Empanadas: Easier Than you Think (Like so Many Things in Life)

It began, like many good stories of mine, with me & a house full of lesbians. I had moved to the big city with my friend Krista, into a house with many interesting room mates. They were all cool. They were all older. None of them sounded like Wayne from Wayne’s World when they spoke. Being from the North, I kind of did.

I did not know how to cook. I could barely make coffee. I’m not sure I had ever cooked an egg. I was embarrassed. Now & then I’d sneak into the kitchen when no one else was around (rare, there were five of us living together) and ‘make’ something. Fried egg sandwich, grilled cheese, toast. That’s it. Wait – countless bowls of cereal. Let’s not forget those.

Krista & I got jobs at a restaurant where the servers build meals for diners (who work their way down a plexiglass display case full of fun foods). I learned about “weird” foods like hummus, honey mustard, roasted breaded eggplant (looked like shoe leather) & antipasto. I learned how to make espresso. It was awesome – Mostly because we got fed there, but also because we learned about new foods, people, attitudes. Oh, the Big City. It was exciting to be anonymous.

Sometime during my first year away from home, an astute room mate noticed my lack of confidence in & distinct absence from the kitchen.  Kindly, when no one else was around, she spoke with me about it.  That day she taught me how to make stir fry – The 1990’s first year vegetarian staple. That started my love affair with cooking. I’ll never forget that long narrow kitchen & how much coffee making  (& life growth) happened there.

The first cookbooks I remember were Mollie Katzen’s & the Moosewood cookbooks. A friend of the house, Cathy the Dancer  from Winnipeg, used to come over to bake. She introduced me to making piroshki & calzone making (a la Ms. Katzen). From there I learned to love savoury pies & other comforting main courses involving dough of some kind. I also learned how much fun you can have in the kitchen & how your journey learning there never really ends.

I think my love of empanadas started with emulating Mollie Katzen’s piroshki  in a tiny kitchen on Dewson Street in Toronto. So, here’s to her, and to houses full of kind lesbians.

Saucepan of goodness

 Corn, Black Beans & Zucchini EMPANADAS (24 small ones)

* I’m (sadly, but healthily) gluten & dairy free so I’m including my adjustments to a regular recipe.

DOUGH (make it now as you’re going to have to refrigerate it for an hour so it doesn’t crumble)

2 1/4 cups of flour (I use 1.5 cups Bob’s Red Mill Biscuit & Baking & 3/4 cup brown rice flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 stick of cold unsalted butter, diced (I use olive oil, starting with 1/3 cup & adding more if needed to get the right consistency)
1 large egg
1/3 cup of ice water
1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar

Sift flour(s) & salt into a large bowl. Work the butter in until the mixture is the texture of wee peas with some crumbs. In a separate small bowl, beat egg, water & vinegar, then stir it into the dry mixture until just incorporated. Flour your hands then gently shape the dough into a ball & knead it a few times on a lightly floured surface. Knead into a flat ball & wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.

You can go wild here. Honestly. I love spicy beef & greens, black olives, egg & chicken, there are so many possibilities. Sweet empanadas also rule. Really, apple with cheddar, hello? This time of year though, I like to get the most I can of the last of my local CSA farm share veggies. This is a ‘Three Sisters” version of the empanada with Corn, Black Beans & Zucchini (any squash will do). Plus, we’re laying off the meat these days.

-1 1/2 cups of shallots/leeks/onion in whatever combination you like (or skip this & add raw green onion later. I like to saute the allium family members up to add depth to my filling).
-1 1/2 or 2 cups roasted squash or  zucchini ( turn the oven to 400 so you can roast that stuff up now).
*OR  use grated zucchini instead of roasting to save time. Grate it & add to the saucepan after the leeks/onions/shallots are soft.
-1 1/2 cups corn-1 1/2 cups black beans
–  olive oil
-Salt & pepper
-3/4 cup shredded cheese (I omit for my own portion & include for the cheese-eaters in the house)
-zest of 1 lime
– 1/2 cup thinly-sliced green onions
– 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
– 2 tablespoons diced green chiles (or whatever spicy you like)
– 1 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1/4 teaspoon chile powder
* Sour cream & Salsa for serving, optional

-1 egg, gently beaten with a fork (for the egg wash)

Cut squash it into little cubes & cover it with a good dose of olive oil.  Roast for about 25 or 30 minutes, until soft.

Saute leeks/onions/shallots in olive oil on low-medium heat until soft. Add the raw corn kernels & raise the heat so they get a little golden & start to carmelize with your onions. Add the zucchini (if you are adding shredded zucchini) & let it cook down, about 5 min. Transfer to a bowl. Fold in black beans, roasted squash, cheese, green onions, cilantro, chiles, cumin, lime juice & zest and chile powder.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into small pieces. You should get about 24 small rounds. You can also roll the dough to about ¼ inch thick, then cut out  4 inch rounds (or whatever size you like). Cover any dough you are not working with so it doesn’t dry out. Once you have all rounds made, place 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each,  fold the circle into a half moon. Pinch and fold the edges to seal them, then place the formed empanada onto a prepared baking sheet. Ta da! You have made  empanadas!

Continue to do this with the remaining dough and filling. Fill to the size you like & enjoy your learning curve. Have fun. Once you are finished forming all your moons, brush them with the egg wash. This is my 5 yeard old’s fave job.

Bake empanadas for approximately 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with sour cream & salsa, or if you are me, extra veggies! I am relentless with the veggies.

You can freeze formed uncooked or cooked empanadas. This rocks.

Please excuse the poor quality iPhone photos. I single parent most of the time. Things get busy. I often forget to photo document while sauteing my healthy meal, keeping the one year old alive & my five year old from making us all crazy. It’s a good life, but we’re busy.




2 thoughts on “Empanadas: Easier Than you Think (Like so Many Things in Life)

  1. Glad to hear it. Mine had a few cups of kale mixed in too – forgot to mention that :) I’m always sneaking the kale in though… W rocked on these. Shucking corn, kneading, placing the stuffing on the dough. I love having a grade one helper in the kitchen, most of the time.

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