It’s been a rainy, chilly couple of days here in NW Indiana. I love it, especially after the drought and 100 degree temperatures we’ve been experiencing most of the summer. It really feels like autumn. Of course, that leads me to thinking up new recipes for the upcoming Brew-o-Ween that the Dude and I will be hosting in October. Since many of our friends are vegetarians, I want to come up with some great hot appetizers that are meatless. I love empanadas because they are so versatile, and you can make them in advance and then freeze them. Brush them with oil and pop them in the oven right before guests arrive and you are good to go with a yummy appetizer or dinner. Serve with a sour cream topping or salsa for an extra flavor pop. And best of all they are mobile – easy to eat while socializing or enjoying a bonfire in the back forty!
When I think of fall, I always think of butternut squash. Another cool weather crop is spinach and it is my absolute favorite. The gorgeous orange of the squash with the dark green spinach make a great combo. What’s that phrase about you eat with your eyes first? How true, especially with this dish. Earthy, nutty flavors come together in a cute little package. Healthy, flavorful and perfect for your next party. AND, your vegetarian friends will thank you!
Butternut Squash Empanadas
- 1 small/medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 1 large bunch fresh spinach or one 10 oz. package of frozen spinach thawed and drained completely
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced fine
- 2 TBSP pine nuts, toasted
- 2 TBSP golden raisins
- 2-4 TBSP olive oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, base it on your tolerance for heat
- salt to taste
Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat and add olive oil and cubed squash. Coat the squash well with the olive oil and saute until it begins to brown, about 5-7 minutes. At this point, pour about 1/4 cup of water onto the squash to steam and soften it a bit. Add the spinach and garlic and cook until the spinach begins to wilt. Add your toasted pine nuts and raisins, along with the smoked paprika, cumin and cayenne. Stir everything together and cover for a few minutes. You want the squash to soften but not turn to mush. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool.
For the empanada dough nothing beats the following recipe. I used this for the post on empanadas I made previously. It is easy to work with and so silky. Also, whether you decide to fry or bake your empanadas, this dough is always crispy and light.
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup ice water
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
Sift flour with salt into the bowl of a food processor, add butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture and pulse until dough just holds together.
Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.
When the dough has chilled and the butternut squash mixture has cooled, divide the dough into 12 equal portions (24 if you are making appetizers). Roll the dough pieces into a ball and then roll out into a thin disk. Place butternut squash mix into the center of the disk and wet the edges of the dough with a little water. Fold the dough over to form a half circle and press together with the tines of a fork. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can freeze your empanadas at this point if you are not going to use them right away. Be sure to freeze in a single layer. After they freeze you can gently transfer them to a freezer bag.
You can fry or bake the empanadas. I decided to bake these and they turned out great. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush your empanadas with canola oil on the prepared baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a platter and enjoy.
I didn’t get a picture of the finished product. The Dude walked in the house, said it smelled great, and we proceeded to eat before I got pictures. Doh! For a run down on putting the empanadas together, check out my earlier post on beef empanadas https://domesticdivaeileen.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/beef-empanadas/