What’s For Dinner? ,..

What’s for dinner? I ask myself that question frequently. You would think coming from a chef it would be easy. Not really. I spend the first part of my week cooking for other people. Mainly cooking them dinner meals. When I get to Wednesday it’s pretty much time for take-out. Facing my own stove at 7:00 in the evening can be a chore – even for me. I am not surprised to hear other people say that as well.

Lets face it, eating out every night doesn’t make sense either. There is something very primal about cooking your own meal. That said, it doesn’t have to be an arduous task either. Putting together something in under an hour, while enjoying a glass of wine, can be simply perfect.

With that in mind, I thought I would devote the first Wednesday of the month to a series called: What’s for Dinner? My parameters will be as follows: 1) Something that can be cooked in an hour; 2) using minimal ingredients, 3) and the possibility of leftovers for another night.

Meatloaf center

My first dinner inspiration comes from one of my clients. It’s a meatloaf, with a twist. He had leftover sautéed spinach I made, and some hard-boiled eggs in the ‘fridge. Leftover vegetables are the key here. You could easily sub the spinach for broccoli or asparagus. Anything that gives you green when it’s sliced. If you don’t have fresh spinach on hand you can use frozen. Just be sure to defrost, squeeze out most of the liquid and season it.

I always have a couple of hard boiled eggs floating around in the fridge. They are a great grab-and-go snack to have on hand. To cook them I do the method I’ve been using for years, I think maybe from Martha Stewart: Start them in cold water, covered by about an inch. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the pot. Set the timer for 13 minutes. After 13 minutes gently crack the shells, run them under cold water and peel. Slightly older eggs are easier to peel, so cook the ones you have for a few weeks.

Fresh marinara.

I wanted to add a little marinara sauce to this interesting meatloaf, so you have two options: you can work up something fresh, or use the jar variety. If going with the jar, look for a good quality.

Roasting tomatoes

I like making a quick fresh sauce, but right now the tomatoes are not very tasty. To combat that problem a nice roast in the oven will coax out the flavor. Take a few minutes and removed the seeds too. (See the recipe below.)

Meatloaf

On to the main attraction: Start with a good quality ground meat. Spend a few dollars more and get an organic product. To that I simply mixed in one beaten egg, chimichurri spice blend, salt and pepper. Press that out on a cutting board and add your filling. Easy!

Meatloaf with a twist

OK .. so as they say, timing is everything in life, right? If you were going to make this all from scratch, how would it look? First you would want to get the sauce started. The can is your friend for a mid-week dinner. But if you are inspired, do my oven roast. While the oven roast is happening you make the eggs and the sautéed spinach. While the meatloaf cooks you can finish the marinara sauce. Making it all from scratch will take a little more than an hour, not ardous, but in this case leftovers here are your friend.

Meatloaf with a Twist

This recipe will make four servings easily. So for two people that leaves you dinner for another night. Add a couple of nice slices of crusty bread and you are all set for a homemade, mid week dinner!

Buon Appetito!

Easy Mid-week Meatloaf
Serves 4

1 lb. of good quality ground meat
1 beaten egg
2 tablespoons of chimichurri spice blend
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
2 cups sautéed spinach and leek or another green vegetable
3 hard boiled eggs, left whole or sliced
4 cups of marinara sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Place a piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board and set aside.
2. Gently combine the meat, egg, spice blend and teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Press out flat on the plastic wrap in a rectangle, about 1” thick.
3. Spread out the spinach over the meat. You can line up the eggs whole, or slice them, which ever you prefer. Using the plastic roll the meat into a log and pinch the seam and sides closed.
4. Roll the log on to a foil or parchment lined baking sheet and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the meat registers 160. Remove and cover with foil for a few minutes. (See note.)
5. Cool slightly and slice. Serve with a warm marinara.

Cooks Note: Carry over cooking will bring the meat to 165.

Recipe created by Maria Reina, of Bella Cucina Maria.

Simple Marinara
Serves 4

1 small onion chopped
1-2 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt
Sugar
Ground black pepper
1 – 28 oz can of whole tomatoes

1. Sweat the onion and garlic with the butter and olive oil in a medium heavy bottom pot, on medium low heat for about 15 minutes. This will render them sweet and soft. Add a good pinch of salt, sugar and pepper. If it looks like the onions might be cooking too fast lower the heat.
2. Add the tomatoes and another good pinch of salt and pepper. Use a potato masher to crush the tomatoes. Cover partially and let it cook at a lower simmer for another 10-15 minutes. You want to reduce it a little, but not entirely.
3. Using an immersion blender pulse the sauce 2 or 3 times. You want is some where in between chunky and smooth. Taste for seasoning and serve right away.

Recipe created by Maria Reina, of Bella Cucina Maria.

Simple Fresh Tomato Marinara
Serves 4

12 medium plum tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Sugar
Ground black pepper
1 small onion chopped
1-2 garlic cloves minced
Butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the tomatoes lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and set on a rimmed sheet tray cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a good sprinkle of salt, pepper and a little sugar. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until soft and fragrant.
2. While the tomatoes roast sweat the onion and garlic with 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil in large saute pan over medium low heat for about 15 minutes. This will render them sweet and soft. Add a good pinch of salt, sugar and pepper. If it looks like the onions might be cooking too fast lower the heat.
3. Add the tomatoes and another good pinch of salt and pepper to the onions and cook together for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow it cool slightly.
4. Scrape into a food processor and pulse a few times to break it all up. You want it to be some where in between chunky and smooth. Taste for seasoning and serve right away.

Recipe created by Maria Reina, of Bella Cucina Maria.

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