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Posts tagged ‘appetizers’

Beef, Olive & Raisin Empanadas (+ a veggie option!)


My love for savory fillings bound by a crispy flaky crust knows no bounds!

Empanadas…a South American calzone/pasty/meat pie.  In other words, a perfect bundle!  Recently we had reason to celebrate…Woody was named a Packard Fellow and while this is huge for his science…for me, it was an excuse to cook up something wonderful for a dinner in his honor at a colleague’s home.  Empanadas fit the bill…finger food, great warm or room temperature, no-plate-necessary and dipping-sauce-optional – good choice for a crowd and easily transportable!

There are many empanada dough recipe’s available on the interwebs, and to be honest, even pre-made pie crusts from the grocery store work very well for this recipe.  We made two separate fillings as there were a few vegetarians who attended the celebration; beef with olives, raisins and eggs and black bean, corn and raisin.

Beef Empanadas
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen | Beef Empanadas

Makes 4 dozen mini-empanadas

2 hard-boiled large eggs, chopped into bits
3/4 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
dash of cayenne
3/4 pound ground beef chuck
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice, drained, reserving 2 tablespoons juice, and chopped
1 recipe of your favorite savory tart dough…or if you’re in a time crunch – 2 packages of pre-packaged pie crust dough

1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water for egg wash

To start, hard boil at least 2 eggs. I made a double batch for the party so I needed 4 eggs for the recipe and it never hurts to have a few in the fridge to make egg salad in a pinch for lunch.  We use Henrietta (the chicken) for cooking our eggs.

She tends to do a decent job and is relatively no hassle.  There are plenty of egg cookers out there…but you can get the same results via a multitude of methods.  For something different, check out Alton Brown’s baked hard-boiled-eggs.  Cool the eggs in an ice-water bath and set aside.

Heat a large skillet on medium high and add the olive oil to the pan.  Once hot, add the onions and sweat.  There is no need to brown the onions as there is plenty of sweetness in the filling that comes from the raisins.  Add the garlic, and once the onions have released a bit of their moisture, turn the heat to high and add the ground beef to brown.

One of my standard practices is to season with salt and pepper at every stage…this will give you the best chance that the finished dish is properly seasoned.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add the diced canned tomatoes.

Golden raisins may seem an odd addition, but they are a quintessential ingredient for an authentic empanada!

If I made the mini-empanadas again, I would give the raisins a rough chop first as they plump up with the moisture and can overwhelm the flavor a bit.

I happen to LOVE green olives.  When I was a tiny person, black olives were one of my absolute favorite vegetables…and although it took me some time to warm up to the green versions…they are now my absolute favorite.  I can think of no better pizza topping than chopped green olives!

Add the chopped olives and raisins to the pan and toss them around.  Deb at Smitten Kitchen mentioned that the flavor was a bit flat, so I added a few things to enliven the mixture.  I started with some smoked paprika.

Add the paprika, cumin, dried oregano, chili powder and a dash of cayenne – while this simmers a bit, peel the hard-boiled eggs.

The egg slicer is another one of our kitchen tools that I love as it makes quick work of dicing the eggs on 3 different planes.

Add the eggs to the beef mixture, and after gauging the moisture content, add some of the reserved tomato liquid.

While that is coming together, roll out your dough (empanada dough, tart dough or pie crust).  I rolled it a bit thinner for the mini-empanadas to make sure that the crust didn’t overwhelm the filling.  Heat the oven to 400° F.

I cut rounds with the largest round cookie cutter I have and then rolled each round out again to get it to the right size.  The beef mixture needs to cool quite a bit before you can scoop it onto the dough rounds.

When making mini’s of anything, efficiency es muy importante!  Unless of course you don’t mind pinching empanadas for hours and hours.  I snagged a dumpling press (shown below) just before making Pierogies, and I could not have been happier to have it for this project as well.

(image credit: BagelHot)

For the press, place the dough on the open mold, spoon in a teaspoon or so of the filling and then fold to press the edges together.  I was a little ambitious with the amount of filling I tried to pack in there, hence the torn spots and seeping edges.

Place on a sheet pan and just before baking, brush with egg wash.

Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes depending on size, remove once they are golden brown and delicious!

Black Bean, Corn & Raisin Empanadas
Adapted from this Recipe.

Makes 2 dozen mini-empanadas

1/2 cup golden raisins
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons adobo seasoning
5-6 scallions, chopped fine
1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, drained
1 cup frozen corn kernels
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp. green taco sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Sauté onions in a pan with oil and then add black beans, corn, and all seasonings and heat through.  Add the raisins and half of the green onions and cook for another 5 minutes.  Check the seasoning and then let the mixture cool.  Fill the empanadas and bake them in the same manner as described above.

After baking, let cool just enough and serve immediately, or go ahead and let them cool completely and serve room temperature.

Voilá!  Empanadas!

Minted English Pea & Lemony Feta Crostini


I love me some summer, and all the light fresh summer dishes that appear at potlucks and barbecues this time of year.  However, I have a confession.  I have a love-hate relationship with peas.  Mushy green things were a common side on my plate growing up and I remember many a night when I sat at the table long after everyone else had finished…and all I had to do was eat 3 more bites of peas.  Gross!  Then I grew up (a little) and met fresh english peas…treated with the respect that such a pretty and perfectly petite vegetable deserved.  I loved them.  I convinced myself that they were two entirely different things that shared no common traits.  I’m still wary of pea dishes and always approach them with suspicion.  This little dish is shockingly simple but more than the sum of its parts.

Minted English Pea & Lemony Feta Crostini

Ingredients:

English peas, shelled
Feta (about 8 oz.)
1-2 tbsp.’s of ½ & ½ or milk
Fresh mint
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Baguette or crostini toasts
Sea salt for finishing

Start by blanching the peas in heavily salted boiling water for no more than 2-3 minutes.  Before you toss the peas into the pot, prepare a bowl of ice water and place it in the sink.  When the time is up, remove the peas and pour into a colander and then immediately submerge them in the bowl of ice water.  This will shock those little peas and keep them from overcooking and it sets the bright, fresh green color.  Once they have completely cooled, go ahead and drain the peas.

Next, get the feta, drain it and place it in a medium size mixing bowl.  I used half of a 16 oz. package.  Using a fork, mush up the feta and slowly add the ½ & ½ or milk.  Mix it up until it is a nice consistency for spreading on toasts, err on the side of keeping it a little thicker than you think.  First zest the lemon and then slice in half and squeeze all the juice out into a bowl or measuring cup.  Add in a tbsp. of lemon juice, a tsp. of the lemon zest, a sprinkling of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.  This is a taste-as-you-go-recipe…so keep tasting and adding ingredients as needed.  You want a creamy spreadable feta with a floral lemon notes from the zest and a bit of zing from the juice.  The black pepper can be a prominent flavor as well.

Let the spread chill in the fridge for a bit.  Now grab the cooled peas and throw them in a bowl.  Take 5-10 mint leaves and stack them on top of one another, starting on the long side, roll them up like they are a yoga mat and then slice them very thinly.  Poof!  Chiffonade!  Sprinkle the mint into the peas, add some salt and maybe just a touch of lemon juice.  We brought these over to a barbecue…so I packaged everything separately and built the crostini on location…no one likes a soggy crostini.  Oh…did I mention the crostini/toasts…yeah, make them.  (Slice baguette thinly, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, lay in a single layer on a cookie sheet and then put in a 375º oven for 4-6 minutes – watch them carefully…you want them to dry out a bit and get just barely toasty, remove from oven, flip them over, repeat the drizzling and sprinkling and toss them back in the oven for another few minutes…maybe only 3 – cool completely and store in airtight bags.  Voilá…Crostini!)

Time to assemble the toasts:  spread on lovely layer of feta, place the peas over the top, add a little lemon zest, a little mint and finish with some flaky sea salt.

The other parts of this barbecue are SO worth mentioning…we grilled some white salmon that marinated in 3 mustards, tarragon, olive oil and a little vinegar. we’ve been lucky enough to cook some white king salmon once before!

It’s hard to make asparagus better than when it is lightly oiled and thrown on the grill!

This is Juno, the sweetest Doberman we’ve ever met…she makes our Cleo dog look like a miniature breed.  They are good friends and neither one of them minded when they got to nibble on a little of the cooked salmon skin!

We used some foil under the salmon as we could not bear the thought of losing even the slightest morsel to the slots on the grill.

We finished the salmon with more fresh tarragon and some fresh lemon.  And if you look really closely in the upper right hand corner of the photo…you’ll see some delicious sautéed fennel!  Unfortunately…no other photos are available of the complete dinner since I must have been on a trampoline when I took them – they were THAT blurry!

Sometimes, enjoying the meal with friends, while it is actually hot, is more important than getting the perfect shot!

Bon Appétit!

Savory Autumn Crostata


Everyone needs a little something to warm up their bellies for the Thanksgiving feast…a little nosh, a little nibble.  Savory Autumn Crostata with butternut squash, onion, apple and blue cheese is perfect.

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole.  She
chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata.  She used her own experience as a source,
as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Dough:
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced (1 stick)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Filling:
  • 1 large baking apple
  • 1 small or 1/2 medium butternut squash (about 3/4 pound), halved, seeded, and skin on
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled, root end trimmed but intact
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1⁄3 cup crumbled Stilton or other blue cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)

Now that the recipe is out of the way…let’s move on to the good stuff…

Start prepping your veggies.  The good news is there is no need to peel the butternut squash.  I had a nice small squash which worked out perfectly for slices.  When cutting your onion, leave the root end intact, only trimming away the root threads.  Core and slice the apple with the idea being to make all the slices about the same size and thickness.

Actually…first, make the dough.  Pulse the flour and salt together in a food processor.  Add the butter and pulse a couple of times until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few bean-size bits of butter in it.  Add the egg and pulse 1 to 2 times more…it just hast to be damp enough to stick together.  If the dough seems very dry, add up to 1 tablespoon of cold water, 1 teaspoon at a time, pulsing briefly. Remove the blade and bring the dough together by hand. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Roll out the dough into a large disk, and dusting generously with flour.  All those wonderful creamy dots – yep, you guessed right…it’s butter!  Don’t be afraid, as this is what makes a crust flaky and lovely.  Remember to work with your dough quickly and as little as possible…if the butter melts…your crust is toast!

Put all the squash, onion and apple slices into a bowl, and pour the melted butter over the top.  Toss in the herbs, and season with salt and pepper, toss or mix them gently so each piece is coated perfectly in buttah!

Roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thick and about 2 -3 inches wider in diameter than you would like the finished crostata to be.  Place the dough on a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet and spread the mustard over the dough, leaving a 1-1½ inch border.

Beginning on the outside, alternate slices of squash, apple and onion in a circle, tucking them close together.

Continue layering it all into the center of the circle as well using smaller pieces to fill in the holes.  Next, fold in the sides, pleating where necessary to contain the filling.

Press the edges down gently and tuck any pointy pieces of onion or apple back down into the crostata.  Place in a 400° oven until the crust is golden brown and flaky, about 55 minutes.

While the crostata is baking…it’s time to get the blue cheese out…any blue will work…stilton would be especially delicious…and I used a roquefort.

After the 55 minutes, pull the crostata out of the oven.

Crumble the cheese using a fork and scatter over the top of the crostata.

Place the crostata back in the oven for another 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

Let is cool for a few minutes, slice it into wedges and serve.  It can also be served room temperature as well.  Enjoy and be sure to save a little bit of room for Turkey and fixin’s!

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