With the election behind us and unity on everyone's mind, what I'm about to say might come as a shock.
We are still a country divided.
Divided not by politics or preferences, but by Ro*Tel®. Either you live in a Ro*Tel state, or you live somewhere else.
I live somewhere else, and until last week I had no hope of ever finding Ro*Tel in my local Rhode Island supermarket.
And then, last week, I found diced tomatoes with green chiles, made by our local Italian-products company whose yellow/red/green labels are familiar to any shopper in the Northeast, at the market in my little town!
It's not Ro*Tel, exactly, but it is, give or take a spice or two.
Now, I know what you're thinking: why add an item to your pantry that's really just a combination of two items you already keep on hand (canned chopped tomato, and canned green jalapeño chiles) with a bit of vinegar and cilantro tossed in?
Three good reasons: Economy. Environment. Storage.
I almost always use canned green chiles and tomato together. With this product, I'm buying fewer cans, at lower cost, and taking up less space in my pantry and in the town's recycling facility.
Authentic Ro*Tel comes in mild, medium or hot variations, and contains a secret blend of spices that give it more or less zip. With our local diced tomatoes with green chiles, plus a bit of cumin or cayenne or even Old Bay (and sometimes a few extra green chiles or fresh diced jalapeño), I can enjoy the wonderful regional cuisine of Texas and the Southwest -- Ro*Tel country -- in my own New England kitchen, with recipes like crockpot cream cheese, sausage and Ro*Tel dip, chile con queso, salsa, Texas spaghetti, black-eyed peas, taco soup, Louisiana gumbo, and Southwestern split pea soup.
Maybe all it takes to bring this country together is a bit of diced tomato, green chile, and a couple of spices here and there.
[Update: A snapshot of life in a Ro*Tel state. Thanks, Mae!]
You can make muffins out of any meatloaf recipe; just remember to reduce the cooking time to 20-25 minutes. Cooked meatloaf can be frozen, or eaten cold on sandwiches. Serves 6.
2 lbs ground beef (10% fat)
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
1 green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, cut into chunks
14-oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained and divided
1 large egg plus a large splash of milk, beaten together
1 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1 tsp each: kosher salt, black pepper, cumin and chili powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional, but delicious)
1/2 cup smoky barbecue sauce (homemade, or your favorite store-bought)
Canola spray (like PAM)
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Put ground beef into a large bowl. Put chunks of onion and green pepper into a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to finely chop the vegetables into very small pieces, then add them to the meat bowl. Add 1 cup of diced tomatoes with green chiles, plus remaining ingredients, except canola spray. Mix everything together lightly, with your impeccably clean hands, until just combined.
Coat a loaf pan with canola spray, and pack the meat mixture into it. Sprinkle the top with remaining chopped tomato. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 160°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven, tent lightly with aluminum foil, and let rest for 15 minutes or more before slicing.
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