December 5, 2012
Pasta with broccoli is definitely a regular weeknight meal in our house. It's got all the hallmarks of a perfect weeknight dinner - quick, easy, cheap, nutritious. From idea to fork in under 20 minutes - not too shabby. And so I have never dreamed of attempting to replicate this same easy, quick meal with homemade pasta - because then it would no longer be easy or quick, thus defeating its main function as a go-to weeknight meal. That all changed yesterday.
So, I confess, it didn't take me under 20 minutes, but it still came in well shy of the 30 minute mark - not too bad for homemade pasta. Pillowy and toothsome, these dumplings have a texture similar to gnocchi, but they aren't gnocchi - they are simply semolina flour and water, or frascatelli.
I love the literal correspondence between a pasta's shape and its name in Italian. Farfalle - butterflies. Orecchiette - little ears. Bucatini - little holes. Well, it seems that in the case of frascatelli, the name could be derived more from the process than the shape. Frasca means branch, and I read somewhere that back in the day, folks could have been using a tree branch to shake out this pasta, rather than the slotted spoon or spatula we would use. You can go for the tree branch technique - but I don't recommend it.
I've never shared my pasta with broccoli recipe with you because it just seemed too simple - I didn't think anyone would be interested. However, now that I've upped the ante with the addition of frascatelli - this once humble (and kind of boring) weeknight meal is now an exciting foray into the world of homemade pasta-making. And thus, I bring it to you.
Please note - I used the whole broccoli for this recipe and almost always do - leaves and stalks and all. I don't know how on earth the rumor started that the only edible part of broccoli is the tippy-top, but it couldn't be further from the truth. Think about how much of the broccoli gets wasted that way. Depending on the broccoli's maturity, the leaves either have a tender broccoli-ish taste or smack a bit of collard greens, as is the case with older, larger leaves. Both tasty. And the hard stalks need only be peeled to reveal a tender inside, and then diced and included in whatever broccoli dish you're cooking up. By cooking the stalks and leaves you've instantly doubled the volume of broccoli you have - ok, maybe not doubled, but you catch my drift.
What you'll need
1 1/2 - 2 cups semolina flour
1 large head of broccoli or 4-5 mini ones, stalks trimmed and cut into individual florets
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more
1/3 cup veggie stock or dry white wine or water
1 tsp red chili flakes, maybe more
Salt and black pepper
For the pasta - get a large pot of well salted water on high heat.
As you wait for the water to boil, make your frascatelli.
Dump the semolina into a baking dish, shaking to create one even layer. Have one cup of water ready and waiting at the side of the dish.
Dip all five of your fingertips into the water and, lifting water with them, spray the water over the top of the semolina flour. Do this repeatedly until most of the surface is covered in splotches of water. Wait 30 seconds for the water to absorb into the flour. Then, using a slotted spoon, spatula or, really, even your fingers, gently turn the flour onto itself, forming dumplings.
Put the dumplings into a colander or sieve and shake out the excess semolina over the baking dish. Gently transfer the finished dumplings onto a baking sheet.
Return to the baking dish and repeat the same process until you have used all of the semolina and/or water. You may have a little water left at the end, which is fine. The bits of semolina that remain in the bottom of the baking dish can be pressed together to form dumplings.
In a 12' sauté pan, gently heat the olive oil, minced garlic and red pepper flakes over low heat. Once the garlic is fragrant add the trimmed broccoli.
Season generously with salt and black pepper and whichever liquid you are using - wine or veggie stock or water - to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, stir the broccoli and place a lid on the pan - steaming the broccoli for a few minutes.
Remove the lid and turn the heat off.
Once the water boils, cook the frascatelli. Use a wooden spoon to make a vortex or whirlpool in the water - this helps to prevent the frascatelli from sticking to each other and the bottom of the pot. Cook the frascatelli for no more than 1 minute.
Drain the water and add the frascatelli directly to the broccoli. Stir well.
Taste and adjust seasoning.
To serve: top with freshly grated Pecorino cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
November 16, 2012
Full disclosure - this dish looks better than it tasted and I loathe disappointment in the kitchen.
My friend and favorite farmer, Hector, generously gifted me with this beautiful sugar pumpkin and I couldn't wait to get it into my oven. To be honest, I have never cooked with real pumpkin before - always the store bought puree. As I schlepped it home from the market, visions of homemade pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie, roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin scones and pumpkin curry danced in my head.
It was a big'un - weighing in at at around 4 lbs, so I knew I would have more than enough to realize at least two of the scrumptious pumpkin dishes I had in mind. The first half went into an adaptation of Nigel Slater's pumpkin curry. The second half was destined for puree so that I could make a minified version of Kate's honey whole wheat pumpkin bread. Well, I highly recommend the bread recipe. Baked and devoured within one 24 hr period - I enjoyed it with afternoon tea, nibbled on it as pre-dinner snack, had it with vanilla ice cream for dessert and with my coffee the next morning. However, if you are going to make this curry dish, do what I immediately wished I had done after tasting it - make it with sweet potatoes or butternut squash.
I wouldn't have minded the recipe fail as much if it had been a less labor-intensive dish. However, after hitting a couple of different stores for the ingredients that I don't always have on hand, like lemongrass stalks, chilies and ginger - and then having to blend pastes, etc, ending up with a dish that is less-than tasty is, frankly, annoying.
Part of it is my own fault - I got the bones of this recipe from Nigel Slater's Tender, and while it is housed in the 'Pumpkin and Other Winter Squash' chapter, I should have remembered from my time in Ireland that sometimes the squashes we specifically identify as winter squash all fall under the umbrella term of pumpkin in the UK and Ireland. So, the ingredient that Mr. Slater universally identifies as pumpkin in this chapter and recipe, could actually be what we know as butternut squash or acorn squash, or even the rather sweet kabocha squash. And I suspect that's what he intended because this dish needed some of those natural sugars.
I also willingly take the brunt of the blame because I broke a cardinal rule of cooking - one that was drilled into me in cooking school - to taste, taste, taste! I cut up the pumpkin and hastily threw it into the curry sauce, which I had spent the better part of an hour meticulously building, without nibbling the pumpkin first to see that it was worthy. If I had tasted the pumpkin before chucking it in there, I would have found that it was, in fact, rather bland and tasteless and not suitable for this curry. No amount of spices and aromatics were gonna save that pumpkin from the land of bland. Ah, the regret.
But, all is well that ends well - we didn't starve that night. As an antidote to the tasteless pumpkin, I doused it in lime and blanketed it in cilantro and upped the spice ante and we ate it. And I rapidly got over it - the delish pumpkin bread helped. And I learned a lesson - which is that I don't really like cooking savory dishes with sugar pumpkins. So, in the future, I'll be reserving them only for purees and baking.
But - definitely make this dish! Because this dish really needs an extra kick of sweet and because I want to spare you the same mistake I made, I adapted the recipe below to include butternut squash rather than pumpkin.
Recipe adapted from Nigel Slater's, Tender
Thai-style Winter Squash Curry with Chickpeas
What you'll need
For 4 servings
4 large garlic cloves
1 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed
1 chili, fresh or dried, chopped
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 large shallots, minced
1 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds, toasted
1 large can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cayenne
6 cardamom pods
1 lb butternut squash, peeled and diced into bite-sized pieces
1 cup veggie stock
1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)
Salt and pepper
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Combine the peeled garlic, ginger, diced lemongrass and chili in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until pureed. Reserve to the side.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, combine the coconut oil, yellow mustard seeds and shallots. Sauté over medium-low heat until the onion begins to turn translucent at the edges - 3-4 minutes.
Add the garlic/ginger/lemongrass/chili paste and chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the mixture becomes fragrant.
Use the back of your knife to crack open the cardamom pods - roughly chop the seeds housed within the pods. Add the chopped seeds to the pot along with the cardamom, turmeric and cayenne.
Next, add the diced squash and stock, stirring well to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, so that the liquid is just simmering, until the squash is fork-tender - about 15-20 minutes.
Add the coconut milk to the pot and stir. Continue to simmer, uncovered, over very low heat for another 5-10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Serve over brown rice and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and half a lime.
October 26, 2012
About once a month, a hankering for linguine with white clam sauce sneaks up from behind, taps me on the shoulder and tells me to pull up a chair at the nearest Italian restaurant so I can order a big, steaming bowl. The most memorable of these sneak-attacks was after my mother and I had seen a movie starring Bill Crystal and Robert DeNiro in which DeNiro, surprise surprise, portrays an Italian mob boss. The movie was rather forgettable - but the scene that starred a mountain of linguine with white clam sauce clearly stayed with us because right after exiting the theater we went on a mission for that sauce. Many miles and a few restaurants later, we silently scraped clams and twirled our forks around mouthfuls of linguine.
Like so many great Italian dishes, the beauty of this meal is in its simplicity - which also means that the raw ingredients have to be quality. For a finger-licking briny clam sauce, that means getting some really good clams. Mine were fresh from coastal Long Island and I picked them up from the fishmongers at the greenmarket on Saturday. I had really good intentions of cooking them on Sunday - but then as life is sometimes wont to do - something better came up and we skipped the clam sauce Sunday night.
Did I fret about the fresh clams chilling in my fridge? Nay, I did not. Because Andy, the fishmonger, shared some helpful tips for keeping the clams fresh. He told me to put them in a metal bowl - no fresh water because the clams would drown - covered with a damp kitchen towel. And never put them directly on ice because the fresh water left by the melting ice cubes would also kill them. If stored dry in a metal bowl, they'll apparently stay fresh for 5-7 days in the fridge. Now, I'm not going to tell you I'd be all that comfortable with eating clams that have been in my fridge for a week, but I can tell you that they tasted fresh from the sea by the time I got around to making this meal - and that was 4 days after I had purchased them.
Once you're ready to cook the clams, be sure to carefully sort them. Any clams, and this goes for mussels too, with broken shells should never see your pot - you should toss them. Once sorted, use a veggie brush to give them a serious scrub-down and then immerse them in cold water for 15-20 minutes. You'll find that any remaining sand or silt will fall to the bottom of the bowl, which is a good thing, because that means all that sand or silt won't end up in the bottom of your sauce. Scoop the clams from the water and they're ready to go.
Because I have no issue with pairing garlic with garlic, I ate my garlicky clam sauce with broccoli rabe, sizzled in garlic oil and eaten straight up. Some folks blanch their broccoli rabe before sautéing it to remove some of its bitterness - but I like the bitter, so I skip that step.
For 4 people
What you'll need:
3 dozen littleneck clams (8-9 per person), cleaned
5 large garlic cloves, finely minced
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced chili OR red chili flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup pasta water
1 lb spaghetti or linguine
Salt and black pepper
In a large pot of boiling water, drop your spaghetti or linguine to cook until al dente.
In a skillet wide enough to fit the clams almost in a single layer, add the olive oil, garlic and chili. Sauté over medium low heat for a few minutes, until the garlic starts to turn golden brown and becomes fragrant.
Turn the heat up a touch and add the white wine, then the clams and half of the chopped parsley.
Immediately cover the clams with a tightly fitting lid. Let the clams steam for roughly 8-10 minutes, this depends on the size of your clams, how jam-packed the skillet is, etc.
After 8 minutes, remove the lid and with a slotted spoon or tongs, remove any clams that have opened - set them in a bowl to the side. Keep the lid on for a few more minutes to continue cooking any clams still unopened.
**Any clams that are unopened by the time most of the other clams have cooked, after 12-15 minutes, should be discarded.
Add 1/4 cup of starchy pasta water to the skillet with the clam sauce and the remaining chopped parsley. Taste and season with a bit of black pepper and salt if needed.
Drain the pasta and drop it directly into the clam sauce, tossing a couple of times to coat the pasta in sauce. Transfer the cooked clams, shells and all, back into the pasta and sauce and serve.
The juices from the clams are quite salty, so be careful about how much salt you add to the clam sauce, it should need very little.
If you find the prospect of eating a dish filled with clam shells unappetizing, you can remove the clam meat from the shell and simply toss the meat back into the sauce.
October 19, 2012
It's fully sweater weather. Which I'm excited about, and not only because its arrival gave me an excuse to gift myself a couple of new cold-weather wardrobe items. I'm also excited because after a summer full of warm weather eating, I'm ready for some food with heft. I'm talking about food that comforts - warms you from the inside out. Just like this gratin.
There can be so much more to gratins than just potatoes. Greens, squash, sweet potatoes, root veggies of all kinds - all can be thrown into a delicious gratin. Layers of veggies and creamy, cheesy sauce - seems fairly straightforward. But it's not. I don't know if I'm the only one, but I think gratins are wolves in sheep's clothing.
The most awkward part about making gratins, my number one fear, is the risk of the curdle. There's nothing worse than putting time and energy into making a gratin, slicing potatoes with precision, creating neat layer after layer - only to pull it from the oven, dig in and find your perfect potatoes swimming in curds and whey. Unless your dinner guest is Little Miss Muffet, I'll bet a split, curdled sauce is not exactly what you had in mind.
There are a lot of reasons why gratins curdle. The two biggest offenders are acid splitting the sauce and baking the gratin in an oven that is too hot.
Because the cream sauce in a gratin is often comprised of whole milk, cream or half and half, the sauce runs a pretty high risk of splitting when anything with a smidgeon of acid in it gets involved. Acid is in most of the foods that you might add to that gratin - leeks, onions, garlic, herbs. In order to considerably lower this risk, take the time to build a stable cream sauce before putting the gratin together. This means making a bechamel sauce as your foundation instead of just pouring milk or cream over the sliced potatoes in the dish and adding cheese and breadcrumbs on top. So, start with a roux, I made mine with half butter and half oil, and then slowly whisk in the warm liquid and a bit of cheese. It's a bit more of a hassle, but worth it in the end.
Now that you've gone to the trouble of making the sauce, be sure to give it a fair chance by letting that gratin cook on a lower temperature than you would normally - try around 325ºF - placing it uncovered under the broiler for the last few minutes to brown the top. Allowing the cream sauce to violently bubble and boil for a long time in the oven will almost definitely split it.
I guess this isn't technically a 'gratin' because I omitted breadcrumbs from the top. I didn't have any on hand, nor did I have the bread to make some - but you could definitely add a layer on top, which you would do just before baking.
Fills one 8'' round baking dish
What you'll need:
1 small spaghetti squash, one that weighs ~2 lbs
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
4 cups baby kale (or 1 large bunch kale of your choice)
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/4 cups half and half, maybe a bit more
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
Preheat the oven to 375ºF
Cut the spaghetti squash in half, place each half, cut side down, on a parchment lined baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool until you can handle it.
Use a spoon to remove the seeds from the squash. Then, using a fork, scrape back and forth, creating long strands of 'spaghetti.'
Once each half has been scraped clean, discard the skins and set the bowl of spaghetti squash aside.
Gently warm the half and half in a small pot on a back burner, keeping an eye on it to be sure it doesn't boil over.
In a wide pan, sauté the diced onions in the butter and oil over medium-low heat, until they begin to brown - around 15 minutes.
Add the kale to the onions and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir to incorporate.
Once the kale has wilted, sprinkle with the flour and stir well - until the flour is transluscent and sticks to the veggies.
Using a whisk, slowly incorporate the warm half and half, until it thickens to a sauce.
Bring to a simmer, stir and if the sauce is gloppy and too thick, add a bit more half and half until it is thinned - it should coat the back of a spoon.
Add half of the cheese, stir to melt it and turn off the heat.
Add the squash to this mixture. Stir well to coat and transfer the entire mixture to a baking dish.
Top with the remaining cheese and place under the broiler for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown.
September 26, 2012
I often get asked about risotto and the thing about risotto is that it's not all that difficult to make, it's just a little demanding. It's not the kind of dish you really want to make ahead of time - you will leave a perfectly cooked risotto, and come back to a hot mess of rather unattractive congealed rice. I promise.
So, unless you're happy to sequester yourself in the kitchen while your guests enjoy themselves, risotto is a tricky plan for dinner parties. If you're dead-set on showing your best risotto off to friends - my best advice is to par-cook the risotto so that it is only halfway there. Then, a few minutes before dinner, you can steal away to the kitchen (or if your apartment is like mine, you can leave your 'living room' by stepping a few feet to one side to enter your 'kitchen') for a few minutes just before dinner to finish it off.
And, there's no getting around, you need to stir. And stir. Aaaaand stir.
But, the good news is that, armed with a little patience - and maybe a glass of wine - it's rather hard to go wrong with risotto. Overcooking it is really the only way you can go wrong, but the key is cooking it to the point where you taste it and think, is that done? If you're not quite sure, then cut the heat - it will continue to cook just a tad, and then it will be perfect. Toothsome, but not mush.
On a rather embarrassing side note, while living in Ireland I developed a mild infatuation with two TV shows - Coronation Street and Emmerdale. Friends, guilty pleasure does not even sum it up - I would rather admit to watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (which I don't, by the way). They're the opposite of quality programming. Anyone who has ever spent time in the UK or Ireland and is familiar with these shows, please do not judge me too harshly. So, while living in Dublin, I used to come home from work and
What you'll need:
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5-6 cups veggie stock
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1' dice
1 medium leek, dark greens removed - washed thoroughly and sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and black pepper
~3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 small bunch chives, chopped
Fresh Pecorino cheese
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Peel and dice the sweet potatoes. Spread them in one even layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with around 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Toss to coat. Place the baking sheet into the center of the oven and roast for about 20-25 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown, and easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Remove and set aside.
Thoroughly wash the leeks, discarding the tough dark greens and making sure to remove all of the dirt hidden between the layers. Thinly slice the leeks and mince the garlic. Set aside.
In a small pot on a back burner, heat the veggie stock until it is just simmering, then turn the heat down - your goal is to keep the stock warm, but not at a simmer.
In a wide sauté pan, add the butter and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Add the sliced leeks and minced garlic and gently sweat until fragrant and translucent.
Add the arborio rice to the pan. Stir well, coating the rice with oil, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add two ladles of stock and stir.
Once the rice has absorbed most of the stock, add another ladle. Once absorbed, add another. Continue this process until the rice starts to become tender, around 20 minutes.
At this stage, add the roasted sweet potatoes to the risotto - gently folding them into the rice.
Continue gradually adding the stock, ladle by ladle, until the rice is just cooked. From start to finish, this should take about 30 minutes.
Serve the risotto immediately - topped with minced chives and ribbons of fresh Pecorino cheese.
September 11, 2012
Technically, it's still summertime folks. I know this because it's not September 22nd yet, and also because the market is still featuring goodies like sungold tomatoes and arugula - two items that I definitely associate with summer. So there. It's still summer - let's not wish it all away because soon enough we'll be bundled up - and I can accept that inevitability - but not just yet.
My mom used to make this dish a lot when we were young. I always remember it because of the name - spaghetti al telefono. Telephone spaghetti. I love that.
In order to make an al telefono preparation, you must have fresh mozzarella that gently melts and becomes stringy, twisting like the chord of a telephone. Clearly this name was coined back when telephones had chords - which seems so old school now.
I'm a big fan of making good use of the residual heat of cooked pasta. I like to create dishes that are only just wilted or warmed or melted using nothing but the heat of the pasta. This dish does just that. I think it's a waste to put delicate arugula through the trials and tribulations of intense heat. In this dish, the steam and heat from the spaghetti wilts it just right, retaining it's vibrant color and piquant flavor, which is well matched by the sweet juices of the sungold tomatoes. The mozzarella is chewy in a good way.
This dish is ready in the time it takes to boil the pasta, which makes it a perfect candidate for busy weeknight meals. You could probably even make it while on the telefono.
What you'll need:
1 lb spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 pint sungold tomatoes, washed and halved
2-3 cups arugula, washed and drained
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into thin strips
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Boil a large pot of well salted water and drop the pasta - cook according to package instructions.
While the pasta cooks, gently heat the minced garlic, chili flakes and olive oil over medium low heat, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the halved sungolds and season with salt and black pepper.
Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the sungolds are just heated through.
Transfer the sungold mixture to the bottom of a large serving platter and add the washed and dried arugula and strips of mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper.
Once the pasta has cooked, drain it and add it directly on top of the ingredients in the platter. Do not mix it right away - allow the pasta to nest on top and warm the ingredients for a minute or two before tossing it all together. The heat from the boiled pasta is what allows the mozzarella to gently melt.
Mix well with tongs, pulling the mozzarella with the lengths of spaghetti. Add an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and more seasoning, including chili flakes if you like, as needed.
August 30, 2012
I got some poblano peppers from the market last weekend, and there's really only one thing that I ever want to do to poblano peppers, and that's burn them. Lots of times, I also like to burn jalapeños.
Obviously, burning food is usually a no no - especially when it comes to garlic, which when burned, has the power to transform an entire dish into a sad and bitter mess. Seriously, there's no fixing it - if you burn the garlic, time to start again.
But, sometimes, it's ok to burn food. Sometimes, I even do it intentionally.
Maybe I use the word burn a little loosely. Most chefs would refer to what I'm talking about as 'charring' or 'fire roasting' or 'browning.' Let's call a spade a spade, those are all euphemisms for different degrees of 'burning.' I understand why we avoid the 'B' word. No one wants to order the burned corn, but everyone wants to order the fire roasted corn. Sole with burned butter sauce would be crazy, sole with brown butter sauce - a hot commodity. Vanilla ice cream with burnt sugar sauce, no thank you, but I'll definitely have a scoop of that vanilla ice cream with dark caramel sauce.
What is charred corn if not singed a little? What is brown, or even black, butter if not a slight burning of the milk fats? And to make a caramel, by definition, we must burn the sugar.
Most chefs might still argue that this is not truly burning food, it is browning or charring and that there is a fine line between the two. However, I think that, really, there is just a fine line between a successful burn and an unsuccessful burn.
If I had left these poblano and jalapeño peppers under the broiler for too long, I would have burned them past the point of where it is advantageous for flavor. It's true that when making caramel, there are different degrees of burning the sugar, and that it's entirely possible, and easy, to burn it so much that it's rendered inedible. Same applies to browning butter. Charring corn over an open flame is also a risky business. The flavors imparted from a light singe are welcome, but no one wants to eat corn on the cob that has become biochar.
Depending on the food, burning, aka browning, aka charring, is done to achieve different goals. In the case of corn, I think it's usually to caramelize some of the natural sugars, creating a sweeter, more concentrated flavor. For sugar, it allows us to have caramel. In butter, it develops a nuttiness that otherwise wouldn't show up. In this case, I intentionally burned the skins of my poblanos and jalapeños to bring out a layer of smoky flavor that naturally develops when charring pepper skins. It's the same idea behind the charring of eggplant.
So, let's feel the burn. When the powers of burning are harnessed and used properly, it can be a legit cooking technique. It's when done without intention that you're in trouble.
This dish is perfect party food - especially when you make them mini as I did here. You'll note in the picture above that, as usual necessity is the mother of invention, and I had to use the lid to a mason jar as my dough cutter. Alternatively, rather than pre-cutting the rounds, you can use a tortilla press to press rounds of dough into flats that are twice the size, producing a larger empanada.
~12 mini empanadas
What you'll need:
For the empanada dough
1 1/2 cups AP flour, plus more
1/2 cup masa harina
1/3 cup canola oil or vegetable oil, plus more
2 tsp agave nectar
1 tsp salt
For the Charred Poblano Filling
4 poblano peppers
1 Tbsp creme fraiche
salt and black pepper
For the Pumpkin Seed Salsa
1 cup pumpkin seeds, soaked in water
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapenos, blackened and minced
1 tsp cumin
1 cup water, plus more
1 large handful cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper
In a large mixing bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and masa harina.
Add the oil and agave nectar - mix together well. Gradually add water until it forms a solid ball of dough. Depending on the flour, you might have to add a bit more oil if the dough is cracking and seems too dry.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface, knead for a minute or two until smooth.
Wrap in plastic and place in fridge to rest.
Preparing the Peppers
Turn the oven onto the broil setting.
On a baking tray lined with foil, lay the poblanos and jalapeños in an even layer.
Place the tray in the oven, about 4 inches from the broiler. Broil until the peppers have blackened on all sides - rotating every 15 minutes or so.
Once fully charred, remove from the oven and use the foil to wrap the peppers until they have cooled enough to handle.
For the poblanos - remove the stems and blackened skins and scrape the seeds away - if you rinse them under the tap, the seeds will come away easily.
In a food processor, puree the poblanos along with the creme fraiche and a pinch of salt, until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Reserve to the side.
Remove only the stems from the jalapeños and mince them. Reserve on the side for the pumpkin seed salsa.
Pumpkin Seed Salsa
Drain the soaked pumpkin seeds.
In a large frying pan, sauté the minced garlic in the olive oil until fragrant, ~3 minutes.
Add the pumpkin seeds to the oil and sauté for another 4-5 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the pumpkin seeds and garlic to the bowl of a food processor.
Add the cumin, chopped jalapenos and water. Puree until smooth, adding more water as necessary.
Transfer the puree to a bowl and mix well to incorporate the chopped cilantro.
Stuffing and Baking the Empanadas
Preheat the oven to 425ºF
Roll the rested empanada dough into a round that is roughly 1/8 inch thick.
Use a round cookie or biscuit cutter to cut rounds that are 3-4 inches in diameter.
Dollop a teaspoon or so of the poblano filling into the center of each round.
Lightly dampen the edges of each pastry round with water, which will act as a glue.
Fold the dough in half, over the filling and press the edges down to seal it.
Use the tip of a fork to create ridges along the semi-circular edge, which also helps to ensure the empanada is sealed.
On a baking tray lined with parchment, lay two rows of empanadas.
Place the tray into the oven and bake for around 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve alongside the pumpkin seed salsa.
You can use honey or sugar in place of the agave nectar. I'm still on the fence about agave nectar, so I'm experimenting with it where I can.
There are empanada recipes that use only corn meal, if you want to make this gluten free.
You can add a touch more water to the salsa if you'd like to thin it out a bit, but I wanted a thick salsa so it would sit nicely on a bite of empanada.
These empanadas can also be deep fried if you prefer.