Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pumpkin Empanadas

Pumpkin Empanadas...perfect combination of savory and light spice for fall.  I recommend using fresh pumpkin, but these could be done with pre-cut fresh butternut squash as a simpler sub (Trader Joe's :)) or canned unsweetened pumpkin.  We had these for dinner with a side salad, but they would make a great appetizer for a holiday party or Thanksgiving too!

Pumpkin Empanadas

1 Small Pumpkin
1 T. Olive Oil
1/2 Small White Onion, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
3 c. Thinly Sliced Kale
1 T. Fresh Sage, coarsely sliced
1/2 T. Brown Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cumin
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Empanada Dough:
Makes 24 Empanadas 
1 c. Butter (2 Sticks)
2 1/2 c. Flour
1 T. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 c. Cold Water

Egg Seal for Baking: 
1 Egg White
Pastry/Basting Brush

Preheat oven to 375F. Start by cutting the pumpkin in half and scooping out the insides and seeds. Discard (or make roasted pumpkin seeds for a later snack).  Slice each pumpkin into wide slices and place on a baking sheet.  Brush each of the slices with Olive Oil until coated. Place in the preheated oven and roast for 35 minutes or until you can easily stick with a fork.  Let cool for 10 minutes after removed from the oven.

While the pumpkin is roasting you can make your Empanada Dough.  Slice butter into small cubes.  In a large shallow bowl, mix together flour, sugar and salt.  Add butter on top of the flour mixture and cut with a pastry blender until you have most of the flour in the butter. Its ok to have some bigger pea sized pieces of butter in the mix.  Next, take your cold water (the colder the better!) and gradually mix in...adding in small parts and mixing with a rubber spatula until your dough sticking together in a ball. Refrigerate dough until you are ready to build your will want to chill in the refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before making these and can cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days in an air-tight container.  

After the pumpkin has cooled, peel/cut from the rind and cube, moving to a separate bowl. Roughly mash pumpkin to break up the cubes and set aside.  In a large skillet, add a 1/2 T. Olive Oil, chopped onion and garlic, and sauté on medium heat until the onion starts to look translucent.  Add the sliced kale, fresh sage and chopped pumpkin, and continue to sauté until kale begins to wilt. About 3 minutes.  Next, add the brown sugar, salt, cumin, paprika and cinnamon. Cook in spices while stirring for about 1 minute and remove from heat.  Place the mixture in the refrigerator to cool down for 20 minutes.  This can also be stored in the refrigerator for 2 days in an airtight container.

Now on to building your Empanadas.
Preheat the oven to 350F.

Take out the dough and break off small balls to roll into 5-6" circles on a floured surface. Use additional flour as needed to make sure the dough is not sticking to the roller or the surface.  As you roll out all of the circles, gently stack them so they aren't sticking together.  Once you have all of your circles rolled, take your pumpkin mixture from the refrigerator.

Get out a small bowl and fill with 1/4c. cold water.

For each Empanada: Take the circle of dough.  On one side of the circle, place a scoop of pumpkin mixture (about 2-3 Tablespoons).  Take your finger and dip it in the water, running it around the circumference of the circle. This will help to seal your empanadas. Fold over the dough, making a half circle and fully seal the Empanada buy gently pressing the edges with a fork. Now get out your pastry/basting brush and brush Egg White on the tops and edges of all of your completed Empanadas.  Poke holes with a fork in the tops of all of the Empanadas.

Bake at 350F for 12 minutes or until they are golden.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup with Fig Goat Cheese & Spinach Grilled Cheese

The end of October means being fully surrounded by gorgeous fall vegetables... and that cool crisp in the morning air just makes me want to break out the soup recipes.  Fall is one of my favorite seasons, after moving to Los Angeles from Pittsburgh I felt like I lost that change of seasons, but the longer I live here I notice the changes more and more.  (Could be the cold weather wimp I have become!) None the less, its California beauty with a little tamer of a change.  As I went the the market to get my ingredients to match the butternut squash sitting at home on my table...I found myself picking up everything fall....bring on the endless Pumpkin flavors and Apple Cider.  Luckily I managed to control myself and exit Whole Foods with only the cider and an addition to my squash collection for the week...  

Butternut Squash Soup is one of the simplest recipes and makes delish leftovers for the next couple days.  This time, I decided to add a sweet/savory grilled cheese to complement our afternoon lunch. Just enough time to prep and cook while my soup simmered on the stove. 

Butternut Squash Soup
(Serves 6)
2 lb. Butternut Squash
2 T. Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic
1/2 White Onion
1 T. Fresh Sage
1/2 T. Fresh Thyme
1/2 T. Ground Cumin
4 c. Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
3 T. Halt & Half

Peel the Butternut Squash and chop into cubes.  I like to use a vegetable peeler like OXO Swivel Peeler, its super sharp and takes the tough skin off easily.

Chop your Onion and Garlic, and mince your fresh spices.

Heat a 5 Qt or larger pot on the stove and add the Olive Oil, Garlic and Onion.  Saute until Onion becomes translucent.  Add the Cubed Squash, Sage & Thyme, immediately pour in the broth.

Stir the pot and put on the lid.  Bring to a boil.  Once its boiling, turn down the heat and simmer on medium heat for 20-25 minutes until the Squash is tender. 

Remove the pot from heat and blend with an immersion blender.  You can also work in small batches using a food processor to blend into a smooth soup.  Lastly, add the 3 T. Half & Half and stir to blend.

What you end up with is a silky smooth yet light soup.  The perfect amount of warm for a fall afternoon.

Now onto the (slightly) guilty part....

Fig Goat Cheese & Spinach Grilled Cheese
(Serves 2)
4 Slices Whole Wheat Bread
3 T. Fig Butter
2 T. Butter
1 c. Fresh Spinach
4 oz. Crumbled Goat Cheese

Place the 4 slices on a flat surface like a cutting board or the counter.  Smooth 1 1/2 T. Fig Butter on the inside of 2 of the slices.  At the same time, flip over the other side of your sandwich and butter that side.  (This side will go face down in the pan)


Now start to build by layering the fresh spinach on top of the Fig Butter.

Heat a skillet on medium heat on the stove, and place the butter side down in the pan.  Take the Goat Cheese and crumble on top of the bread.  The heat will help the cheese to stick to the bread. Do this carefully since the pan is hot... if you are using slices of Goat Cheese instead you can spread evenly over the bread. 

Once you have finished placing the cheese, you are going to place the 2nd slice of bread with the Fig Butter and Spinach on top of it.  Carefully place it on top of the Goat Cheese covered slice.  Butter your top slice slightly so that you will be able to flip it, butter side down.

Each side should cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, or until your bread is golden and toasted.  Remove from the pan and immediately cut and enjoy with your Butternut Squash soup.