Meatloaf, though well-loved (like you–Happy Valentine’s, friend)  is often the source of ridicule.  People laugh about it, call others by its name and while they eat it without turning up their noses (in fact, they really want it), it perhaps is wolfed down with a little snotty, eye-raising disdain.  When they mention it, their voices lower and, sotto voce, with eyes slanted, they run on about the meatloaf their mothers made with ketchup.  On the other hand, if no one is really listening, they are hot on the trail of a good recipe.  If you bring up meatloaf at the hairdresser’s, ten women will soon be surrounding you, wanting to know how in the (well, you know) you make it and just how good is it?  Do you use a mixture of meats?  Turkey? If so, how do you flavor it?  They want it now.

And so on.

Bring up mashed potatoes and boiled carrots (then sauteed in a little butter and honey and thyme) and the world is at your feet.  It’s like talking biscuits.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Beef stew. Chicken and dumplings.

Feeding six people for years and years led me to think about and try many kinds of meatloaf before settling on a rather pedestrian, (embarassing to admit I still use an envelope of dry onion soup mix in it),  but very quickled snarffed down and s-i-m-p-l-e (also cheap) version.  Later, I began making meatloaf for the homeless when we fed them at our church.  I sometimes made it just so we’d have meatloaf sandwiches to travel with when we were on the way to a camping spot or traveling across country.   We were kind of the meatloaf bunch back then.

When the kids walked (or ran) off, one by one, I found I made it less often.  How much meatloaf can two people eat?  It went the way of big trays of biscuits and dozens of homemade blueberry muffins for dinner every night.  It went the way of 12 qt pots of spaghetti sauce. In the place of those cooking for the masses dishes,   I started cooking 3 quarts of Tyler Florence’s bolognese. (And still had to freeze some.)  I began to fall in love with tiny lamb chops served over barely warmed arugula with slivers of parmesan and almonds…all served with mind-warming Pinot Noir from Oregon.  I fixed saute pans full of sole and plates of quickly grilled vegetables topped with feta and fresh basil.  No need for big ol’ pot roasts and 2# meatloafs…or was there?  I adored (and yet do) cooking for two.  Yes… but, then again…….

One day, I just couldn’t stand it any more,  I had to have meatloaf.  And potatoes. And carrots.    So I made it.  I made it all.  And, of course, it was mostly all still there the next day.  I said, “Let’s not cook tonight; let’s have meatloaf sandwiches and watch a movie in the basement.”  Dave was all over that.  I told my good friend, Sandy, about it and she, too, was enthusiastic.  “Oh YES and have a nice, round red with them.”   Which sounded fine.  I adored meatloaf sandwiches.  But…

As I went to fix them, the new cook in me, the one who cooks for two,  pulled out the grill pan.  She grabbed the cast-iron, wooden handled press (my cheap panini maker) that we used to cook meat camping.  She searched out a little spinach, some fresh basil, a jar of salsa and whatever cheese was in the cheese drawer.  And here’s how she did it because, friends, she made

Meatloaf Panini with Sauce for Dipping
serves 2!  (orignial meatloaf recipe below–keep reading at end)

                        Make it with cheddar, serve salsa for dipping.
                        Make it with provolone, serve marinara for dipping

4 slices whole wheat bread (large slices); I like them with seeds
1T butter
2T coarse ground Dijon-style mustard
3-4 thin slices meatloaf (your choice)

4 slices cheese (provolone or cheddar, depending on the sauce)            
1/4 c fresh basil leaves
1/4 c fresh spinach leaves

1 c marinara or salsa for dipping (depending on which sandwich you make)                                                                                          

     

Heat a grilling pan (or large cast-iron skillet) over medium-high heat.  Butter each slice of bread on one side.  On the other side of only two slices, spread the mustard.  Place one slice bread on the pan and lay on the  meatloaf, cheese and basil and spinach leaves.  Top with other slice of buttered bread.  Repeat.  Lay something heavy on top (a grill press or a heavy pan or plate) and grill until toasty brown on one side.  Turn over and grill until the other side is just as brown.  Eat while it’s hot!!!– right away, each served w/ 1/2 c  desired sauce in a ramekin or small bowl.

SIDES:  Chips, pickles.  Right.
WINE:  Rhone.  (We drank a California Rhone called “Incognito.”  Whoo Hoo.)
DESSERT:  Small piece of dark chocolate with the rest of the wine.

Porque no?
Pourquoi pas?
Happy Valentine’s Day! 
Sing a new song; grill a new sandwich,
Alyce

Meatloaf recipe:  1# lean ground beef, 1# bulk breakfast sausage, 4 cloves garlic, grated or minced finely,  1 15 oz can tomato sauce, 1 ex-large egg, 1 envelope dry onion soup mix. 2 slices bread (torn in small pieces) 1/2 t ground black pepper, 1T dry basil, 1T dry oregano.  In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients well using your great hands.  Pat meat mixture into 9×5 loaf pan (I like glass) and bake at 350F for an hour.  Pour off grease.  Let meatloaf remain in pan, covered with foil, for 10-15 minutes before cutting.

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