The ultimate comfort food, but round. Not what you expect? Wait, that’s not the promised surprise! You are used to a traditional square or oblong shape, but who said that a loaf couldn’t be round? Not the Romans who had been making it way back in 5th century, and not the German auxiliary troops who brought it into Rome to begin with, and who themselves borrowed the idea from Dutch meatballs but didn’t want to bother forming meatballs, so they would make one huge meatball and flatten it.
Anyway, the surprise is coming, but the round shape is explained very simply. I used to make it in a crock pot, and now I have this amazing gadget – I love kitchen gadgets! – a microwave pressure cooker. Both the crock pot and the pressure cooker are round; the difference is cooking time, two hours vs. 15 minutes.
As I try to cook light, I use ground turkey breast rather than beef or lamb (ah, the memories of real Israeli kufta made of ground lamb!). I use whole wheat or multigrain bread soaked in soy milk, eggs, diced onion and minced garlic, and I season it with cumin and cinnamon, in addition to salt and pepper. I don’t use tomato sauce, as I don’t use processed tomatoes altogether, so the sauce is a combination of diced fresh tomatoes and sweet red wine.
To soak the bread, it needs to be broken into small pieces and completely covered with milk (soy, or any milk substitute you prefer). Once it is truly soaked and mushy, mash it up with a potato masher until you make a uniform mass. Don’t use a food processor! I tried, and got a paste that lacked texture and wasn’t workable at all. While you are exercising your muscles with a masher, listen to the hard rocker Meat Loaf sing with a symphony orchestra – that’s one surprise for you!
Yeah, I’d do anything for love, too, but I won’t use ketchup, in meatloaf sauce or anywhere else. I heard someone remark that the only reason Americans might start a war with Russia would be if the Russians stole their ketchup. I suppose I’ll never become truly American!
Once your bread is mashed up, you dump everything else into it, including seasoning, but hold the garlic. It is a vital part of the surprise! Mix it really well, and don’t worry if it seems too moist. In a moment, we’ll add even more moisture, but eventually it will evaporate, leaving your meatloaf soft and juicy. Put the mixture aside for the moment.
And now – surprise! – take your favorite butter substitute (I use Smart Balance, but almond butter will work as well, or any non-dairy butter you prefer), add garlic and lots of fresh cilantro, and blend all three. I once tried tarragon instead of cilantro, and I loved it, but my husband nixed it, so I had to go back to old favorite – his favorite, that is. Feel free to try any surprising herb you can think of!
Get your crock pot or pressure cooker ready by misting it with oil, covering the bottom with tomato juice drained from diced fresh tomatoes, and adding a couple of tablespoons of wine. Swirl all this around to moisten the sides. Place half of the meat mixture on the bottom, flatten it, and use a spatula to even it out. Some tomato and wine liquid will seep through, which is great as it will permeate the meatloaf with those flavors. Carefully spread the “surprise” filling, starting from the center towards the sides, but not actually reaching the sides. Even it out as much as possible, and again, don’t worry when tomato/wine liquid seeps through.
Add the remaining meat mixture and even out the top. Use the remaining diced tomato to cover the top, then sprinkle some paprika on it, just for color. Cover and cook, for 15 minutes in microwave pressure cooker, or for two hours on high in a crock pot. Caution: do not overcook! Remove as soon as it beeps at you and open the lid to let it breathe, otherwise the top will dry out.
Before serving, garnish with more cilantro, or whichever herb you use for “surprise” filling. Fresh green herbs on bright red top make a striking impression, and when you cut a wedge, the visual impact is further enhanced by the unexpected green stripe inside. A traditional budget-stretching comfort food has now become a festive dish that I feel comfortable serving to guests.
- 1 lb ground turkey breast
- 3 slices whole wheat or multigrain bread
- 1/4 cup or more milk substitute
- 1 egg
- 1/2 medium size soft tomato, diced
- 2 tablespoons sweet red wine
- 1/2 medium size onion, diced
- 3 – 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup butter substitute, room temperature
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or herb of your choice, plus more for garnish
- Pinch of cumin
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sprinkle of paprika
- Break bread into small pieces and soak in milk substitute.
- Dice tomato, drain juice. Reserve the rest. You need about 2 tablespoons of juice, the rest should be reserved with the rest of pulp.
- Mist crock pot or pressure cooker with oil. Add juice drained from tomato. Add wine. Swirl around to cover sides. Put aside.
- Mash up bread with potato masher to achieve uniform mass.
- Add ground turkey, egg, diced onion, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Put aside.
- In a separate bowl, blend butter substitute with minced garlic and chopped cilantro.
- Place half of meat mixture into crock pot or pressure cooker, flatten and even it out.
- Spread “surprise” filling blend evenly on meat mixture from center towards sides, about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) away from sides.
- Add remaining meat mixture, even it out. Cover with remaining diced tomato, sprinkle paprika over it.
- Cook in crock pot on high setting for 2 hours, or until meatloaf shrinks and pulls away from sides.
- Cook in microwave pressure cooker for 15 minutes on maximum power.
- Remove immediately when done, transfer onto serving dish, garnish with cilantro or any herb you use for filling.