As if the pandemic weren’t enough, I’m supposed to think of something tantalizing and healthy to cook every night? Right. Roger that. My motto is: go with the tried and true. Or, given the times we’re in: go with the tired and true. Translation: something my mom used to make in the 1960s and ’70s. Something delicious but notoriously unhealthy.
Let’s face it, back then, the general public didn’t know bupkas about heart-healthy diets, Keto or low cholesterol. Not even doctors’ families. Nobody measured their BMI (body mass index) at the gym, because no one went to the gym. No one had their goal weight etched in their brain. It was a kinder, gentler time. Albeit with lots more spontaneous and fatal heart attacks and strokes. But still.
Back to the task at hand. It was a dark and stormy afternoon. I was tired. Really tired. Of cooking. But we have to eat. So, I did what any self-respecting accidental balabusta would do: I pulled out my mother’s old National Council of Jewish Women Cookbook. It’s a miracle that it isn’t falling apart after all these decades doing yeoman service. As I was searching for something simple and doable within 30 minutes, I happened upon a dog-eared page. One my mother had probably marked for good reason. Which is ironic, since the standing joke in my family was this – as soon as my mom cooked anything that my dad loved, she never made it again. We’ve speculated on the rationale for years. Was it intentional? Happenstance? Payback for something? Maybe it had to do with the electric can opener my dad gave mom for her birthday one year; or was it their anniversary?
The dog-eared recipe, thankfully, was – drum roll, please – Meatloaf. Yes, Virginia, you heard correctly, Meatloaf. I capitalize it because, well, it deserves the recognition. There is no problem in this world that can’t be solved by a good meatloaf. (Alright, maybe athlete’s foot and world wars, but, otherwise….)
In sync with the majority of the recipes in that cookbook, it called for an envelope of onion soup mix, undoubtedly a staple in those days. Chip dip – sour cream and onion soup mix. Spinach delight – onion soup mix. Apricot chicken – onion soup mix. Being a culinary rebel (ha!), I decided to go rogue and omit the onion soup mix. I had to draw my own line in the sand. And I swapped Panko for breadcrumbs. This recipe makes a moist, dream-of-a-1960s dinner. Once again, you’re welcome. You may be excused from the table.
2 lbs ground beef (extra lean)
1 1/2 cup soft breadcrumbs (or Panko)
1/2 to 3/4 cup water
1/3 cup ketchup (or, as they called it in the ’60s, catsup)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and place the mix into a greased loaf pan. (I covered the top with more ketchup – I know, very radical). Bake for approximately one hour.
It doesn’t get much easier than this. Seriously. Both Harvey and I kept cutting little pieces off, to even out the end. We were insatiable! We easily ate half of this two-pound loaf in one sitting, and polished off the rest the next day in sandwiches. What can I say? We’re dyed-in-the-wool carnivores.
To switch it up a little, and marry old school to multicultural, I also made Greek lemon potatoes. While I could eat meat and potatoes every night of the week, I don’t. And don’t go getting all judgy on me, either – there was broccoli in attendance.
The Greek lemon potatoes were a new thing for me (the making part), and I only made the Greek kind because I had a bunch of fresh rosemary leftover from baking focaccia the day before. (It was delicious!) Plus, we had a truckload of lemons in the fridge getting overripe from neglect (scurvy in our future?). I have to say, the potatoes were simple and simply delicious. Again, Harvey declared them “guest-worthy.”
GREEK LEMON POTATOES
2.5 lbs potatoes (about 4 large russets)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
5 cloves garlic, minced (I used 4)
2 tsp salt (I used 1 tsp)
dash of pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano (I used 2 tbsp fresh rosemary instead)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel the potatoes and cut into semi-thick wedges. Place in a roasting pan with all the other ingredients; toss well. Roast covered with foil for 40 minutes. Remove foil and turn the potatoes. Roast for another 25 to 30 minutes until the liquid is mostly absorbed by the potatoes. If you like your potatoes a bit crispy, leave them in for another five minutes or so.
They end up super-moist, soft, lemony and fabulous. Oh yeah, and garlicky. Harvey said they were even better than the ones at Apollonia, our favourite Greek restaurant. It was hard to refrain from eating the whole darn batch, but we showed the teensiest bit of restraint. After all, we wanted some left over for the next day. They’re like potato candy, if you will. Except better.
Sometimes, the most obvious recipes are the best. I often consult that Council cookbook. Who better to advise on such Jewish delicacies as honey-glazed cocktail franks, deviled tongue canapes and fruited rice salad? I rest my case.
There’s no question that the NCJW of Canada does many admirable things to enhance the community through education, social action, furthering human welfare and more. Far be it from me to make it sound like all they did was produce a cookbook. But, thank you, NCJWC for having done so – the meatloaf alone is worth the price of admission. And, of course, kol hakavod for all the great work you do.
Shelley Civkin, aka the Accidental Balabusta, is a happily retired librarian and communications officer. For 17 years, she wrote a weekly book review column for the Richmond Review. She’s currently a freelance writer and volunteer.