When I saw it was National Empanada Day today, my mind instantly went to a few years back when I had my own catering company. The company was called Fork and Glass, and I co-owned it with my chef-husband, and we would have a stand at different farmers markets every week around New York. From Brooklyn to Chappaqua, Irvington and my now home town of Beacon, we would travel around with our portable table, induction burners, pots and pans and serve up tacos, pancakes, breakfast burritos and… empanadas!
This was admittedly when I was a meat eater, but once I made the best decision I’ve ever made and went vegan, I still would recall this delicious street food and the smile it brought to our customers’ faces. Luckily it’s super easy to make any foods and dishes vegan, so I set out to create plant-based versions that would be both authentic and taste flavorful.
What I haven’t changed as I became vegan, is my love for seasonal, local produce – and using it when in season ensures that it is at its most flavorful, nutritious and also least expensive. Supporting my local farmers is incredibly important to me, as it connects us to where we live, the earth and of course… people. When we were caterers and sold our food at the farmer markets, we used to purchase produce from the farmers next to us, and we would cook a dish right then and there using tomatoes, greens, corn, herbs and more. Such a wonderful feeling!
Here’s Mark picking out some vegetables for us at the market:
But let’s get back to empanadas!
Empanadas are thought to have originated in Spain, but today are also very popular throughout Latin and South America. In Italy, they have their own version called ‘calzone’, and here in the United States we have our turnovers or ‘hot pockets’. Very similar really- but the filling is what varies.
Making your own dough can make a huge difference as to how fresh and tasty they are. I realize not everybody wants to take that extra step, so you can absolutely buy pre-made dough, which most often you’ll find in the freezer section of international or gourmet markets.
If making your own dough, you’ll need a tortilla press to flatten out the dough to thin circles,. These presses are usually very inexpensive and they will last a lifetime if you take good care of them. And of course, you can make your own homemade tortillas with it too, which is incredibly gratifying and will taste ten times better than any store-bought tortillas!
Play around with fillings, but I like to stick to authentic Spanish flavors. I chose to fill mine with a ‘rajas’ filling of roasted poblanos and corn, and the second one with black beans, potatoes and cilantro. Both versions are packed with flavor and if you’re a meat eater, wont’ make you miss meat at all!
I wanted to also make a variety of different dipping sauces (that’s half of the fun!) to add some variety for my guests when I serve them during cocktail hours. From a lighter, herbaceous chimichurri and a sightly spicy pico de gallo to a richer chipotle sour cream, you’ll have something for every palate.
EMPANADAS TWO WAYS WITH THREE SAUCES
Make the chimicurri first:
1/2 cup (125 ml) red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 Fresno chile or red jalapeño, finely chopped
1/2 cup (125ml) fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup or a big handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
3/4 cup (180 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Combine vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, garlic, shallot, and chile in a medium bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, parsley, and oregano. Using a fork, whisk in oil. Remove 1/2 cup (125 ml) chimichurri to a small bowl, season with salt to taste, and reserve as sauce. Put meat in a glass, stainless-steel, or ceramic dish. Toss with remaining marinade. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.
CORN, ROASTED POBLANOS, AND CARAMELIZED ONIONS EMPANADAS
Empanada Dough Recipe (use for both fillings)
3 cups (roughly 400 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (8 tbsp) solid vegetable shortening at room temperature (You can also used cold vegan butter)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cups (240 ml) water
In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the shortening (or cold butter if using), using two knives or to cut it into the flour until small pebbles form. Alternatively use your own hands and massage the butter into the flour. Then add the apple cider vinegar and water, and use your hands to knead until you get a smooth, firm dough.
Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for at least half an hour, ideally an hour or more. When ready to make into empanadas, divide the dough into 2 oz balls, then using a tortilla press, place the ball in the center of the press, and push down until you have a flat, thin disc.
For Filling #1:
3 cobs of corn, shucked
3 poblanos, roasted , cut into thin strips
1 large onion, caramelized
Vegan cheese of your choice (I used a Mexican mix – combination of cheddar and mozzarella)
A little fresh oregano, chopped
Combine everything in a bowl except the cheese.
When ready to assemble, add a heaping tbsp of the filling in the center, dab a little water on the edges of the dough, fold the dough over in half to enclose the filling. Use a fork to press and seal the edges.
Place the empanadas on a prepared baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Brush the empanadas with a little melted vegan butter or plant-based milk, and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, turning the sheet halfway through to ensure even baking.
BLACK BEAN AND POTATO EMPANADAS WITH CHERRY TOMATOES AND CILANTRO
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can (15.oz/225 grams) organic black beans, with juices
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
½ yellow onion, diced
1 chile in adobo sauce, chopped finely
Juice of 1 lime
3 large potatoes, scrubbed, diced small
1 cup (250 ml) cherry tomatoes (I used both red and yellow)
Handful of fresh, chopped cilantro
To prepare beans:
Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, add in the garlic cloves, cumin and coriander and saute for a few minutes until fragrant. Add in the onion with a pinch of salt and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add in the chile in adobo sauce, combine well then add in the can of beans. Cook on medium-low for 15-20 minutes until it starts to thicken, be careful to stir every so often. Finish off beans with the lime juice and chopped cilantro.
To prepare potatoes:
Add the cubed potatoes in a pot of water with a little salt and boil for 10-15 minutes until they start to soften. Drain and cool/dry on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Heat up a little olive oil in a large saute pan and saute potatoes until golden on both sides, make sure not to crowd the pan or they will steam, not crisp up. Drizzle salt over and set aside.
Combine the beans with the potatoes, cherry tomatoes and a little extra cilantro in a bowl and reserve until ready to fill empanadas.
Follow the same procedure as in the descriptions for the corn and poblano empanadas.
PICO DE GALLO
1 small Onion, diced small
2-3 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 small jalapenos, minced
Juice of 1 lime
Couple of handfuls of cilantro, chopped
Salt to taste
Combine everything in a bowl and adjust for seasoning (lime/salt).
CHIPOTLE SOUR CREAM:
1 cup (250ml) Cashews, soaked
½ cup (125 ml) water + 4 tbsp water
1 tsp chipotle chili in adobe sauce
2 small cloves of garlic
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp Salt
Juice of 1 lime
Blend everything together and taste for seasonings.
Serve your empanadas hot, with the dipping sauces and a glass of rose or if you want… some margaritas!