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If you’ve never tried an empanada, you’re in for a real treat. Similar to Cornish pasties, Italian calzone, Polish pierogies and turnovers, these Latin American pastries have become extremely popular.
Filled with ground meat, seafood, cheeses, vegetables or fruits, they are mostly associated with Argentina and Chile, although many other South American countries have their own versions. All versions use a similar flour shell, but the fillings vary from country to country. Some are made as a small appetizer, filled with cheese; larger ones are filled with a meat and vegetable mixture for an entrée; and others are filled with fruit for desserts.
In Argentina, empanadas are popular at festivals and parties, and are usually served as appetizers or as a main course. Many local pastry shops offer them with many types of fillings and flavors.
Empanadas are made with beef or chicken in Bolivia, in addition to vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and peas, as well as olives, raisins and boiled eggs.
Chilean empanadas come down to two basic types: baked and filled with pino (similar to mincemeat); and deep-fried filled with cheese. The pino filling is the most popular, consisting of a mixture of beef, onions, raisins, black olives, hard-boiled eggs and hot peppers. Other fillings may include different types of seafood, such as mussels or crab.
Empanadas in Colombia vary by region, but usually are made with a combination of rice, beef or ground beef, shredded chicken, boiled potatoes, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and peas.
Empanadas de Pino
Empanadas can be either deep-fried or baked, depending on your preference. This Chilean version, with a filling of ground beef, onions, raisins, black olives and chopped egg, adds an authentic taste to this popular pastry.
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup water, or as needed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3/4 lbs. ground beef
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup chopped black olives
1/2 cup raisins
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 hard-cooked egg, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Cut in shortening using a pastry blender, or pinch into small pieces using your fingers, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Use a fork to stir in water a few tablespoons at a time, until the mixture forms a ball. Pat into a ball, and flatten slightly. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender. Crumble in the beef, and season with salt, pepper, paprika and cumin. Cook, stirring frequently, until beef is browned; drain excess grease. Stir in the raisins, black olives, chopped egg and vinegar. Refrigerate until chilled.
Form the dough into 2-inch balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball out into a thin circle. Spoon some of the meat mixture onto the center, and then fold into half-moon shapes. Seal edges by pressing with your fingers.
If deep-frying, heat oil to 365 degrees. Place one or two pies into the fryer at a time. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, turning once to brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels, and serve hot.
Or, if you prefer, place pies on a cookie sheet, brush with an egg yolk-water wash and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Makes about 12 servings.
Chicken Noodle Soup with Fresh Herbs
Loaded with fresh herbs, egg noodles, carrots and celery, this easy to make chicken soup also uses low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth.
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
8 cups (2 qts.) low-fat, low sodium chicken broth
2 cups cooked boneless chicken breasts, cubed.
8 oz. packaged egg noodles
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook onions in oil until translucent. Add celery, carrots, rosemary, tarragon, thyme and parsley. Stir well and cook, covered, until vegetables are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer vegetable mixture to a large pot and pour in chicken broth. Simmer over low heat, covered, for 30 minutes.
Stir in chicken breast pieces and egg noodles and simmer, covered, 30 minutes more; season with salt and pepper. Makes about 5-6 servings.
Chicken Tortilla Soup with Avocado and Lime
Thin strips of chicken breast are simmered in broth with jalapenos, onion, garlic and lime and then combined with avocado and topped with crisp corn tortilla strips in this spicy, non-dairy soup.
4 (6 inch) corn tortillas, julienned
1-1/2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced
8 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange tortilla strips on a baking sheet and bake in oven until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion, garlic and jalapenos in olive oil until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken, chicken broth, limejuice, diced tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer until chicken is cooked, about 5 minutes. Stir in avocado and cilantro and heat through. Adjust seasonings.
Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with tortilla strips to serve. Makes 4 servings.
Grilled Salmon with Cilantro, Jalapeno and Butter Sauce
4 salmon filets, about 4-6 oz. each
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
Old Bay seasoning to taste
Pre-heat the grill for high heat. Lightly grease one side of a large sheet of aluminum foil and place the salmon filets on the greased side of foil. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat, and mix in cilantro and chopped jalapeno. When cilantro is wilted, drizzle butter mixture over the salmon.
Place foil with salmon on the grill. Season with Old Bay. Grill for 10-12 minutes, or until fish is easily flaked with a fork. Makes 4 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at email@example.com.