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Spinach-Stuffed Turkey Meat Loaf

This rolled turkey meat loaf is a clever way of coaxing any meat-and-potatoes eater into enjoying vegetables, in this case, spinach and tomatoes. It makes a great dish for potlucks and buffet dinners. Accompany with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes (see related recipe at left).

Ingredients:

For the spicy tomato sauce: 

  • 1 tsp. freshly ground white or black pepper 
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger 
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves 
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onion  
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1 can (28 oz.) whole plum tomatoes with juice  
  • 1 can (28 oz.) chopped tomatoes with juice  
  • 2 cups tomato sauce  
  •   
  • 1 1/2 tsp. canola oil 
  • 6 white bread slices, crusts removed and bread torn into 1-inch pieces 
  • 1/2 cup 1-percent-fat milk 
  • 2 lb. ground turkey breast 
  • 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard 
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano 
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt  
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper 
  • 1 egg white 
  •   

For the stuffing: 

  • 2 lb. fresh spinach, or 1 lb. frozen chopped spinach 
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 3 green onions, tender green tops only, chopped 
  • 1 egg white 
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  •   
  • 1/3 cup grated Romano cheese 
  • 1 tsp. grated orange zest 

Directions:

To make the spicy tomato sauce, in a small bowl, stir together the pepper, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Set aside.

In a large Dutch oven or other deep, heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook the onion until it releases its juices, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic. Add the plum tomatoes and their juice. Using a wooden spoon, break up the tomatoes into 1-inch chunks. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juice and the tomato sauce, and then stir in the spice mixture. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has the thickness of tomato puree, 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat and use immediately, or let cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months. Makes about 3 quarts. You need 4 to 5 cups for this recipe; reserve the rest for another use.

Line a 10 1/2-by-15 1/2-inch jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil, leaving at least 1 inch hanging over the long edge on both sides. Brush the foil with 1/2 tsp. of the canola oil.

In a bowl, using a fork, mash the bread with the milk until the milk is fully absorbed. Squeeze the bread to eliminate excess milk. In another bowl, using a fork, combine the ground turkey, mustard, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the soaked bread and egg white and mix for 2 to 3 minutes. Spread in the prepared pan to make an even layer. Cover the pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

To make the stuffing, if using fresh spinach, rinse carefully in 2 or 3 changes of water, discarding the tough stems and any damaged leaves. Drain the leaves briefly in a colander and transfer to a large saucepan with only the water that clings to them. Place over medium-high heat, cover and cook, turning the leaves 2 or 3 times, until wilted and still slightly firm to the bite, about 4 minutes. Drain and chop finely. Squeeze the spinach with your hands to remove about half of the moisture. If using frozen spinach, cook according to the package directions, let cool and squeeze out any excess moisture.

In a nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the spinach, pulling it apart to eliminate any clumps. Stir in the green onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are wilted and the spinach is dry and fluffy, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Stir in the egg white and season generously with pepper.

Remove the plastic wrap from the meat. Spread the stuffing evenly over the meat, leaving a 1-inch uncovered border on all sides. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the stuffing. Lifting the foil along the long side facing you, roll up the meat and stuffing like a jelly roll, pushing it forward a bit at a time and lifting the foil away, until a long log has formed. Pat the log gently to compact it. Brush with the remaining 1 tsp. canola oil and center it on the pan. Bake the meat loaf, uncovered, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 160°F, about 1 hour.

Remove the meat loaf from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the 4 to 5 cups tomato sauce and the orange zest and heat until hot. Spoon 1/2 cup of the sauce onto each plate. Cut the meat loaf into 8 or 10 slices. Place a slice in the center of the sauce and serve. Serves 8 to 10.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).