Chef Tom Herndon – Tired of Mom’s Meatloaf? Try Tom’s Meatloaf!

American Comfort Food meets The Middle East

Ok, meatloaf is classic good-ol’-‘mericun comfort food. Like, really comforting. Like jammies, slippers, blankie, and a well-loved movie comforting. \Why the very name contains the word “loaf.”

Meatloaf can also be rather bo-ring. Like desert-is-a-beige-riot boring, or salt-free-chewy-sawdust boring.

I needed to stock the fridge for the week. I wanted something mashers-n-peas, with a big slab o’ meat comforting.

But I also wanted to turn up the volume on flavor. One of my top fave flavor profiles is Middle Eastern. Bold, earthy, tribal ingredients: warm spices like coriander, cumin and cinnamon; the tang of preserved lemons, olives, and feta; the spicy-hot of good harissa; pine nuts, pistachios, and pita bread. Yes?

Traditional Middle Eastern flavor profiles have been proven over centuries. In every mouthful you can taste the history.

So my little chef-mind started buzzing and I came up with this. I have a well-used, plain-Jane recipe that’s tasty enough, and I’ve cooked a hundred times. Something called Mama’s Meatloaf. So I slapped a Middle Eastern filter on my brain-pan and conjured up something that was even tastier. Still pushed all my comfort food buttons, but was not even close to boring. This one’s a keeper.

Try it. You might never return to your mom’s tried-and-true meatloaf again.

Tom’s Meatloaf

Feta-Stuffed Meatloaf with Olives, Pistachios, and Harissa

Serves 6-8

3/4 cup chopped yellow onion

3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoons pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup whole, pitted green olives

½ cup toasted, shelled pistachios

3/4 cup oatmeal, or panko, or well-crushed crackers

2 pounds ground lamb

1 pound ground pork

1 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Vegetable cooking spray

3/4 cup Harissa

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine all of the ingredients except the cheese, the cooking spray, and the harissa in a large bowl, tossing to moisten the crumbs. Using clean hands, fold everything gently just until blended. Allow mixture to sit on the counter for a half hour.

Pack ½ the mixture into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Make a 1-inch x 1-inch “trough” down the center of the meat and crumble the feta in, to fill up the trough. Place the remaining meat mixture on the top and spread evenly to fill up the pan.

Spread harissa over top of loaf. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until meat loaf registers 160°. Let loaf stand in pan 10 minutes.

To cool the bite of the harissa, serve it with a Lebanese Tzatsiki, of cucumber, garlic, mint and greek-style yogurt. I added a side dish of simple roasted baby Yukon potatoes with salt, pepper, and olive oil.

What’s Arab for m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m?

Mina Harissa


TJ Harissa

Editor’s Note – Tom’s Meatloaf deserves an Ode, and I felt compelled to add this song of devotion. The recipe above creates a Loaf you cannot help but love even more than the one sung about here. Happy Eating!


Chef Tom is currently Resident Chef for a small tech firm in San Francisco. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

Check him out at

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