Working upwards of 50+ hours a week, a few frozen veggie patties popped in the microwave, followed by a bowl of likewise frozen vegetables is my ritual meal…if you can call it a meal. My roommates consistently give me a hard time for nourishing myself like a drunk walker, but in my defense, I usually tuck my brain in at the office.
Needless to say, when time is awarded in my favor come Friday – Sunday, the kitchen is my office.
While my indecisive nature often takes a toll on actually reviving my commandership in the kitchen, I eventually make my way to the nearby grocery. Hello impulse buys on top of the often obscure ingredients adding that little something extra to the dish. Does anyone ever leave such a destination equipped with only their intended ingredients? More power to you if so.
Considering it has already been an hour since choosing to embark on another food journey, I prepare myself for battle with my own secret weapons. Infusing edits to the inspired What’s Cooking Good Looking recipe, my mind wanders to a hovering fog of aromatic spices.
The room comes alive to the open act of infinite cookery. All signs of external distraction bounce off the sealed steam leaving me to my own experimentation. When me-time is in my court, you can best believe I will play until I have to be subbed out.
All signs of external distraction bounce off the sealed steam leaving me to my own experimentation.
Now we’re talking empanadas here. Staring down the countertop destined to accept a clothing of flour dust, the dough began to take form. These mounded cups don’t fancy the liquid applesauce at first, but fear not! With a helping of patience and determination, somehow the melding gods took over my hands creating the sweet, nutty crust.
Pushed aside to wait in line for the oven, ding! the butternut squash echoed its desire to be blasted into a curried slop. My particular turnout was a bit more on the slop side when it could have veered more in the shwhip category, but hey, we all have different preferences.
Staining the food processor blade a highlighter yellow(shh, don’t tell my roommate) left me with a dilemma however. Do I continue my intended recipe, or halt the process to diligently clean the tool? Time slowed to a lethargic pace. 350 degrees met my line of vision, red with persuasion power to keep going.
Slop, slop, slop the blade wagged, flicking the leftover puree back into the processor. Another gaze at the oven temperature. Can you tell I am prone to veer off course on occasion?
Attempts to rediscover the original cream color would have to wait. A tablespoon, metal fork, and cutting board come in handy for the actual assembly of said empanada. Delicacy is key, treating the soft caramel hued dough with extreme care, but enough assertion to develop a mini circle. Once the thin bedding is laid out, tuck in the spicy goodness to keep the pesky inside from peaking out. Following an extra-long session in the oven sauna, welcome these appetizers back into the kitchen with a sprinkle of thyme.
Even after several hours spent to meet Instagram’s grueling standards of food porn, the real ‘like’ that matters is each tastebud, which I can guarantee, according to several adequate witnesses, is commendable. The slightly chewy crust exploding with a curry-infused squash filling is a textural taste unexpected, but most appreciated.
This is the ‘wow’ appetizer you want to bring to an awkward office party.
[find more foodie finds on my Instagram]
mini Butternut-Curry empanadas | vegan spelt crust
for the crust:
1 cup of spelt flour
1/2 cup of almond flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 unsweetened applesauce(Trader Joe’s)
1/3 – 1/2 cup of ice water
olive oil + salt for brushing
for the pumpkin filling:
1 small-medium butternut squash / you want to end up with 2 cups of roasted squash
1 cup canned pumpkin
a couple tablespoons of olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
1 clove of garlic, sliced
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
1/4 teaspoon of curry powder
a pinch or two of chili powder
salt + pepper
Make the dough:
- Place a small-medium sized bowl and the butter in the freezer for about 10 minutes while you measure out the other ingredients.
- Remove the bowl and butter from the freezer and combine the spelt, almond flour, and salt in that bowl. Then, work in the applesauce./li>
- Add in the ice water a tablespoon at a time and work it all together with your hands, being careful not over-work it. You want the dough to be wet and easy to work with but not too wet. I found that just a little more than 1/3 of a cup of the ice water worked for me, but you might need slightly more or less.
- Form the dough into a ball, place it back in the bowl, cover, and put it in the refrigerator for at least one hour. You can also make this a day or two ahead of time.
While the dough is chilling, prepare the pumpkin filling:
- Pre-heat your oven to 400º.
- Slice up the squash into chunks, remove the seeds and guts (save the seeds for roasting, or another use). Place the chunks on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast for about 30-40 minutes, until the squash is soft and just starting to brown on the top.
- While the squash is roasting, sauté the shallot and garlic in a small pan over medium heat with a little bit of olive oil. You want the shallot and garlic to be soft and just starting to brown but be careful not to burn. Remove from the heat.
- When the squash is done, allow it to cool slightly before handling. Then, separate the squash from the skin, measure out 3 cups and place it in a food processor.
- Add the cooked shallot and garlic to the food processor, as well as the pumpkin, curry powder, chili powder, thyme, salt and pepper along with a drizzle of olive oil. Pulse until you have a smooth mixture. Taste and adjust any seasoning that is necessary.
- If your mixture is still warm, place it in the fridge until it has cooled down before assembling the empanadas.
Assemble the empanadas + bake:
- Reduce the oven temperature (or pre-heat again) to 375º.
- On a floured flat surface, flatten the dough ball with the palm of your hand. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is pretty thin. Note: when testing this recipe, I made the mistake of not making the dough thin enough the first time, which made it too crust-heavy, so be sure to roll it as thin as you can without it tearing. Also, if your dough is feeling dry, feel free to add in a little ice water.
- Using a wide-mouth glass or a cookie cutter, cut out circles tracing around the cup with a paring knife. The size does not really matter, but I like these to be small enough to be two-bite sized, but big enough to be able to fill with a teaspoon size amount of pumpkin filling without overflowing.
- Using a teaspoon, spoon the pumpkin mixture into the center of the dough circles, fold the edges over and press down with a fork to seal and crimp.
- Take the scraps, roll them into a ball, roll them out again and trace more circles to make more emapanads. Continute doing this until you have used all the dough.
- Transfer the empanadas to a baking sheet, brush the tops with some olive oil and lightly salt.
- Bake the empanadas for 20 minutes, being careful not to burn. Once they start to brown around the edges, remove them from the over. Allow them to cool slightly before serving. They are best served warm, right out of the oven, or they can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge and warmed up when you’re ready to serve.