Vegetables aren’t candy.


You know when parents talk about sneaking vegetables into their kids food? None of us really believe that it works, right? Vegetable strips are not “french fries,” shredded vegetable patties aren’t “burgers,” and raisins may be sweet, but nature’s candy is a bridge too far.

Zucchini, however, is a different animal altogether. Put it in cookies, pancakes, bread and pizza, and I’ll gladly be fooled any day of the week. It was my Mom’s recipe for zucchini pizza – where shredded zucchini mixed with a little cheese, flour and egg forms the crust – that inspired me.

This meatloaf does everything that “sneaking-in-veggies” recipes are supposed to. It turns a pound of ground beef into eight, hearty servings, each of which has almost half a cup of zucchini. Replacing the usual tomato paste with a homemade tomato jam sneaks half a tomato in there too, along with an amazing amount of flavor. All these veggies lighten the meat loaf so it feels summery, not dense and wintry.

 

Zucchini Meat Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 pound pancetta or bacon,* diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry Vinegar**
  • 2 medium or 4 small zucchini shredded, about 3 1/2 cups
  • 1 pound ground beef, not lean
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbs chopped basil
  • 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
*Pancetta is salt cured, not smoked. If you use bacon you can simmer it for a couple minutes first to remove some of the smoky flavor.
**Another magic vinegar from Sapore. If you need a substitute, use a nice, acidic Sherry vinegar.

Directions:

  • Make the tomato jam: Over medium heat sauté pancetta in one tbs olive oil until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  • Add onion. Cook until soft. Add garlic. Cook 1 minute until fragrant.
  • Add tomato and cook until thick and jammy. Add a little water when pan gets dry. Deglaze pan with vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Mix the warm jam with the rest of the ingredients, reserved pancetta and salt and pepper.
  • Fry a small patty of the mixture then season to taste adding additional salt, pepper, cheese or vinegar as needed.
  • Press into a 9” square baking dish or form into a loaf on a baking pan. Bake at 325 for about an hour.
  • Let rest 10 minutes tented with foil and serve.

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