All Aloners

Joe took the boys to Yellowstone. They will be gone for a whole week. I missed him pretty much the minute he left.

We’ve never really spent that much time apart since meeting almost 6 years ago. There was the odd vacation here and there spent with family, etc. in the beginning of our relationship, and we spent almost a week apart just before our wedding. We’ve been together almost everyday since.

But last month, we discovered that Lilli doesn’t like road trips as much as we do, so I missed a trip to Lake Chelan when school got out. And now I am missing a long awaited trip to Yellowstone, and Lilli and I are hanging out all alone, just the two of us.

The cilantro that’s as tall as me.

It is a small consolation that I got to plan a menu for them to eat while they were out in the Wilds of the West. There was an assortment of easy camping fare, like hotdogs to cook on sticks and mac’n’cheese from a box. And then there were those homemade bagels I was teasing you with last week (which I’ll get around to writing about in due time…the recipe is a doosey). But by far the best thing in the cooler was the empanadas.

I’ve been wanting to try homemade empanadas for some time. I love pie, and we eat a lot of NW style Mexican food (is that a thing?) at home.  Empanadas are like mexican pies you can hold in your hand. How can you go wrong? We are also growing a ton of cilantro, so I knew that I would have the best accompaniment possible for the big pot of black beans making empanadas would give me the excuse to cook up. I found a good recipe for the dough here, but wanted to make my own filling.

I doubled the batch of dough, since we were eating them that night and I wanted to have some to send camping with the guys. It worked out great, but could have been a touch more flaky. I think you could use pretty much any standard, unsweetened, pie dough.

I used little new red potatoes, some caramelized onions, and black beans. I boil my own beans–I like the satisfaction of seeing them go from dry little beans to big, plump delivery systems of flavor. I usually forget to soak them the day before, which results in the softest bean. I almost always end up boiling them for a minute or two early in the day, and then letting them soak for several hours in the water. After that, you need to switch the water before you continue cooking them, which is the best part because you pour off this thick, black, inky water from boiling the beans. I always fantasize about what I could use that water for, but so far I haven’t come up with anything good.

When we ate them last week, we had my Dad and Step-mom over for dinner. I served a big salad, of course–made with very thin sliced cabbage, lettuce from the garden, radishes and celery, with a lime vinaigrette. Eating salad, for me, is the best part of the day. I can turn anything into a salad and if it has it’s own special dressing, that is even better. The empanada part of the meal was the biggest hit though, paired with cilantro sour cream and a healthy dose of hot sauce.

A little surprise in the cilantro.
I pulled this recipe out of thin air, but it’s so easy to pull together, it doesn’t really matter. You can change any of the filling ingredients as you see fit.
Red Potato and Black Bean Empanadas
makes 24
5-6 small red potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 1/2 black beans, cooked thoroughly
1 ear corn, kernels cut off the cob ( I had leftover grilled corn)
1 medium sweet onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil for sautéing
salt, pepper, chili or cayenne, to taste
egg wash (one egg yolk whisked with a little water to thin it)
Heat oven to 400º F.
Heat your favorite frying pan, and add olive oil. Add onions and let caramelize for about 10 minutes or so, stirring often to let them get color evenly. Add some salt and whatever other spices you’d like. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add in the potatoes and about a quarter cup of water. Cover and let the potatoes steam for a few minutes. Check back every 5 minutes or so, adding more water if necessary, until the potatoes are tender but not mushy. Add the black beans and corn, and heat through. Take off the heat. Set aside to cool while you roll out your dough.
I rolled out my dough into individual rounds, as the recipe I used calls for, but you could just as easily roll it into a big rectangle and cut it into squares and make them that way.
Add about 2-3 Tbsp of filling per empanada, and fold the tops over. You might need to use a little bit of water or egg wash to seal them. Crimp however you like, and brush egg wash over the tops.  I forgot the egg wash step, so you could leave it out if you like and they will still taste amazing.
Bake for about 35 minutes, until they have a nice even golden brown color.
For the cilantro sour cream I just chopped up some fresh cilantro and added it to the sour cream, thinning to the desired consistency with a little bit of milk. How easy is that?

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