You know when parents talk about sneaking vegetables into their kids food? None of us really believe that it works, right? Vegetable strips are not “french fries,” shredded vegetable patties aren’t “burgers,” and raisins may be sweet, but nature’s candy is a bridge too far.
Zucchini, however, is a different animal altogether. Put it in cookies, pancakes, bread and pizza, and I’ll gladly be fooled any day of the week. It was my Mom’s recipe for zucchini pizza – where shredded zucchini mixed with a little cheese, flour and egg forms the crust – that inspired me.
This meatloaf does everything that “sneaking-in-veggies” recipes are supposed to. It turns a pound of ground beef into eight, hearty servings, each of which has almost half a cup of zucchini. Replacing the usual tomato paste with a homemade tomato jam sneaks half a tomato in there t0o, along with an amazing amount of flavor. All these veggies lighten the meat loaf so it feels summery, not dense and wintry.
Zucchini Meat Loaf
- 1/4 pound pancetta, diced or bacon*
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 4 tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1/4 cup Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry Vinegar**
- 2 medium or 4 small zucchini shredded, about 3.5 cups
- 1 pound ground beef, not lean
- 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tbs chopped basil
- 1.5 cups Parmesan cheese
*Pancetta is salt cured, not smoked. If you use bacon you can simmer it for a couple minutes first to remove some of the smoky flavor.
**Another magic vinegar from Sapore. If you need a substitute, use a nice, acidic Sherry vinegar.
- Make the tomato jam.: Over medium heat sauté pancetta in one tbs olive oil until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
- Add onion. Cook until soft. Add garlic. Cook 1 min until fragrant.
- Add tomato and cook until thick and jammy. Add a little water when pan gets dry. Deglaze pan with vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Mix the warm jam with the rest of the ingredients, reserved pancetta and salt and pepper.
- Fry a small patty of the mixture then season to taste adding additional salt, pepper, cheese or vinegar as needed.
- Press into a 9” square baking dish or form into a loaf on a baking pan. Bake at 325 for about an hour.
- Let rest 10 minutes tented with foil and serve.
When the wind is blustery and damp with snow, there are few things more satisfying than a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup. Whether you keep it simple or gussy it up with roasted tomatoes and fresh herbs, the flavor is deep, rich and satisfying.
When the sun is bright and warm, and you’re dining outdoors, cooled by a light breeze, a rich, hearty tomato soup seems like a slap in the face to one of summer’s most treasured gifts from the garden. The good Lord already took care of packing sweet sugar and tart acidity into those tomatoes. Why do you have to go and play with it?
I wanted a soup – quick cooked to protect the freshness of the tomatoes. Few ingredients so you’re not wasting a perfectly beautiful summer afternoon locked up in the kitchen.
And I found it. A twenty minute soup. A simple bowl of summer.
Fresh Tomato Soup
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 7 large, very ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 4-6 basil stems*
- 1/4 cup Fresh Tomato oil**
- Sherry vinegar
- 6-8 fresh basil leaves, cut in thin strips
*My basil plants needed a break this weekend so I used cilantro. It was a different taste, for sure, but deep and more complex. Equally delicious.
**Another treat from Sapore Olive Oil and Vinegar on Capitol Hill. I have been burning through this stuff this spring, giving April-May tomatoes a July-August flavor. It’s a new pantry staple!
- Sauté onion in olive oil for 5 minutes over medium heat until soft and translucent.
- Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.
- Add tomatoes and basil stems and cook for 10-15 minutes until softened.
- Pass soup through a food mill. If using a food processor, remove basil stems first. The food processor also removes the tomato stems for a smoother texture.
- Return puree to pot, add a quarter cup of Fresh Tomato oil, and simmer an additional 5-10 minutes minutes to bring the flavors together.
- Season to taste with additional Fresh Tomato oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. The vinegar is there to brighten the tomato flavors. If the ones you are using are nice and acidic, you may not need it.
- Garnish with fresh basil and an additional drizzle of tomato oil.
At Easter brunch I was speaking with my friend Amy about the live cooking demos I give at Eastern Market each Saturday. She said, “I love it! I always go to my local farmers market and have no idea what to do with the beautiful food there.” I have the same problem.
Each week I talk to the farmers at the Market and ask “what’s going to be at its prime for next weekend?” I head home with bags of food to think and study. I’ll read through recipes in four or five cook books, search on line and wait for inspiration to hit. What flavor combinations sound most exciting with this ingredient? Are there other fresh ingredients I can use? And, what will be relatively quick and easy?
Some weekends, you walk through the market and the produce just speaks to you. Fresh, young, early season arugula that isn’t too peppery yet. The temptation of early season tomatoes that you know could use a little flavor boost, and a wonderful new fresh tomato infused olive oil that I was introduced to by the folks at Sapore, the new olive oil and vinegar store near the Market. The oil takes April tomatoes and makes them taste like July.
Sometimes the ingredients just come together. And it’s truly magic.
The secret to this rich, bright tomatoey dressing is a combination of grated tomato pulp and the fresh tomato infused olive oil from Sapore*.
- 1 medium tomato
- 1 clove garlic
- 3-4 large basil leaves, cut in thin ribbons
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup Ripe Tomato infused Olive Oil, or other high quality olive oil
- Cut tomato in half, scoop out seeds with your fingers and grate, cut side in, on a box grater. The skin will protect your hand from the sharp grate.
- Mash together garlic with a pinch of salt using the flat side of the knife or the tines of a fork. Sharp, hard crystals of sea salt help shred the garlic.
- Whisk together garlic paste, 1/4 – 1/3 cup tomato pulp, basil and vinegar. Season with black pepper.
- Whisk in olive oil in a thin stream until thick and creamy. Season to taste with salt pepper and more vinegar or oil as desired.
*”You want me to buy an entire bottle of olive oil for one recipe?” Absolutely! First, this dressing is delicious and you’ll make it again and again. Secondly, you’ll want leftover oil to drizzle over your early or late season tomato sauces to give them fresh, summer flavor.