Empanadas

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Top Chef New Orleans just started, and I’ve been so busy that I missed the first few episodes. So, of course, last weekend I had a Top Chef marathon and I was so inspired that I started getting more creative with my cooking. In one of the episodes, the chefs had to cook a meal in teams on food trucks, and one of the chefs made homemade empanadas.

So, here’s my version of (mostly) homemade empanadas! Feel free to experiment with fillings – these recipes are just based on what I had in my fridge on Thursday night when I made these with Sean.

For this recipe, which makes 10 small empanadas, you’ll need:

3 cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly

1 onion, minced

2 T butter

2 cloves of garlic, minced

ground chicken (1/2 package)

1/2 can of canned, drained tomatoes

3-4 T goat cheese

juice of 1/2 lemon

2 t fresh (or dried) basil

1 t oregano

1/2 bag baby spinach

salt and pepper, to taste

pie dough (homemade or store bought)

1 egg, beaten

We made two types of fillings: vegetarian and chicken. For the vegetarian version, we sauteed 1/2 an onion with the mushrooms in a pan with butter. Once the mushrooms were golden brown and the onions were translucent, we added 1 clove of minced garlic to the pan and cooked for another 30 seconds. Finally, we wilted spinach into the mix and turned off the heat. Then we mixed goat cheese, basil, salt and pepper to taste, and the juice of 1/2 lemon into the mixture.

For the meat version, we cooked the ground chicken in a saucepan until done, then added minced onion and cooked the onion until tender. We drained canned tomatoes, reserving 1/2 cup of the tomato juice, and added about 3/4 cup of tomatoes to the meat. Then garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper went into the pan with the reserved liquid, and the whole mixture sat over the heat for a few minutes (the liquid disappears fairly quickly).

We used Trader Joe’s pie dough for our empanadas, but you could also make your own. Roll out the dough fairly thinly and cut it into 6 inch discs. Then spoon about 2 T (or more – up to you!) of the filling into the middle of the dough and fold it in half. Wet the edges with water, then use a fork to crimp the edges.

Line a pan with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Finish assembling the empanadas and lay them on the pan, then brush the tops with egg wash. We baked them for about 25 minutes and they were delicious – like “gourmet hot pockets” according to Sean. I can’t wait to experiment with more fillings. Remember that this isn’t an exact science, and lots of different ingredient combinations/ amounts would be great.

Enjoy!

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Greek Chicken Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese

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I have a love affair with caramelized onions. I make vats of them by sautéing thinly cut sweet onions with butter for 20 minutes on medium low heat, then adding cracked black pepper and brown sugar to the pan. I put them on almost everything I eat at this point… I have a Tupperware container of them in my fridge right now, in fact.

Anyway, tonight I checked to see what I had in my fridge and grabbed some ground chicken to make burgers. Even though it’s a super messy burger/ patty melt, it’s one of my favorite meals. Ladies, it’s definitely a man friendly meal, too, and perfect for a summer date night.

For 4 burgers, you’ll need:

a package of ground chicken or turkey meat

1 lemon

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 T oregano

1 T basil

salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs

8 slices of sourdough bread, toasted

1 avocado, mashed with a slash of lime juice

goat cheese

2 T caramelized onions per burger

catsup, other condiments

First, form your burgers by combining the ground chicken in a bowl with the juice and zest of one lemon, minced garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper, and bread crumbs. Mash that up with your hands and form patties. Transfer those patties to the fridge while you prepare the onions (unless you’re like me and you have a vat of them in your fridge).

Grill the burgers or cook them on the stove at medium heat (you may have to cover them so that they cook through if they’re on the stove). Then spread one slice of the toasted bread with catsup, goat cheese and avocado. Add the burger patties to the sandwiches (I often cut them into halves so that they’ll fit on the bread) and top all of that with caramelized onions and another slice of sourdough bread!

Beware— this is a messy dinner! It would be great with a side of a simple salad or grilled veggies.

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