Meat loaf is considered to be an American invention; however, the concept of combining ground meat with other ingredients and then cooking them together in loaf form goes back centuries. Meat loaf became popular in this country around World War II as a thrifty way to use up ingredients before they spoiled.
Meat loaf is one of my most requested items from clients, but they also request it be more healthful than what they grew up with. This Greek-inspired spinach and feta cheese-stuffed turkey meat loaf is certainly that and is also dressy enough to prepare for guests.
This recipe makes slightly more than two servings. We love to have an extra serving or two left over; dinner the first night — a tasty hot sandwich the next.
Frozen chopped spinach is a wonderful convenience item. When starting with fresh spinach, it’s not always easy to gauge how much you’re going to need because it shrinks so much. Frozen chopped spinach is already cooked, so it’s easier to determine the amount required for a recipe.
Spinach is full of water, and although much of the water in frozen spinach has been eliminated, more will result when thawed. The easiest way I have found to squeeze moisture from spinach is with a potato ricer. Place the thawed spinach into the well of the ricer, and then squeeze as if ricing potatoes.
I’ve tried both fresh and dry bread crumbs in meat loaf, and the result from using fresh is far superior to that of dry. Every so often, I clean out the freezer of bread odds-and-ends, thaw, and then run through a food processor to coarse crumb consistency. I place them in a zipper-top bag and store in the freezer, where they’re ready and waiting for any recipe requiring fresh bread crumbs.
It seems that even after reconstituting dry bread crumbs in milk, their thirst for moisture is insatiable, and they will continue to draw moisture from one of the most important parts of your meat loaf — the meat. If you want to use dry bread crumbs, try panko (Japanese bread crumbs) for the best texture, and use half of what’s called for in the recipe.
Serve with roasted green beans, broccoli or broccolini. If a starch is desired, serve with lightly buttered whole-wheat orzo or quinoa.
SPINACH- AND FETA-STUFFED TURKEY MEAT LOAF
— Cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced, divided
½ (12-ounce) bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed (about 1 cup before water is removed)
2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes (or sun-dried tomato pesto)
½ cup crumbled feta cheese (regular, reduced fat or fat-free)
— salt and black pepper
1 egg white
1 large egg
¾ cup fresh bread crumbs
¼ cup milk
1 can (8-ounce) tomato sauce, divided
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 pound ground turkey or chicken
1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
2 Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 4-5 minutes or until beginning to soften. Transfer of the onion to a bowl to cool. Mix in half the garlic.
3 Add spinach to sauté pan and cook briefly for any remaining moisture to evaporate. Let cool slightly, then stir in sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and salt and black pepper to taste. Add egg white and set aside.
4 To bowl with onions, add whole egg, bread crumbs, milk, 2 tablespoons tomato sauce, basil, oregano, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper and remaining 2 cloves minced garlic and mix well. Mix in ground turkey or chicken.
5 Place of the meat mixture in the loaf pan, creating a small well down the center. Mound spinach mixture in the well. Top with remaining ground turkey. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center registers 165 degrees. Top with tomato sauce after 30 minutes, then bake to completion. Let rest 5-8 minutes before slicing.