Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Midweek Musings: Play with your Food!

When I am teaching ESL-- English as a Second Language--I tell my students that they need to play with their words. When I teach cooking, I tell students to play with their food. What I really mean, is that it should all be fun; we should enjoy the journey, as well as the destination... Well, case in point:  this is exactly what Nicole, Ann, and Teresa, their mom (who looks like she could be their sister) did beautifully.

Nicole said they wanted some simple (or simplish) recipes they could make for summertime (or anytime) entertaining at home. We came up with a menu of "tapas" that are not only fun and festive, but also easy to prepare ahead of guests' arrival. Well, we had a great "cooking class" in my kitchen last week--and enjoyed both the process, and the delicious results!
While Teresa is busy working, Nicole and Ann play in front of the Arepas! 

Here was the menu: Salmon Patties and Mango Chutney, and also made Brazilian Cheese Puffs, Costa-Rican Style Arepas, and classic Argentine Empanadas--which I'll share with you today!

Before baking the empanadas
So, wow, I could go on about empanadas (fell in love with them--as well as my taxi driver and a few more--during my first visit to Buenos Aires!). But suffice to say that there are soooooo many different types of empanadas, even within Buenos Aires, so I picked a one version to share with them (and now with you!).

Now, they came by on a weekday evening, after a long day at school,  and I confess I didn't make the dough, but that--obviously--would be ideal. Second best is a pie crust... But here I used Goya's pre-made frozen empanada dough rounds (easy to find in the frozen-foods section of larger markets, or in smaller Latin-style groceries).
I fried one--just to show my lovely ladies--but here I'm sharing the recipe for the baked version. Serve them with your favorite Malbec...or Bellini (both quite popular in Buenos Aires). Enjoy!

After baking--we didn't use a brush for the egg the "shine" is not as smooth as it could be! 

(Makes about 10) 

1 tablespoon (or more) vegetable oil 
3 red onions, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced 
1 pound ground beef
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 cup beef broth (you can use half a beef bullion cube in 1/4 cup hot water)
Course salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup green pimento-stuffed olives, sliced
2 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
1 egg yolk

Empanada dough 
Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook the onions and garlic, stirring frequently,  until softened. Add the ground beef, cumin, chile powder, paprika, beef bouillon, and salt and pepper to taste. 
Cook the beef, stirring and crumbling the meat, until browned. Set aside. (At this point you can also cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)
When you're ready to make your empanadas, preheat the oven to 350° F   place the following ingredients in individual ramekins or small bowls: raisins, olives, and hard boiled eggs.
Prepare the empanadas: If you are using dough, separate it into golf ball size pieces, and roll into smooth balls.  On a floured surface, roll each ball of dough into a 6 inch diameter circle, about 1/4 inch thick. (If you are using the Goya or other empanada discs, you can also roll them out as needed.) 

Add about 1 tablespoon of the beef filling, a few raisins and some chopped olives, and a slice of hard boiled egg to once side of the circle (if you overload, you won't be able to close it).  Brush the edges with water---with a brush or your fingertips--and fold the pastry in half over the filling, to make a half-moon shape. Seal the edges by pressing down with your fingers. Brush the sealed edge lightly with water as needed, then turn the edge toward the middle and press with your fingers to seal. Use the tines of a fork to make a design along the edges. 
Mix the egg yolk well, and brush the tops of the empanadas with it.
Bake on a lightly greased sheet pan at 350° F for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.  (You can make them ahead of time, and then bake them prior to your guests' arrival.) 

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