Saturday, March 21, 2009

  • Meatloaf to the Rescue

    Fig.1. The key to a good meatloaf is not to dry it out. Cooking it in a glass loaf pan will insure it cooks in its own juices.

I received some comments from my editors with regard to the last article I wrote for Our Canada Magazine. It appears that some people seem to think that my recipes are too hoity-toity. At first I thought—peasants, serfs; what do they know, who doesn’t like pears poached in Barolo wine, but then I got to thinking that maybe it’s me that needs to reassess.

Change is a hard concept to embrace, what is sometimes deemed as a necessary change for all can at times have self-serving motives; and these motives can sometimes prevent the performers from listening to their audience. It’s not just about giving the people what they want, it’s about identifying with your audience, and that my friends can only be achieved when you can first identify with yourself. As a writer, and a foodie, I need to strip away the layers of pretension and self-importance until all that’s left is what made me fall in love with food in the first place: My Rosebud. (Those of you who don’t know what Rosebud is really should watch Citizen Kane.)

For Orson Wells, Rosebud represented more than just one single object or moment in time; his childhood sleigh encapsulated how he felt during that moment. Rosebud signified a moment of absolute bliss which lingered, wanting in his soul—a sublime sentiment that can surface only when the spirit is pushed into that dark corner of turmoil.

And that is what I suspect happened to all of the food lovers reading Our Canada: their food spirits were pushed into the unfamiliar. They opened their beloved magazine expecting to find a recipe that might have reminded them of a better moment in time, only to find some large, hairy Italian asking them to try something new.

While I believe it’s important to open yourself up to new and unfamiliar experiences, I can totally relate to the reluctance and uncertainty unleashed by the dawning of my column.
So, for those of you who enjoy my column and recipe (thank you for all the e-mails of encouragement, it’s very much appreciated) I thank you and look forward to our foodie future; for those who didn’t care for my article, I give you meatloaf, and old and comfortable favourite.

Lisa’s Meatloaf
Serves 5 to 6

¾ kg lean minced beef
½ kg minced pork
3 eggs
1 cup rolled oats
¾ cup milk
¼ cup onion, diced
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce


Preheat oven to 325F.
In a bowl soak oats in milk for 5 minutes. In a large bowl incorporate all of the ingredients and mix well—use your hands. Empty mixture into a 4”x8” glass loaf pan and place on a rimmed cookie sheet; bake for 1hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours at 325F. Note. The cookie sheet will catch any dripping that may overflow, these dripping are important as it braises your meatloaf preventing it from drying out.
Serve the meatloaf with a side of mashed or boiled potatoes. If you’re watching those carbs—as I am at the moment, (is pasta really a carb?)—then serve with some sautéed sliced cabbage or a ratatouille. The ratatouille, in my opinion, goes exceptionally well with meatloaf.

Fig.2. Ratatouille and meatloaf, a perfect paring.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

  • Grating Makes for a Great Base
Fig.1. It's all about flavor with grating, from soups to cole slaw it'll will
change the way your food taste.

The next soffritto on our list puts into practice the art of grating. The vegetable base is the same as in the previous recipes, but the manner in which they are prepared is somewhat unorthodox. By grating the vegetables, you enable the very essence of their flavours to come through in a way you otherwise wouldn’t get by conventional cutting. You’ll notice that as you grate that carrot or celery, the aroma will be so intense you’ll be able to taste the vegetables through your nose. I use a regular cheese grater, but with greater quantities I opt for a food processor with a grater attachment (note the alliteration).
This recipe is fast, easy and very healthy. (I know it sounds like a Rachel Ray cliché, but my Mother was making this recipe before Ray was watching T.V.) It can be made with chicken, veal, lamb, or fish—just make sure to adjust your cooking time depending on which meat you’re using. And I hope you try this soffritto base in other dishes; it works really well when making omelettes and pasta primavera.

Fig.2. Make sure you have rice or bread on hand to absorb all the sauce.

Serves 4 to 5
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
3 large pieces of firm white fish such as cod or halibut.
2 large carrots, grated
1 large celery stalk, grated
1 small onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, grated small (I use a microplane for this)
½ cup white wine
1 28oz can of cherry tomatoes or plum tomatoes
some parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated (optional)
zest of 1 lemon


Cut fish into manageable pieces (I like to cut it about the size of my spatula) and season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides.
In a large ovenproof skillet pan set over medium high heat, add the olive oil and butter. When oil begins to smoke, add the fish and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side—try to get some color on the fish. (Make sure your fish isn’t too thin or it’ll dry out. I like to use fish that’s ¾” to 1” thick. It’s a question of practice, if your fish is thin, higher the heat and cook less.) Set the fish aside.
In the same pan, add some more olive oil if necessary and sauté the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes then add the garlic, cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Increase the temperature slightly and add the wine, let it simmer and reduce for about 4 to 5 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Add the tomatoes (if you’re using plum tomatoes break them up with a wooden spoon—or better yet use your hands.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper and let it simmer and reduce for 15 to 20 minutes.
Place the fish back in the pan making sure you spoon some of the sauce over it. Sprinkle with the parmigianno and lemon zest and place in the oven for about 10 minutes.
Serve immediately over some rice.