Friday, March 4, 2011

Black bean and plantain empanadas

When I went to Buenos Aires (a beautiful, glowing, halcyon memory that warms the cockles of my March heart right now), one of my favorite experiences was going out into the South American 'burbs for an authentic asado and empanada-making lesson. A little old Argentine lady showed us ("us" being me and the other 8 or 10 people who had signed up for the day) how to make traditional beef empanadas from scratch. Then her husband fired up the grill, complete with all the traditional meats (skirt steak, short ribs, flank steak, pork loin, sausage, blood sausage, tripe, sweetbreads and beef kidney). Then we busted out some wine and ate it all. Good times.

The asado.

Isn't Buenos Aires beautiful? Sigh.

I've since tried to duplicate that empanada recipe, with only half success. I still can't quite get the dough right, and I don't know why. I'll keep trying.

In the meantime, empanadas were furthest from my mind this week. I was in a I'm-totally-over-this-winter funk and just not very interested in cooking. I ate a lot of cheese for dinner.

Then in a fit of random wandering around my kitchen, looking for inspiration, I opened the freezer and beheld a box of puff pastry.

"Mmmmm...butter," said my wintry brain, and I immediately started thinking of ways to use the puff pastry.

Here's what I came up with.

Not as good as Buenos Aires, but still pretty darn good. And with puff pastry. (And I got my cooking mojo back!)

olive oil
1 large ripe plantain, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
2 cups cooked black beans (or 1 can)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
cumin and cayenne to taste
fresh lime juice
1 large egg
2 packages puff pastry (four sheets), thawed
queso fresco or goat cheese

Start by sauteeing the plantain in olive oil and butter until soft and cooked, and remove. In the same pan, add more olive oil, and saute the onion and red pepper until soft.

To that, add the beans, spices, cilantro and lime juice, and cook for another 5 minutes or so, to let the flavors meld. Remove from heat. Mash with a potato masher and let cool.

Cut each sheet of puff pastry into four squares. Mix the egg with a little water to make an egg wash, and brush that along the edges of each square. Place a couple tablespoons of bean mash in the center of each square, and top with a little goat cheese. Fold the corner over to make a triangle, and seal by pressing down the edge with a fork.

Place your empanadas on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, and put a little more egg wash on the top. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Don't those look good? Three will make an adult meal, and this recipes makes 16.

You can serve with salsa, but I made a traditional Argentine chimichurri instead.

For the chimichurri:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 shallots, peeled
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
a big bunch of parsley, stems and all
salt and pepper to taste

Whiz that all together in your food processor, dribbling the olive oil in. Remove and add a little more olive oil, until you have a green soupy mass. Let that sit for two hours before serving.

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