You probably can't tell from this grainy photograph,* but the meatloaf is stuffed with creamy fat-free mozzarella cheese, fresh tomato, aromatic basil, and topped with a rich, acidic balsamic glaze.
A great Caprese salad must include fresh mozzarella. The philosophy is that the quality and freshness of the ingredients stand on their own; you don't need a bunch of additives that will hide their natural flavor. My meatloaf recipe, however, calls for fat-free pre-shredded mozzarella. Perhaps using this sort of "mozzarella" seems blasphemous to most foodies, but hey - (1) all of the recipes on this blog will be low-calorie, low-carb, low-fat, and high protein. Full-fat mozzarella fails to meet two of those criteria. More importantly, (2) meatloaf is probably not the most sensible vehicle for high-quality mozzarella. Save the good stuff for a traditional Caprese salad.**
Ingredients for Meatloaf Caprese
1 lb. 96/4 lean ground beef - I use Laura's Lean ground round (93/7 works also)
1/2 cup fat-free shredded mozzarella (I use Kraft Natural)
1.5 tbsp. minced garlic
5 tbsp. grated white or yellow onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
2 tbsp. beef broth
1/4 cup egg substitute (I use Publix EggStirs)
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. fresh basil chiffonade
Ingredients for stuffing
4 oz. thinly sliced tomatoes
1/2 cup fat-free shredded mozzarella
5-6 fresh basil leaves
Additional salt and pepper
Ingredients for Balsamic Reduction
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. fresh chopped basil
4 oz. roughly chopped leftover tomatoes
2 tbsp. roughly chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 cup beef broth
1 tsp. salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the loaf: the ground beef, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, the chiffonade of basil, garlic, onion, thyme, oregano, black pepper, salt, beef broth, and egg substitute. Mix until combined, but don't overdo it.
Place about 1/3 of the beef mixture on the bottom of a pan that you've hit with some nonstick spray. Make sure the top of the mixture is slightly concave to hold the stuffing.
To stuff the loaf, layer 2 oz. of the sliced tomato, 1/4 cup of the fat-free mozzarella, and 2-3 of the basil leaves.
Place another 1/3 of the beef mixture atop the first layer of stuffing. Again, make the loaf slightly concave on top, then repeat the filling instructions.
Top the meatloaf with the final layer of beef mixture, and make sure the loaf is well-sealed. None of the stuffing should be visible outside the loaf.
Initially, you will bake the meatloaf at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. While the meatloaf is baking, you will prepare the balsamic reduction.
To make the balsamic reduction, combine all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and reduce the mixture for about 15 minutes, or until it is about 1/2 of its original volume.
After the 25 minutes of initial baking have elapsed, remove the loaf from the oven, top it with the balsamic reduction, and return to the oven until it is done. This should take 10-15 minutes. Expect some of the cheese in the mixture to ooze out during baking; this is fine and makes the loaf look even juicier and more luscious. Make sure to keep the wayward cheese and serve it on top of the loaf slices.
Makes 10 2.5-oz. servings. The entire loaf should be about 10 inches long.
Each 2.5-oz slice made with 96/4 ground round contains approximately 110 calories, 14.5 grams of protein, and only 4.7 grams of net carbohydrate.
If prepared with the more readily available 93/7 lean ground beef, each slice is approximately 127 calories, 14.2 grams of protein, and 4.7 grams of net carbohydrates. (The greater fat content in 93/7 beef raises the calories, but leaves the protein and net carb numbers mostly the same.)
Serve this loaf as simply as the salad that inspired it, perhaps alongside a crisp lettuce salad drizzled with an olive oil-based vinaigrette, or with lightly steamed or sauteed haricot verts seasoned only with salt, pepper, and maybe a little olive oil.
*I bought a new camera just to photograph my creations for this blog, and of course it takes terrible pictures. Oh well, what can you do? If you click on the Insalata Caprese link above, you'll see how a real food photo should look!
**If, for some reason, you insist on using fresh mozzarella for this dish, be sure to use a variety with a low-moisture content, similar to the kind you'd use on a pizza. Too much moisture from the cheese will make this lovely loaf a hot, gloppy mess.