Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tomato and Avocado Salad

My tomatoes are ripe!  It's the time I look forward to most during the summer.  Due to the restrictive space of living in a townhouse, as well as all the trees that make the space I do have very shady, last year my husband and I decided to put a garden on our roof.  Luckily our roof is flat, which makes this all possible.  It's been a huge success, and it makes me so happy to see all my little plants creating delicious miracles.

Tomatoes are in full swing at the moment, and I've been picking a handful of cherry tomatoes and one big tomato every other day or so.  Now don't get me wrong, I love them dearly, but you do need to come up with something to do with all this produce when it hits.  I have made my favorite Tomato Basil Tart, and tomato sandwiches, and eaten them fresh with just a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  But otherwise I'm mostly putting my delicious tomatoes in salads.

Of course, I'm out of lettuce at the moment (and the lettuce that is still growing in my garden has gotten bitter and yucky due to the 90-degree weather we've been enjoying), so I had to come up with something else.  I often make a tomato-cucumber salad, but tonight I wanted something a little different.  Fresh, and flavorful, and just a tad creamy.  And ta-da!  This salad was born.

I combined the cherry tomatoes with a regular-sized tomato because I love the contrasting colors, but you could of course use all of one type.  And if you're in a big hurry you can just toss on a little vinegarette dressing and call it good, but I think this is better because it doesn't overwhelm the flavor of the tomatoes.

If you were feeling gutsy, you could also add a little bit of feta, goat cheese, or fresh mozzarella.

This salad was so delicious and light and just perfect on a hot summer day.  Enjoy!

Tomato and Avocado Salad

1 large tomato
8-10 cherry tomatoes (I used the Sungold variety)
6 large basil leaves
1 avocado
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Toss all ingredients in a bowl.  Let sit for 10-15 minutes to marinate, then serve at room temperature.

Makes 2 side dish servings or one main dish serving.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Juicy and Delicious Italian-Style Meatloaf

A few days ago I was planning out my menu for the week when my husband came over to see what I was doing.  For some reason he was thinking about meatloaf.  Now I've never made meatloaf, because it just didn't seem like the type of thing he would like.  He hates casseroles, and I guess I thought meatloaf seemed too casserole-ish (yes I made that word up).  But he told me about a meatloaf he had eaten years and years ago, before we were married, that was moist and delicious and had big chunks of tomatoes inside.  Normally, he said, he hates meatloaf.  But he loved that meatloaf, and maybe I could try to recreate it.

Since he's such a low-maintenance guy and never asks for anything (except occasionally cycling gear and power tools), I decided I couldn't let him down.  And anyway, I like a challenge.  So I began my search for the perfect meatloaf recipe.

The first thing I discovered is that there are a million and one ways to make meatloaf.  The second thing I discovered is that if you type "meatloaf" into Google or Pinterest, you get equal amounts of recipes and pictures of the singer Meatloaf.  Who, by the way, is not appetizing.

After reading at least twenty different recipes I had decided on a few things I wanted to do with mine.  I wanted fresh herbs.  I wanted to soak Panko breadcrumbs in buttermilk before mixing them into the meat.  I wanted something tangier than plain ketchup on top.  I wanted to include Parmesan cheese.  And I wanted to add some chunks of tomatoes (which, by the way, I never found a recipe that had them!).  There were tons of recipes that had one or two of these, but I didn't find a recipe that combined all of them.  Also, so many recipes used two or even three pounds of meat.  I only wanted to use one pound of ground beef, in case it was a total flop or none of my kids would eat it.  Finally I came up with a recipe.

I mixed it all together, put it in a loaf pan, and baked it.  I wasn't sure which temperature to cook it at, or how long it would take to cook, so I started with 30 minutes at 425F and checked it every few minutes after that.  I was a little nervous when it finally was done.  What if it was terrible?  What if I just wasted all those ingredients? I sat down at the table with the family.  The kids all looked at the meatloaf and stated emphatically that they hated this and were not eating it.  But since that's what they do any time they see a new food, I ignored them.  I sliced the meatloaf, and it oozed juices.  It smelled fantastic.  I cut up one slice and distributed it among my children.  My 7-year-old son was the first to taste it.  He smiled.  He quickly ate it all and asked for more.  He ended up eating four whole slices.  The rest took courage from his reaction and tasted it.  They all loved it.

I had to agree.  It was the best meatloaf I had ever tasted. The flavors were well-balanced.  It was moist and delicious.  It had just the right amount of the tomatoes my husband had specifically requested.  It was fantastic!  But would he like it?

Yes.  Yes he did.  He heaped praises on me and said it was the best meatloaf he'd ever had, and that I was the best wife ever.  It was great.  He took a huge slab of it to work for lunch today.

So now I'm sharing with you my best ever meatloaf recipe.  I hope you enjoy it!

Juicy and Delicious Italian-Style Meatloaf
Recipe by Holly

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbs fresh basil, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, but into bite-size chunks
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup steak sauce (I love A1!)

Preheat oven to 425-degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and buttermilk.  Let sit for a few minutes.  In a large bowl, place ground beef, onion, garlic, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, eggs, and Parmesan cheese.  Using your hands, mix it until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.  Add in the breadcrumb mixture and the tomatoes and mix again until evenly distributed.  Place the meat mixture into a 9-inch loaf pan and smooth the top.
In a separate small bowl, combine ketchup and steak sauce.  Use half of the sauce to spread across the top of the meatloaf.  Reserve remaining sauce for serving.
Bake meatloaf at 425F for 45-60 minutes (mine took 55), or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the loaf reads 165-degrees F.  Let sit for a minute, then drain off any excess grease.  Using two spatulas, carefully remove meatloaf from pan and put on serving dish.  Serve hot, with the remaining sauce on the side.
Serves 4-6.