Friday, September 16, 2011

Whole Foods Friday: Blue Plate Special (part 1)

Whole Foods Friday is what I'm calling my new partnership with the local Whole Foods stores in Boulder County. Whole Foods lets me shop for what I need for any recipe I want to make, and I post the results here. Whole Foods also posts my recipes on their Boulder blog, and at Cooking Boulder. It's a fun project.

Sure, I'm all about healthy eating, but that doesn't mean I can't have simple comfort food.

And when I make simple comfort food, it doesn't mean I'm going to leave well enough alone. Oh, no, I'm going to mess with traditions and put my spin on ... well, everything.

When I think about comfort food - the blue plate special at a diner - I think about meatloaf and mashed potatoes with a side of peas.

Now, I don't think I've ever had that particular meal in a diner. But it seems so iconic.

Meatloaf is a simple thing, but it's nearly a blank slate. It almost begs for just a little personalization. I decided that my special meatloaf ingredient would be roasted garlic - not so much that it tastes like garlic, but just enough to add unexpected flavor. You can roast your own garlic, or pick some up already roasted at Whole Foods. I found them near the pizza-making supplies.

In meatloaf, it's pretty typical to use bread or bread crumbs, but this time I used cracker crumbs.

For my side dishes, I didn't use potatoes at all. Replacing the mashed potatoes is mashed squash. And those peas? I served edamame.

When I think of diner desserts, rice pudding comes to mind, I made mine with a green rice. Yep, green.

And then there's the beverage. What do you drink at a diner? Coffee's pretty typical. Or maybe a milkshake. You'll see.

Dessert and drinks will be in the next post. This one is just a little long, as usual.

This time, I made a small meatloaf - just a pound of ground beef. The small size allows it to cook fast. But of course, you could make a bigger one if you need to serve more people. Or two or three smaller ones. It's your choice.

1 pound ground beef
1/4 medium onion, diced
2 cloves roasted garlic, finely diced
1 egg
10 Golden Rounds crackers, smashed to crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry thyme

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Your hands are the best tools for this job. Don't knead it, just mix it well enough to combine it. If it feels too wet and loose, crumble more crackers and add them, as needed.

For the meat into a loaf shape and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until the meat reads 160 degrees in the center, about 50 minutes.

Remove the meat from the baking sheet and let it rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Mashed Browned Butter Maple Squash
Potatoes are just fine, but mashed squash can be much more interesting. Browned butter and maple syrup make these special.

1 medium winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Place it, cut-side down, on a microwave-safe baking dish. Add about 1/4 inch of water to the dish. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high until the squash is cooked through, about 20 minutes. You can do this ahead of time - even the day before.

When the squash has cooled enough to handle, scoop the squash out of the skin.

Heat the butter in a skillet until it foams, then begins to smell nutty and browns a little bit. Add the squash and the salt. Stir and mash the squash until it's smooth. Cook, stirring as needed, until any liquid that has come out of the squash has evaporated. Add the maple syrup and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if needed. Serve warm.


As far as I'm concerned, edamame is best when it's served simply. Cook it in salted water, and serve. No muss, no fuss. I also like it cold in salads.

When it's available, I like fresh edamame, which requires a bit more hands-on work.

First, you cook it in the pods, then squeeze the beans out of the pods. They pop out easily, but it can take a little time.

When fresh aren't available, frozen are pretty good.

1 comment:

CatBoy said...

I really like this revamp of a classic and want to tell you about the revamp a friend and I gave the same menu. She is of Scottish heritage and gave her meatloaf a haggis-esque quality by toasting steel-cut oats and using them in the meatloaf along with allspice and a couple other spices usually included in haggis. I took it further from tradition by serving the meatloaf with a white bean puree. Oddly enough, it worked.

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