Exploding Raisins & Impossible Empanadas

Plus a summery enchilada recipe & a cocktail book you MUST read

Squelch. Pop. The raisin detonated and a spray of hot canola oil flung out from my Dutch oven. I ducked away just in time, with only a few flecks of hot oil hitting my right eyelid. That was close. This is the second time in my life this has happened. The first was when a large pork shoulder slipped from my fingers into hot oil and sent a wave of it splashing upwards and outwards. Luckily, both times I’ve skittered away fast enough with only minor burns freckling my face.

C’est la vie of an impulsive, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants home cook who thought frying taquitos stuffed with leftover empanada (hence the raisins) and enchilada fillings blended with cream cheese was a good idea. I plucked the now crisp taquitos out of the hot oil, my body safely out of oil-exploding distance, and took a bite. Damn. They were delicious.

Needless to say, while the three taquitos I made were really good, the bad news is I won’t be sharing the recipe. The good news is, this failed (but tasty) experiment was born from two other recipes that are both safe to make and pleasurable to eat: Impossible meat empanadas and summery zucchini and corn enchiladas. Both are easy, vegetarian, and won’t burn, hurt, or otherwise maim you.

P.S. Photos this newsletter are admittedly not great, but with the new job and sunnier days, having the patience to lovingly style food photos has been waning…

IMPOSSIBLE EMPANADAS

I have a terrible secret: when I was in Argentina and first had a bite of an empanada, I was not impressed. It was bland except for saline burst of olive (which, at the time, I despised), chunks of overcooked egg, and a few bloated raisins hidden amidst the ground beef. In retrospect, I was probably biased because of my hatred for olives, thrown off by the sweetness of the raisins, and ate said empanada without chimichurri, which I now know is an integral part of the flavor equation. Years later, I made empanadas using Maricel Presilla’s recipe for Big-Bellied Argentine Empanadas (which yes, had olives and raisins and I liked it) and served them with red chimichurri. They were fabulous. This recipe is a riff on everything I like about Presilla’s recipe, minus the beef, and with a pinch of cinnamon and castelvetrano olives in place of jarred green olives. Feel free to omit the egg and olives, but I highly recommend adding the raisins: they add a touch of sweetness that cuts through the savory filling.

INGREDIENTS

For the filling:

1/2 cup raisins (sounds weird, but adds a nice touch of sweetness that offsets the savory filling)

1/2 cup hot water

1 Tbsp sherry, optional

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 small red bell pepper, finely minced (tbh I used ~1 Tbsp Portuguese pepper puree because I didn’t have peppers, and it worked just fine)

1 clove garlic, grated

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 packet of Impossible Meat (the best of the fake meats, imho)

1/2 cup pitted castelvetrano olives, roughly chopped (or sub in your fave green olives), optional

1 hard boiled egg, roughly chopped, optional

When about to bake the empanadas, you can do an egg wash, or not, but if you do, you’ll need 1 large egg, beaten.

For the empanada dough (based on America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe)

12 Tbsp chilled butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes

4 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

1 egg

3/4 cup ice water

INSTRUCTIONS

First, make the dough!

  1. Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Scatter the chilled butter on top and pulse about 10 times, until pea-sized crumbles form.

  2. Add the egg, then put the lid on and pulse, slowly pouring in the ice water. Blend until a smooth-ish ball of dough forms and starts whipping around.

  3. Empty food processor onto a well-floured, clean surface and knead a few times. Form into a ball, divide, and flatten each half a bit. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, if not longer.

Second, make the filling!

  1. Place the raisins in a bowl and cover with 1/4 cup hot water and 1 Tbsp sherry (optional) Let soak for ~5 minutes until as plump and juicy as a dried raisin can be.

  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers and cook until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  3. Stir in the cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, cinnamon and Impossible meat, using a wooden spoon to break it up. Give it a taste, season more as desired, and remove from the heat.

  4. Stir in the raisins, olives, and hard boiled egg if using. Set aside.

Make the empanadas!

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. Roll out one slab of your dough to about 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured, clean surface. Use a large beer glass or 4-inch circular cookie cutter to cut out circles, smash together the dough bits, and repeat.

  3. To fill, take a circle of dough and roll it so it’s slightly oblong—don’t go crazy, you don’t want the dough too thin. Take a little less than 1 Tbsp of your filling and pop it in the center. Fold one half of the dough over, making a little half-moon shape, and pinch the edges together. Use a fork to make cute little lines around the edges or, if you’re feeling adventurous, watch this video and give the traditional twisted edges a whirl—it’s actually really easy and fun, I swear. Brush the tops with a lightly beaten egg if you have the energy, place the finished empanadas on your prepared baking sheets and, once filled, pop them in the oven.

  4. Bake for 13 minutes, turn, then bake for another 13 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

  5. Serve with Maricel Presilla’s red chimichurri sauce; it’s spiked with hot paprika and is, in my mind, essential to the empanada experience.


ZUCCHINI AND CORN ENCHILADAS

Yes, this photo is terrible, but in my haste to get this newsletter out before April ends, it will have to do. But please do not let this less-than spectacular photo deter you from making these summery, corn and zucchini stuffed enchiladas. They are easy, veggie-packed and delicious. Also, if you don’t have an oven-friendly skillet, feel free to use a glass pyrex dish—a 9x 13 should do the trick!

INGREDIENTS

For the enchiladas:

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 small green zucchini, grated on a box grater

2 ears of corn, kernels cut off and cobs scraped

2 tsp chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin

1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded, plus 1/2 cup for topping

10-12 six-inch corn tortillas, or as many as you can fill

For the sauce:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, grated

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 small ancho chili in adobo, finely chopped

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp ancho chili adobo sauce

1 tsp salt, plus more to taste

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 cup vegetable stock

1/2 cup crushed tomatoes

First, make the enchilada filling!

  1. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat and add chopped onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent.

  2. Add the zucchini, corn, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes, or until zucchini is very soft and corn has turned a vibrant, darker yellow. Give it a taste and add more salt, pepper, or even cumin and chili powder as you like.

  3. Scrape into a heat-safe bowl and mix in the cheddar cheese. Set aside.

Now, let’s get saucy!

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 with a rack in the upper third.

  1. Heat olive oil in cleaned skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent.

  2. Stir in the grated garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, ancho chili, adobo sauce, tomato paste, salt and pepper and cook for another minute, stirring frequently and lowering the heat if it starts sticking to the pan.

  3. Pour in the veggie stock and crushed tomatoes and give it a stir. Raise the heat to medium if you’ve turned it down, and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook on a simmer for around 3 to 5 minutes more, until sauce has reduced by a third.

  4. If you don’t mind your sauce a little chunky, you’re done here. If you’re weird like me and dislike chunks of onions in your enchilada sauce, blend it with an immersion blender or carefully in a standard one (it will be hot, so you might want to wait 10 minutes for it to cool down a bit).

  5. Using a ladle, scoop out about 1 cup of sauce from the pan and reserve. If using the skillet as a baking vessel, even out the remaining sauce with a spatula. If using a baking dish, scrape into the bottom and even it out. Set aside.

Let’s roll!

  1. First, warm your stack of tortillas by wrapping them in a clean, damp towel or bunch of paper towels and microwaving them for 30-50 seconds (be careful taking them out and opening the towel up, things get steamy).

  2. Now, it’s time to roll your enchiladas—so exciting! Using one tortilla at a time, fill it down the center with about 1.5-2 Tbsp of the zucchini, corn and cheese mixture—it should be a sort of line of filling down the center of the tortilla. Carefully tuck one side of the tortilla over the filling, and roll it all up to seal. Place the now-filled tortilla seam-side down in your sauced-up pan or baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, tucking them in tight next to each other, until you’ve either run out of tortillas, filling, or both.

  3. Pour the reserved enchilada sauce over the top and use a spatula to smooth it out. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese (you can also mix in some shredded mozz if you have it lying around like I am wont to do), and cover with either the lid of your skillet sprayed with Pam, or aluminum foil sprayed with Pam if using a baking dish. Now, pop that baby in the oven!

  4. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the lid/aluminum foil and bake for 5 more minutes to get the cheese all bubbly. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes to coo—Oh heck, just dive in. Serve with sour cream and Cholula’s.

What I’m Drinking/ What I’m Reading

A note: I’m combing this section with “What I’m Reading” because, well, you’ll see:

I’ve been dreaming of a world of apéretifs and salty nibbles, warm baguettes with thick slabs of butter and Maldon salt, crispy fried olives, oysters grilled lightly until smoky, and brandade with spring radishes for dipping. Ideally all served on some far flung coast in Brittany, the smell of lavender mingling with sea salt. Ideally with my +1 and good friends. Sigh.

Until then, I’ll content myself with flipping wistfully through the pages of Rebekah Pepplar’s gorgeous cookbook and cocktail mixing guide “Apéretif.” Since a lazy seaside vacation to France probably isn’t in the cards this year, perhaps I’ll make myself some of her low-ABV drinks and a spread of snacks (fried olives, brandade and veg, tapenade batons and some fromage fort for a bit of extra decadence) and tuck it in my bike basket for a picnic near the blooming lilacs. Maybe I’ll even invite John, too. ; )

Wistfulness aside, I’ve also been sipping quite a few La Croix Limoncello seltzers. Okay, I’m addicted to them, really. It’s like a drinkable, zero calorie/sugar lemon creamsicle and I’m all about that.

What have you been drinking and where would you rather be drinking it?

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