Monday, November 14, 2011

Missing ingredients

One of the best lessons you learn from cooking a lot is utter loss of fear. Run out of a key ingredient? Too lazy to run to the market (or worse--don't realize it until you're too deep into the prep). Open the cupboard, see what's there, and substitute substitute substitute.

The other thing about cooking a lot, and about cooking SLOW (Seasonal Local Organic Whole) is that there always is something in the cupboard to substitute, and that you tend to have what might be considered unusual ingredients in a more package-oriented kitchen. I have flour made from three different grains. I know how to grind oats, and I've ground rice into powder/flour in a pinch (it makes a great addition to bulk up soup).

We don't consume much meat around here-- a pound or two a week between the two of us, and very very little of that beef, but somehow I count the days until it gets cold enough for meatloaf. And here was this wonderful chilly rainy autumn day. Meatloaf weather.

I know-- what? Cold enough for meatloaf? You never knew it was a seasonal dish, did you.

But somehow, I think of meatloaf as a wintertime meal. I almost never make it in the summer. I'd say it's because it takes a long time to bake and the kitchen gets hot, except that I've happily done canning and baking in the middle of the hottest late summer days.

There's just something about meatloaf that says "short day meal" to me--maybe my mother only made meatloaf in the autumn or something.

So I'm pulling out ingredients and jeez, I have no bread crumbs. I never run out of breadcrumbs, because I always dry out my loaf ends and crumble them up. But somehow--no bread crumbs. Hmmm. How about oats?

Autumn meatloaf
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground lamb or pork
2 small onions, diced very fine
1/2 large appled, peeled and diced very fine
1/2 c steel-cut oats
1 tablespoon honey
optional-1 large egg

1 T crushed dried orange zest
1-2 teaspoons black pepper (I used an orange-seasoned pepper I found at the spice shop)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
You can figure out your own seasonings, but don't use traditional meatloaf seasonings like oregano, which will overwhelm the apple flavor.

Preheat oven to 375F/190C

Soak the oats for 20 minutes in about 1 cup of boiling water. Drain thoroughly, then mix everything together (yes, with your hands--leave the water running so you can easily rinse them). Because the oats are so moist you don't really need the egg, but it's traditional in meatloaf and won't hurt. I didn't use one, mostly because I just forgot and it was fine. Press into a loaf or meatloaf pan (I just discovered these) and bake at 375/190 for an hour and 15 minutes.

This one of the moistest, tenderest meatloafs (meatloaves? that doesn't sound right) I've ever made, and my meatloaf is legendary.

Serve with apple mashed root vegetables: roughly cut the other half of the apple, plus 3 medium russet potatos, a medium parsnip, and a medium turnip. Boil until all are very soft (the parsnip will take a while), add a tablespoon of butter, a little milk, and a dollop of honey and mash until smooth.

A word about orange (and other citrus) zest-- always zest your oranges and lemons before you eat/use them. It makes them easier to peel, and you'll always have zest.  You can dry it on the counter (it'll take a day or two), or zap it on a paper towel for a few minutes. Store it in a jar with your spices.


  1. I always make mine with oats. I make my burgers with oats too.

  2. Do you soak them first? Also, rolled or cut? I couldn't believe how delicious it was, I may never use breadcrumbs again.

  3. I really understand "cold enough for meatloaf" - for me it means "cold enough to turn the oven on and heat up the house" How's that for seasonal meals. Crockpot in the summer, oven in the winter. But I do crave meatloaf in the winter. Funny, I just used the last of my breadcrumbs - not sure how I got so low on them either. So my counters are covered with trays of breadcrumbs drying and also bread cubes for stuffing. The days are dry (less humid) so they dry on their own pretty fast. Oh, love the idea of using oats in my burgers and meatloaf - I guess I would use them just like bread crumbs (no soaking for me) or maybe pulse them a bit in the spice grinder