This was one of those days where I felt like making stuff, but nothing seemed to go together – or, at least, what I had wasn’t what I wanted.  I made a black barley and corn salad earlier, Victor had made a huge fruit salad, and I had burger thawing.  But I didn’t want burgers.  Or, I didn’t want plain ol’ burgers.  For a brief moment I thought Salisbury Steak, but gravy didn’t go with cold corn salad and fresh fruit.

I grabbed my new Lidia cook book for inspiration.

She had a recipe for a meatloaf – but I wasn’t in the mood for meatloaf.  But I did have all the ingredients.  I decided to make the meatloaf into burgers!  I mean…  meatloaf is just a big hamburger with stuff in it, right?!?

So…  dinner is burgers with stuff in them.  Problem solved.

Needless to say, I cut the ingredients waaaaaay down – I pretty much quartered the recipe.  And it came out real good!  Here’s her recipe.  Try making the meatloaf.  I’ll bet it’s good, too!

Polpettone di Manzo con Ricotta

Lidia Bastianich

Serves 8 or more

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups day- old bread cubes, from a loaf of country bread
  • 3 pounds ground beef (freshly ground preferred)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
  • 1 pound drained fresh ricotta (about 2 cups), plus more for the sauce if you like
  • 1 bunch scallions,finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • ½ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano- Reggiano
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ pound fresh mozzarella, cut in ½- inch cubes (about 2 cups)
  • ¼ cup extra- virgin olive oil
  • 4 to 5 cups tomato sauce

Recommended equipment: A sturdy roasting pan, 10 by 17 inches or larger

Preheat oven to 375º. Pour the milk over the bread cubes in a bowl, and let soak for a few minutes, until the bread is saturated.

Squeeze the soft bread a handful at a time, pressing out as much milk as you can (discard milk, or give it to a pet), then tear bread into small shreds and toss back into the bowl. Crumble the ground beef into the bowl, and add the eggs, ricotta, scallions, grated cheese, parsley, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Fold and toss everything together, and squeeze the mixture a few times between your fingers to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Scatter the mozzarella cubes on top, and fold and mush them throughout the loaf mix.

Brush the roasting pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Gather the meat mixture in the bowl, turn it into the pan, and shape it into a fat oval loaf. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover the pan with foil—tent it so it doesn’t touch the meat—and bake 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and continue to bake until the meatloaf is browned all over and completely cooked through, another 1 hour and 30 minutes or so. (If you check the loaf with a meat thermometer, it should reach a temperature of 160º.) Remove the roast from the oven, and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

Heat the tomato sauce to a simmer in a saucepan as the meat rests. Turn off the heat, and, if you like, stir ½ cup or so fresh ricotta into the sauce. Cut the loaf crosswise in the pan or on a cutting board, in slices as thick as you like. Serve on warm dinner plates, topped with a spoonful or two of sauce, and pass more sauce at the table (or, for family- style serving, arrange the slices on a warm platter, topped with some of the sauce). To accompany this meatloaf, I love braised broccoli rabe (broccoli di rape) or escarole, served on a separate plate or platter.

Note: If you love fresh ricotta, as I do, you can stir some into the tomato sauce, too, just before serving the meatloaf.

The Corn, Black Barley, and Bean Salad was a whim.

I had two ears of fresh corn I wanted to use for something other than corn on the cob.  I opened the cabinet and the first thing I saw was the black barley.  Hmmmmm… corn and black barley salad.  Sounds good.  I was thinking black beans would go well with it – but I didn’t have any black beans in the cabinet!  Pintos, great northern, and red kidney.  The kidney won.  They’re better cold in a salad, anyway.

The dressing was a no-brainer.  Ruth and I used to make a shrimp, corn, and pea salad with a lime and mayonnaise dressing.  I had limes and I had mayonnaise.  A salad was born.

Corn, Black Barley, and Bean Salad

  • 2 ears fresh corn, cut from the cob and blanched (or about 1 1/2 cups frozen, thawed)
  • 1/2 cup black barley, cooked, drained, and cooled (or grain of choice – rice, farro, wheat berries, wild rice, etc…)
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (or beans of choice)
  • 2 tbsp assorted fresh herbs, minced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 lime – zest and juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Mix corn, beans, and barley.  Add the mayonnaise, lime juice, and lime zest.  Add minced herbs, salt and pepper.

Cover and chill.

These are some of the easiest and most basic salads one can make, and they’re especially good and refreshing on a hot day.  The lime brings a fresh taste that cannot be compared.  And they’re ready in the time it takes to cook the grain.  If you have fresh herbs growing in the garden, just grab some and mince them up.  It really doesn’t matter which herbs you use.  It’s the freshness that comes through.

You can switch out the vegetable, the grain, the bean, add chicken, shrimp, tofu, or diced cooked pork tenderloin.  The constant is the mayonnaise and the lime.