Sunday, January 31, 2010

Banana Cheese Empanadas

The empanada is a pastry popular in South America and Spain. It can be filled with a myriad of tasty things-- although I have not yet found a recipe for a squirrel-bacon filling. I would like to take a Turnover Tour of the world sampling every culture's version; Indian samosas, Cornish pasties, Russian pirozkhis... Until then, I make do with what falls off the edge of the counters here in middle America.

Empanadas

Banana cheese empanadas are a delightful melding of sweet and savory. You can vary the type of cheese however you like-- although something spicy or sharp works quite nicely to balance the rich sweetness of the banana.

Hint: If you are short on time and craving that banana-cheese thing, tuck them in a tortilla and make a toasty banana-cheese quesadilla. Yum!

Hint: For a richer, more tender pastry, I also use the SAMOSA DOUGH recipe from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook.

Great with Chicken Salsa Chili

Banana Cheese Empanadas

PASTRY -
2 cups flour (half white/half whole wheat pastry is nice)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 water (adjust as needed)

Combine flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in the water and stir until reasonably well-combined.

Turn out on a floured surface and knead until smooth (5 minutes), adding water or flour as needed to make a sturdy, not sticky dough.

Divide the dough into 8-12 equal parts depending on size of pastry you want, and knead each one into a small ball.  Roll out each ball of dough into a circle approximately 4-5 inches in diameter.

FILLING
Medium banana, just ripe, peeled and chopped
1/4 lb Pepper-Jack and/or sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thinly
optional: you could add green chilies or red pepper flakes for some kick

Place a couple of small cheese slices near the center, and place pieces of the banana on top of the cheese. Experiment to find that sweet spot of: "enough filling-- but still seals up without tearing the dough."

Lightly brush the edges of the dough with water to make edge sticky, and carefully fold the dough over the filling, as you would a turnover. Crimp the edges securely with a fork. Set the finished empanada aside and repeat until you have 8-12.

FRY in skillet
butter
vegetable oil 

You can saute them in just butter.  But you can also fry them in canola oil with butter added for flavoring, as it burns less and is healthier. Fry them until golden.

Serve hot. Delicious with salsas and Chicken Salsa Chili.

Note: the empanadas may also be baked, brushed with butter.  It is more likely the cheese will escape when baking. To bake: arrange the empanadas on the buttered cookie sheet, making absolutely sure they are securely closed. (If cheese creeps out during baking, it will burn.) Brush the tops lightly with melted butter, and bake at 375F for 12 to 15 minutes.

adapted from Mollie Katzen's Banana Cheese Empanada recipe in Still Life With Menu

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