Spinach & Feta Meatloaf

One of my best-loved weekend treats is to go out for breakfast to any of the numerous local diners. I am a big fan of breakfast food, especially omelettes, and no matter which local diner I choose I’m confident they will have my go-to favorite Greek omelette made with spinach and feta cheese. So recently after having breakfast with my wife and father-in-law, it was my favorite breakfast that inspired me to make this Spinach & Feta Meatloaf for dinner.

Although meatloaf is one of my favorite nostalgic foods, truthfully I don’t make it very often. Once in a while, when inspired to put together the classic ground-meat meal, I generally follow my Dad’s traditional recipe from Lista’s Italian Cuisine (see my post from October 6, 2017). This time, however, I wanted to try a stuffed meatloaf and so the Spinach & Feta idea came to mind.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve filled a meatloaf with veggies and cheese… actually a stuffed meatloaf was one of the very first recipes I made for my family when I was a kid. Most likely the recipe came from one of the PBS cooking shows I watched, or from a ladies magazine I browsed while waiting for my mom to have her hair done. Back then I made a meatloaf that was layered with cheddar cheese and chopped broccoli and baked in a ring mold. It was pretty unorthodox for our family to eat the broccoli and cheese inside the meatloaf… kind of “high class” eating such fancy meatloaf in the Lista house. But the recipe was a hit and I made it several time over the years.

Since then I’ve done some wonderful things with the humble meatloaf but I think this Spinach & Feta pinwheel will be a “crown jewel” in my meatloaf repertoire.

Using a basic meatloaf combination of ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs and seasonings, I formed a large rectangle 15″ x 18″ on some parchment paper, topped it with frozen chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed dry), crumbled feta cheese, and sliced kalamata olives (just because we like them so much). Then I rolled it up jelly-roll style and baked it. After letting it rest for a few minutes out of the oven, it sliced beautifully, and tasted great! I used 90% lean ground chuck, but this could also be made with ground turkey or meatloaf mix (beef, veal, pork) or your preferred ground meat combo. I think next time I’m going to try a beef and lamb combination.

We love, love, love olives… but if you’re not particularly fond of olives, this would be equally delicious without them — instead try substituting diced roasted red peppers which would be perfect in this dish. Using fresh spinach instead of frozen would also be very nice (I just didn’t have any on hand that day). 

As an afterthought, I decided to make a horseradish, mayo and sour cream condiment to serve on the side which added a nice sharp, creamy addition to the Greek inspired flavors.


Spinach & Feta Meatloaf

Prep time:  20 minutes
Cook time:  45-60 minutes + resting time
Serves:  8-10 servings 

Ingredients:
2 lbs 90% lean Ground Beef (or alternate ground meat(s)
3 Eggs
3/4 cup Dry Bread Crumbs
1 TBSP Dry Parsley Flakes
1 tsp Dry Oregano
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
16 oz package Frozen Chopped Spinach – thawed
8 oz Feta Cheese – crumbled
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives – sliced or chopped

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and coat a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl combine ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder — mix with clean hands (or disposable gloves) until fully combined.
3. Put thawed spinach in a colander or sieve and squeeze out the excess moisture.
4. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on work surface, pat out meatloaf mixture on the parchment into a roughly 15″ x 18″ rectangle – press down firmly to remove any air pockets to ensure meatloaf will hold while rolling. Evenly top the meat mixture with the chopped spinach, then sprinkle the chopped feta evenly over spinach, and finally sprinkle the sliced olives over the feta.
5. Starting a the narrow end, carefully roll meatloaf “jelly roll” style 
(use parchment to help lift and roll meatloaf as needed) into a tight cylinder – sealing ends [see photos 1 & 2 above].
6. Place meatloaf roll in the prepared baking dish and place in the center of preheated oven and bake for 45-60 minutes until fully cooked and a thermometer inserted in the center of meatloaf reads at least 165 F. Remove from oven and allow to ‘rest’ for about 15 minutes.
7. Using a serrated knife (like a bread knife) gently slice the meatloaf into 1″ slices and serve with your favorite side dishes (I served roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potato fries). Serve horseradish sauce on the side if desired.


Quick Horseradish Sauce (5 minutes / yields 1 cup)

Ingredients: 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup sour cream, 2 TBSP prepared horseradish (or to taste), salt and pepper to taste (optional).
Directions: Whisk together ingredients in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper if desire. Chill for 30 minutes to blend flavors.


There you have it, Spinach & Feta Meatloaf inspired by my favorite diner breakfast. I hope you try this delicious Greek inspired recipe and add something new to your own meatloaf repertoire!

Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”

Escarole & Beans

greensbeans

For what ever reason (tradition, habit, nostalgia) for as long as I remember there were seasons of foods in my family. Spring was a time for lighter fare reminiscent of the awakening world around us; Summer was grilling, picnic salads and simple, quick meals to sustain those on-the-go days — then as the colder weather of Fall set in we turned toward more satisfying, carb-filled “comfort foods” like hearty soups, pasta, and casseroles… eagerly followed by the festive fare that goes along with the Holidays… and so on into Winter with its rich roasts and stews. With all that in mind, I recently whipped up a batch of a classic Italian-American comfort food Escarole & Beans otherwise known as “greens and beans.” 

I’ve mentioned before, in our house growing up, “greens” usually meant escaroleOther greens like spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens or beet greens were eaten occasionally as a side dish (and always sprinkled with vinegar) — my Grandma or Great-Aunt also cooked up dandelion greens and broccoli rabe from the back yard — but kale was not even on our radar. As a matter of fact, I’d never heard of kale until I was working in food service in the 80’s and kale was used exclusively as a decorative element lining salad bars and food trays (kale is such a hearty vegetable that we often re-used it over and over). And collard greens didn’t become part of my diet until the advent of the BBQ restaurant trend in the 90’s. Despite the limits to our greens repertoire… the Lista family enjoyed them fairly often.

Even my non-Italian maternal Grandfather, “Grampa Gailor” would cook up what he called “break greens” (I suspect they were fiddle head ferns) that he gathered up every spring “down by the creek” while fishing. He would bring home a big bunch of these ferns and cook them in his old cast iron skillet (which he never washed) with bacon grease (from the coffee can by the sink) and some “Eye-talian” seasoning. Talk about comfort food!

So getting back to Escarole & Beans… for me this is a perfect cold weather meal for a work day. It goes together quickly, can be easily adjusted for more people, can be as mild or spicy as you want, and gives you that comfort food unctuousness without having a lot of added fat. The beans and Romano cheese give this dish a creamy melt-in-your-mouth feel while the escarole provides substance and just a hint of bitterness in contrast.

Although I have traditionally made this with chicken broth, feel free to use readily available vegetable broth — leave out anchovy and cheese for the vegan folks. If you want to make this more of a soup, just add additional broth (about 2-3 cups).

If you’re looking for an added element to make this dish even more substantial — try adding some sliced cooked Italian sausage with the beans (one of my favorite ways to make it). To “fancy it up” for serving guests try toasting some coarse breadcrumbs in a skillet with a little olive oil, mix in some fresh chopped parsley and Romano cheese… put the finished Escarole & Beans in an oven proof serving dish and sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top — pop under the broiler for a minute or two and serve. 


Escarole & Beans

Prep time:  15 minutes
Cook time:  15 minutes
Serves:  4

Ingredients:
1/4 cup Olive Oil

3 cloves Garlic – chopped
3 Anchovy Fillets (optional)
1 pinch Crushed Red Pepper
1 large head Escarole – washed, trimmed, and cut into 1 inch pieces
3/4 cup Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1 (16 oz.) can Cannellini Beans – rinsed
Salt and Black Pepper – to taste
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano Cheese (plus more for topping)
Crushed Red Pepper for topping (optional)

Directions:
1. Heat oil in a large deep skillet with lid over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the anchovies and red pepper and cook until the anchovies break down about 2-3 minutes.

2. Add in the broth and beans and bring to a simmer. Add the escarole to the pan and stir until the wilted about 2 minutes. Place the lid on the pot and cook for about 10 minutes or until some of the liquid is reduced. Turn off heat.
3. Uncover and stir in the Roman cheese, cover and allow to rest for about 2-3 minutes before serving.
4. Serve in shallow bowls, top Escarole & Beans with additional Romano cheese and a pinch of red pepper (if desired). Serve with good, crusty Italian bread or rolls for sopping up the sauce.


There you have it, Escarole & Beans, a quick and easy classic Italian-American comfort food dish to warm you up on a cold, rainy fall afternoon. I hope you cook and enjoy this version sometime soon.

Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”