Category Archives: Appetizers

Empanadas de Pino (y Pollo)

empanadas_de_pino

Every culture has its own version of empanadas, and for good reason — what could be better than a portable, sturdy crust stuffed with any number of sweet and/or savory fillings?

Unfortunately, most of the empanadas I’ve had here in the US are deep-fried, oozing affairs that require the use of a knife and fork. My sister, on the other hand, spent a considerable amount of time bicycling in South America and as a result is something of an empanada connoisseur/fanatic. And so I was a little intimidated when she challenged me to make her favorite, “empanadas de pino.”

Empanadas are basically a sturdy pie crust made with plenty of lard*, and a savory filling. They can be baked or fried, but I see no need to involve a deep fryer in this recipe (or in most recipes, if I’m being honest). Empanadas de pino are the standard Chilean version, filled with a mixture of beef, olives, raisins, and hard-boiled egg — and they are more delicious than any description could possibly convey.

empanada_assembly

*I used lard that I rendered myself from a piece of whey-fed pork fat I got from Windsor Dairy; you can find sources for responsibly raised lard here

I also made a version with chicken, since we had leftovers from one of our boys that I roasted earlier in the week. I went all savory with the chicken-and-egg empanadas, leaving out the raisins and adding some chopped jalapeño-and-garlic stuffed green olives. These were also extremely tasty, and I can’t think of a better use for those last shreds of meat I pull off a chicken before it goes in the stock pot.

assembling_chicken_empanadas

Virtually every food is more delicious empanada, but anything saucy/cheesy/greasy tends to soak through the dough and make a mess. So it’s best to stick with fillings that are on the dry side.

crimp_the_edges

And the best thing about empanadas? Apparently, you can make a whole bunch of them, and then put some in the freezer instead of the oven. I had every intention of trying that with this batch, but they all disappeared. Maybe next time.

brush_with_egg_and_milk

Empanadas de Pino

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: About 8-10 large empanadas

Empanadas de Pino

This is the most traditional empanada filling used in Chile, and it is delicious. It's best when allowed to rest in the fridge overnight before being made into empanadas.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (grass-fed works best)
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup beef glace or good-quality stock
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped black olives
  • 3 eggs, hard-boiled (if using fresh eggs, make sure they're at least a week old)
  • Empanada dough (recipe follows, this amount of filling uses roughly 1/2 batch.)

Instructions

    Hard-boil the eggs:
  1. Put eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with 2 inches cold water. Partially cover pot and set over moderate heat, occasionally rolling the eggs with a wooden spoon to keep the yolk centered. When the pot boils, cover and set a timer for 30 seconds. Then, remove the pot from heat and let stand covered for 15 minutes. Remove eggs and immediately put under cold running water for 5 minutes (this keeps the yolk from turning green). Dry and refrigerate for 30 minutes before peeling.
  2. Make the beef filling:
  3. Brown beef with onions in a large heavy skillet. Add flour and cook another 5-10 minutes longer.
  4. Let cool, and refrigerate overnight if possible (or up to 2 days).
  5. For each golf-ball-sized bit of dough, use about 3 tablespoons beef filling and top with a few raisins, sliced olives, and a slice of hard-boiled egg.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/empanadas-de-pino-y-pollo/

Empanada Dough

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: Makes about 12 large empanadas

This all-purpose dough is perfect for wrapping around your favorite savory (and sweet) fillings.

Ingredients

    For dough
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 12 tablespoons good quality lard, chilled (I used whey-fed pork fat from a local dairy, which I rendered myself)
  • 3/4 - 1 cup cold water
  • 2 egg yolks
  • For egg wash:
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Instructions

  1. Sift flour, salt, and sugar together into a bowl.
  2. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, blend the butter and lard into the flour mixture until well-combined and the largest lumps are pea-sized.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks with 3/4 cups water. Gradually stir in the water/egg mixture with a fork, adding a bit at a time, and add more water if necessary to make the dough come together. It should look a bit shaggy until it's thoroughly chilled. Wrap tightly and refrigerate at least an hour, or up to a couple days.
  4. Roll dough into balls about the size of golf balls, and roll out with a rolling pin into a 6-7" round. Place about 3 tablespoons of filling in the center and wet 1/2 of the edge with a finger dipped in water, then carefully fold the dry edge up and over the filling, pressing it against the other edge to seal the empanada. Use your fingers to roll and crimp any excess dough to reinforce the seam. Use a fork to gently poke a few holes across the top.
  5. The empanadas can be frozen at this point and baked later, if you wish.
  6. Beat egg yolk in 2 tablespoons milk, and lightly brush on finished empanadas before baking. Bake at 350F for about 35-45 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown. NOTE: Lard is wonderful, in part, because your pastry will get nice and brown and crisp but will take forever to burn. However, the egg wash on these can make them appear browner than they actually are. Don't be too quick to pull your empanadas out of the oven, and be sure to take a peek at the underside when you check them.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/empanadas-de-pino-y-pollo/

Quick Pickled Green Beans

beans_spices_and_garlic_oh_my

This year, we have so many green beans (and purple, and yellow) that it’s a little hard to keep up. Between a 4′ x 4′ plot of bush beans and a couple trellises of climbing beans, I’m lugging a big basket of pods into the house every morning.

stages_of_bean_development

And when I find myself staring at a pile of fresh beans that I don’t feel like blanching and sealing for the freezer, I turn to the easiest possible method of preserving them, quick pickled green beans:

pack_raw_beans_in_jars_with_spices

Note that these pickled green beans are not the standard hot-processed “Dilly Beans,” which I’ve tried to embrace on many occasions but always found limp and aggressively vinegary. These beans are another story altogether. I included instructions for hot-processing these as well, if you feel you must, but I almost never bother canning my beans.

Quick pickles are great for two reasons: First, they aren’t all limp like their boiled counterparts. And more importantly, they couldn’t be easier. Just cram your vegetables and some spices into a jar, add vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio, and pop it in the fridge. They don’t keep for years like hot-processed pickles, but once you taste them they won’t be sticking around longer than a month anyway.

Quick Pickled Green Beans

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3 quarts

Quick Pickled Green Beans

Delicious, crunchy, and perfect alongside a Bloody Mary (or a sandwich).

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds green beans, stems intact, washed and dried
  • 9 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
  • 6 tablespoons dill seeds
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 9 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 cups white distilled vinegar
  • a handful of washed fresh grape leaves (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pack green beans evenly into quart-sized jars, along with garlic, salt, spices, and grape leaves if using.
  2. Fill jars halfway with white vinegar, then top off with cool filtered water.
  3. Put lids on jars and flip upside down for a few minutes to distribute the spices.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 3 days to develop flavors. Pickles will be at their prime in 2 weeks, and will last up to a month.
  5. To can:
  6. Heat vinegar, water, and salt to a boil first, and pour over beans and spices in sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, adding time for altitude (I process for 15 minutes here at 6,000 feet).

Notes

Adapted from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon.

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/quick-pickled-green-beans/

Summer Vegetables with Fried Goat Cheese

melty_fried_goat_cheese

Sorry for the long gap between recipe posts, but I assure you, I’ve been cooking up a storm. Last weekend I picked 20 pounds of chokecherries and made some jelly syrup, and also started a batch of chokecherry wine (to be shared here very soon). And then I had a one-day obsession with making zucchini bread waffles, but those still need tweaking.

Last night, I finally made something worth sharing.

I wandered out to the garden for some basil, and 20 minutes later found myself hauling in a whole lot more, using the bottom of my t-shirt as a makeshift basket. And I’d just picked zucchini that morning!

afternoon_harvest

The nightshades are still new and exciting, but frankly I’m starting to get a little tired of the squash. And the green beans.

Fortunately, a little bit of creamy goat cheese, fried in a panko crust, is just the thing to make the summer’s bounty exciting again. And I’m pretty sure it’ll be great on top of whatever you’re growing, too. I’d love to hear what you come up with — leave your favorite variations in the comments!

Summer Vegetables with Fried Goat Cheese

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Summer Vegetables with Fried Goat Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium slender eggplant, or 5 small round eggplants (if you use a larger eggplant or one that's been in the fridge a few days, you'll need to salt it first to remove the bitterness).
  • 2 handfuls small green beans (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a handful or two of cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1 sprig fresh basil leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh flatleaf parsley
  • 1 small log soft goat cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Cut the goat cheese into 8 equal rounds (it's easiest to do this with unflavored dental floss, but you can use a sharp knife and then reshape the rounds with your fingers.)
  2. One by one, dip each slice of cheese in egg and let the excess run off, then dredge it in breadcrumbs. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the squash and eggplant to uniform thickness, and trim and halve the beans. Finely chop the garlic and fresh herbs.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet and add the squash, beans, and eggplant, plus a sprinkle of salt. Cook until they're almost done, but still crisp (I use my purple beans as an indicator, I pull the veggies off the heat when they turn green). Add garlic and tomatoes, cook for a minute more and then set aside.
  5. Pour enough olive oil to coat a large frying pan, then put over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. To check temperature, toss a few breadcrumbs into the oil -- when they start bubbling as they hit the pan, add the goat cheese rounds, being careful not to overcrowd them. Cook until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes on each side, and drain on paper towels.
  6. Divide the vegetables among 4 plates and top each with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and 2 pieces of goat cheese.

Notes

The goat cheese portion of this recipe is adapted from Gourmet

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/summer-vegetables-with-fried-goat-cheese/

Brown-buttered Zucchini with Basil

patty_pan

It’s summer squash season, and you know what that means: It’s best to keep your car windows rolled up and your doors locked, or you might come back to find that someone’s “gifted” you a zucchini that could double as a baseball bat.

gold_rush_zucchini_blossom

Gold Rush zucchini — easier to spot than the green ones

I don’t resort to that anymore though, mainly because I mostly grow squash that aren’t green. They’re easier to catch while they’re small, so as long as I check the plants daily I don’t often find myself staring down a squash that’s bigger than my femur.

cocozelle squash

Cocozelle

The one exception this year is a variety called Cocozelle, and it’s proving to be a bit of a challenge because the scalloped green zucchini look a lot like stems. I love the way it looks though, and it’s definitely our top producer right now.

zephyr squash

Little two-toned Zephyr squash — they won’t seem so innocent in a few days.

So in honor of high squash season, I’ll be putting up some of my favorite recipes in the coming weeks. This is one of my very favorite simple dishes — zucchini sliced very thin and sautéed for just a few minutes in a simple brown butter sauce, then brightened with shards of fresh basil.

brown_butter_then_add_zucchini_and_onions

And if you have some fresh parmesan on hand, grate some on top to make it even better. Try doubling the butter and serving it over pasta for a simple vegetarian meal. If you have some fresh sweet corn? Throw it in. The brown butter and basil combination makes magic with almost any summer vegetable.

zucchini_with_brown_butter_and_basil

However: This is not one of those recipes for dealing with big, hulking squash that are watery and full of seeds (I’ll be posting one of those next time) — if you’re using zucchini, they should be market-sized (about eight inches long).

Brown-buttered Zucchini with Basil

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 7 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

Serving Size: 1/2 zucchini

Brown-buttered Zucchini with Basil

A simple and delicious way to deal with too much zucchini (if there is such a thing).

Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini (about 8 inches long) or summer squash
  • 1-2 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp salted butter
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Cut squash as thin as you can manage and set aside.
  2. Put butter in a large skillet and melt it over low-medium heat. Cook butter just until it starts to brown, you'll need to watch it like a hawk as it goes from brown to burned in seconds.
  3. Immediately throw onion into skillet and stir, cook until translucent.
  4. Add squash and cook a few minutes, until heated through but not mushy.
  5. Remove from heat and finely chop fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle across the top and serve hot.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/brown-buttered-zucchini-with-basil/

Pan-browned Brussels Sprouts

I don’t think I ever saw brussels sprouts on the dinner menu growing up, but I feared them nonetheless. Hearing my elementary school classmates describe being forced to eat them was enough.

sprouts_washed

So maybe it’s a good thing that my first memorable experience with brussels sprouts was a few years ago, when I was part of a CSA and one week found myself with a bunch of them still on the stalk. Fridge space was limited, so I cooked them immediately. And as it turns out, brussels sprouts are delicious! Especially when given a good dose of butter and garlic and a sprinkling of pine nuts to bring out their sweet, nutty flavor.

brussels_sprouts_cooking

I’ve tried to grow them every year since, and always end up with big beautiful stalks but no sprouts (they’re hard to grow in Colorado but I’ll get the timing right, someday.) So I get them from the farmer’s market once in a blue moon, but usually I can only find sprouts that are flown in from California or Mexico. Friends on the West Coast, I envy you.

brussels_sprouts_finished

But if you find yourself in possession of some sprouts, these crunchy, buttery little bites are perfect as an appetizer with a cold beer. They rarely make it to the dinner table in my house (although they make a great side dish, when they do.) I’ve won over a number of sprout-haters with this recipe, and I like to think it’ll work the same magic on any picky eaters you happen to be feeding.

Pan-Browned Brussels Sprouts

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Pan-Browned Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons raw pine nuts
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Special Equipment
  • 10-inch heavy skillet, preferably cast iron

Instructions

  1. Peel any blemished or dirty outer leaves from brussels sprouts while rinsing in cold water.
  2. Trim off stems and halve lengthwise.
  3. Thinly slice garlic cloves.
  4. Melt butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add garlic, removing pieces to a bowl as they turn golden brown.
  5. Reduce heat to low and arrange brussels sprouts in skillet, cut side down
  6. Sprinkle with pine nuts and season with salt and pepper
  7. Cook, uncovered, until undersides are golden brown, about 15 minutes
  8. As brussels sprouts brown, use tongs to move them to a platter (you may need to move undercooked sprouts from the edge of the pan to the center to even out cooking time.)
  9. Spoon pine nuts over brussels sprouts and season with pepper.

Notes

Adapted from Gourmet.

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/pan-browned-brussels-sprouts/

General Tso’s Bad Day Pâté

Early on the morning of Memorial Day, our brave rooster General Tso crowed his last.

the_general

The General was a Speckled Sussex rooster, and he was not altogether a bad guy. He always let the ladies eat first, and he was very protective of his flock — especially Kung Pao, who hatched and raised him from a chick. But as the General’s testosterone surged, things got to a point where we couldn’t take food out to the chicks or change their water without fending off an attack. Everything was a threat: The big plastic waterer, the bucket we carry feed in, the reflective stripes on my sister’s running pants.

general_tso_on_the_warpath

Clearly, we were headed for another Colonel Sanders. Though he hadn’t actually drawn blood from any visitors yet, the prospect of having friends bring their kids over to meet the chickens made me shudder. And the poor hens, much fewer than he should have had, lost most of their back feathers and ran from his advances. The flock dynamic was all wrong.

And so with heavy hearts, we decided it was time to butcher our rooster.

This was my first time killing a chicken, at least directly. Over my lifetime, without really acknowledging it, I’ve commanded the deaths of thousands of chickens. Ordering it in restaurants, buying pullets from a feed store; it’s not really any different when you slaughter your own bird. It just seems that way, because it’s right there in front of you.

We helped some good friends with a few of their chickens last year, so we knew what to do and how to process the General afterward. But I’ve never personally taken the life of a creature in its prime, looking it in the eye and breathing the same air. It was a heavy prospect for me, and I shed a few tears in the days leading up to it as we made preparations. As I’m sure I will this fall, when it’s time to process the roosters from the chicks we hatched last month. But I knew I could handle it, because I realized long ago that if I’m going to keep eating meat I should be okay with where it comes from.

In the end, it was not an easy morning but it went exactly as we hoped. The General went to sleep on his roost and woke up in a dog crate, with no stressful chase and capture. His last morning was a beautiful one, with birds singing and the scent of lilacs on the breeze. And then, in the space of a few seconds, it was over. A dignified end for a rooster who meant well, but whose time had come.

see_you_later

The General is relaxing in the fridge for a couple days, so that he’ll be nice and tender. Last night, I cooked his liver and made it into a little pâté, just enough for two. It was a perfect way to celebrate a fine rooster with a bit of a mean streak.

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Tamari Roasted Almonds

tamari_almonds

I spent almost the entire weekend outside with my sister — weeding and tilling, planting flowers, and laying down plastic to keep the weeds at bay. There’s still a long list of things to be done yesterday, and I feel like I’ve been hit by a train (but in a good way.) I think we’re off to a solid start on our best garden yet, and I can’t wait to get back out there.

making_progress

We took a break yesterday for a visit from our Mom, who is the source of our green thumbs. So of course we celebrated Mother’s Day with a trip to our neighborhood garden store. And also a special cake that my mom requested, which turned out even better than expected. That one will be making an appearance on the blog later this week.

But for now, I bring you something that only takes a little bit of effort: Tamari roasted almonds.

in_the_garden

I got hooked on tamari almonds working at a health food store in college, and for years paid way too much to buy them already roasted. I attempted to make my own a few times, back when I was first learning to cook, and always ended up with almonds that were either chewy or burned (usually both.) After you’ve ruined a few pounds of raw almonds, the pre-roasted ones start to look like a bargain.

raw

But last year, I revisited the idea and finally figured out how to make my own. And not only is it really simple, but much less expensive. Only I eat more of them than ever now, so I suppose it all balances out.

Tamari Roasted Almonds

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3/4 pound

Tamari Roasted Almonds

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound raw almonds
  • 3-4 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Spread almonds in a single layer in a large baking dish.
  2. Set oven to 325 and put almonds in, don't bother preheating. Set a timer to check them in 8 minutes.
  3. Stir and check the almonds every 2-5 minutes, gradually they will start to get a little more color and give off a toasty aroma.
  4. Sprinkle soy sauce over almonds and stir to coat; they should be a little wet but not swimming in it.
  5. Place almonds back in the oven for a couple minutes with the door cracked, stirring occasionally. When the liquid is almost all absorbed, transfer almonds to a dish to cool. Store in an airtight container.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/tamari-roasted-almonds/