We can’t believe that summer has ended and fall has arrived. That means the end or near-end of harvest for many vegetables. Here in Ontario, it has gotten considerably cooler plus it has been raining for a few days making it dark and dreary. Along with the shorter daytime hours, our thoughts immediately turn to comfort foods! That’s why we like this recipe so much! Using end of season eggplants from our local Norfolk county farmers, this meatloaf dish is always a welcomed meal for our families.
Meatloaf is right up there on the comfort food list right beside pasta and stews and you can be sure that a version of it finds its way into every family’s recipe collection. It seems pretty safe to add almost anything to meatloaf, but when you find a recipe you love, like this one, you’ll want to keep it in your repertoire.
Growing up on the farm, we had both Ukrainian and Polish neighbours. This was awesome for us as my mom would often have cooking days where she was either learning a recipe of theirs or sharing one of hers. Inevitably, my mom would take a recipe she was given and tweak it to our Italian taste buds. You know, looking back I never realized just how cool that was. Living in a country like Canada, there really is no excuse not to try different ethnic foods!
This is how things like meatloaf, cabbage rolls, egg rolls, and Chinese rice entered our Italian household! Meatloaf is such a simple dish to make and you can put a lot of good-for-you stuff in it without anyone knowing! I get that now as a parent so I love the simplicity and affordability of this recipe. Oh, and the fact that I can hide onions and eggplant from my kids in here is a huge bonus! Yeah, that’s right – I said eggplant! This is unlike any meatloaf you’ve had. No ketchup or brown sugar here. Just simple flavours that come together in a savoury marriage of goodness!
At the end of eggplant season, we take small eggplants and blanch them for use in the winter. Some are prepped first for making stuffed eggplant or ‘melanzane ripiene’ but then we take the rest and blanch them whole. These are the ones we used in this recipe. Simply defrost them and squeeze each one in your hands to remove as much of the liquid as you can. There are various ways to preserve eggplant but if you don’t have any on hand in the freezer, just purchase 1 or 2 eggplants at your local grocer. You can blanch them to soften or try roasting them for an added layer of flavour.
My mom would chop them up but in my attempts to trick my children into eating things they “don’t like”, I’ve resorted to throwing the eggplant, onion, carrot, and celery into a food processor and whizzing them up so they can’t tell. I’ve actually grown to like this method better as it evenly distributes the liquid and holds the meatloaf together well without adding too much egg.
This recipe mixes pork and lean ground beef. If you are only going to use one meat make it the pork. We don’t recommend medium or regular ground beef. It will shrink quite a bit and let off lots of liquid and fat preventing the meatloaf from browning. One last tip, but maybe the most important, do not use dry breadcrumbs! It’s amazing what a difference it makes using fresh ground bread instead of store bought dry breadcrumbs. Not to mention, it’s a great way to use up the odds and ends of bread in the house!
Meatloaf with an Italian twist. Pork and beef combined with eggplant.
2 stalks celery
1 large carrot
5 small Sicilian eggplants blanched (1.5 cups blanched and squeezed eggplant)
1 medium yellow onion
3 cups fresh breadcrumbs
454 grams ground pork
454 grams ground veal or lean ground beef
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
Combine the celery, carrot, eggplant, and onion in a food processor and whiz together to form a rough puree.
Make the fresh breadcrumbs by pulsing in the food processor. They don’t need to be super fine.
Place the ground meat into a large bowl.
Add the pureed vegetables and breadcrumbs to the meat.
Add the egg and spices and mix the entire mixture by hand very well.
Line two bread loaf pans with parchment paper ( or grease them with olive oil ) and fill 3/4 way with the meatloaf mixture.
Cover with a piece of parchment paper and then tinfoil.
Remove the parchment and tin foil after 30 minutes and continue to bake uncovered for another 30-45 minutes. The tops will be well browned.
Let cool for 10 minutes and remove from the pans to slice.
Lean ground beef will work well as a substitute for veal but medium or regular ground beef will cause a lot of shrinkage. It will also cause too much liquid and stop the meatloaf from browning nicely.
Using freshly ground bread instead of dry breadcrumbs makes a huge difference and adds to the tenderness and juiciness of this meatloaf.