and avoid ones with reddish stems (these are so bitter that they must be boiled first). If you can’t find dandelions, use escarole instead.

Serves 2 generously
Half bunch of “sweet” dandelion greens
3 medium cloves garlic
Olive oil
Salt
Gruyere, sharp white cheddar or parmesan
Half a lemon

Rinse greens thoroughly in several batches of cold water; no need to dry. Chop garlic coarsely.

meatloaf 006Set a heavy skillet over high heat and add a glug of olive oil. When it shimmers, toss in the garlic and stir just until fragrant. Add about half the greens (stand back, as the oil may spatter), stir briefly and put a lid on the skillet. After about 30 seconds, take the lid off and add the remaining greens, stirring a bit; add a pinch of salt. If the pan is looking dry, add a couple of tabelspoons more water. Put the lid back on and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the greens are cooking, cut your gruyere or cheddar into paper-thin slices, or grate your parmesan. When the greens are tender (check the stems), remove them from the heat and arrange in a shallow pile on a plate. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over, then lay the cheese slices over the hot greens and serve immediately. (If you’re using grated parmesan, you have a bit more leeway, as this cheese doesn’t congeal when cool, and the greens themselves are fine even when they’re not piping hot.)

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This week, I make an easy, summery pasta dish, plus arugula that’s a nice variation from the usual salad. It all comes together very quickly, and doesn’t heat up the kitchen much–great when the weather is hot.

 

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Shopping list

    1 lemon
    Bunch fresh basil
    Bunch fresh arugula
    Spaghetti (at least 1/2 lb.)
    Pine nuts (about 1/4 cup)
    Butter (about 4 tablespoons)
    Parmesan cheese (a half-inch chunk)
    Olive oil (a drizzle)
    Fish sauce (a few drops)
    Red pepper flakes

Spaghetti with Lemon and Basil

lemonspag-026I cook this all the time in the summer–there’s something about the flavor combination that’s so refreshing, and in the summer, I don’t really feel like I need a big meaty main dish. I learned the recipe from a surprisingly good free promotional cookbook I got from the Parmigiano-Reggiano people a good ten years ago, and to be fair, the quality of the grating cheese does make a difference. So use Parmigiano-Reggiano, ideally, or, in a budgetary pinch, Grana Padano, though you’re not using so much that genuine Parm will break the bank.

For 2 servings
1 lemon
Large handful fresh basil leaves
Half-inch chunk of Parmesan
3-4 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound spaghetti
Salt, to taste

lemonspag-001Set a pot with heavily salted water on to boil. Then get all the pasta ingredients ready (as in the photo): grate the zest from the lemon into a small bowl, then squeeze the lemon juice into another small bowl–you’ll want about 1 tablespoon total, maybe a dash more. Rinse the basil well, then slice into thin strips. Grate the Parmesan cheese–you should have about 1/3 cup. Measure out your butter.

In a heavy skillet (the same one you will have prepared the arugula in is fine) on medium heat, melt the butter, then add the lemon zest and juice and let simmer for a minute or so. (You can do this part in advance and let it sit until the pasta is cooked.)

lemonspag-005Cook the pasta according to the package directions–usually 6-8 minutes. When it’s just al dente (err toward less done), set aside a bit of the pasta water in a mug, then drain the rest of the pasta. Toss it into the skillet with the butter (turn the heat back on to medium, if it has been sitting), and stir the pasta to coat evenly (tongs are good here). Gradually shake in all but about 1 tablespoon of the cheese, stirring the pasta constantly. If the mixture gets a bit dry or too sticky (as in the photo), add a tablespoon or two of the reserved pasta water. Finally, toss in the basil and turn off the heat. Taste for salt (you may not need any if you’ve salted your pasta water well, and used salted butter). Serve with the reserved cheese sprinkled on top.

Wilted Arugula with Pine Nuts

lemonspag-013This preparation takes a little of the intense peppery bite out of arugula, so give it a try even if you’re not ordinarily an arugula fan. And the basic technique–wilting greens with a little bit of liquid in a hot, covered pan–is one you can apply to all kinds of greens. Pine nuts add a little crunch and additional protein, to make the dish just a tad more substantial. Fish sauce is optional (a shortcut to melting anchovies in the hot olive oil before adding the greens), but it adds just a touch of extra richness. To save on cleanup, you can make it in the same pan you’ll later finish the pasta in.

For 2 servings
1 medium bunch fresh arugula
Olive oil
2 small handfuls pine nuts
Fish sauce (or salt)
Pinch red pepper flakes (Aleppo pepper is ideal; Italian pepper flakes will do too)

Rinse your arugula very well, but no need to dry. Set a heavy skillet over medium heat and drizzle in a glug of olive oil. When the pan is hot, toss in the pine nuts and stir occasionally till nicely browned, usually less than a minute. Remove the nuts and set aside.

lemonspag-012Throw the wet arugula in the pan, and stand back a bit to avoid any spattering oil. (If you’re starting with dry greens, toss them in, then add a tablespoon or two of water.) They won’t look like it’s all going to fit (as in the photo), but as you stir quickly (tongs can be useful here) to coat the leaves with oil, they will start to wilt immediately. Then put the lid on the pan and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, for just 20-30 seconds, until the arugula is completely wilted, but still bright green.

Remove the greens from the pan immediately to stop the cooking, then drizzle on a few drops of fish sauce (if you have it) and stir. If you want to stay veggie, or you don’t have fish sauce, just sprinkle on a bit of salt. Top with red pepper flakes and serve. (This can sit and cool a little–it doesn’t need to be served piping hot.)

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