Hello, dear Readers! We have had a frenetic past 6 months. They’ve involved a surgery, we’ve moved, we’ve had a sick kitty thrown into that mix, and now we’re unpacking! As you know, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I am usually running myself pleasurably ragged preparing for dinner on Thursday. This year thought, Hubby’s cousins are hosting at their house, and so I am off the large hook. That doesn’t mean I won’t cook, just on a much smaller scale. I am offering to bring a roasted turkey breast and pumpkin mousse/pudding so they have their favorite dessert, but dairy and soy free to accommodate the dietary needs of one of our newest, tiny family members!
As I look back on many years past, I realized that the American Thanksgiving dinner does still bear some resemblance to what we can see from historical accounts was the first dinner, with the Pilgrims giving thanks, not only for the bounty of a harvest, but also to the Native peoples that helped them get to that harvest. Where on our dinner tables are the squash, beans and corn, traditionally now called “the three sisters” of the past? It’s more than likely they were on that first Thanksgiving table. So, when looking for easy to freeze vegetarian entrees, I happened upon this little gem, called Three Sisters empanadas, just in time for Thanksgiving!
The “three sisters” are the trinity of beans, squash (or zucchini) and corn. They’re symbiotic crops, the beans and squash need no trellis for support, because they use the corn for it. And so you have crops that depend upon each other in the garden. Quite ingenious of those first Americans! I am calling this post traditional Americas Thanksgiving, because this dish is truly that, something from the Americas, both north and south. The beauty of this dish is that you can freeze it and the dough and filling for a future feast.
The base is the squash and corn, roasted in a hot oven with oil, salt and a little chili powder. Then you add green chilies, beans, seasonings, and let it sit. While that happens, you can either freeze the filling, then make the dough, and freeze that too. Or, you can shape, fill and bake them for immediate eating, later lunches or snacks, or freeze them for later! You really can’t get more versatile than that!
On a side note, I am implementing what a lot of food blogs have started to do, which is detailing what you’ve done at this time in years past. I realized I have blogs that go all the way back to 2007, imagine that? There is a lot to share, so don’t skip the very bottom of the post!
Three Sisters Empanadas (adapted from The Kitchn)
Preheat the oven to 400 º Farenheit
For the filling:
1/2 pound zucchini (2 medium), cut into 1/2–inch cubes
2 cup fresh corn kernels (2 medium ears) or 1 small package of frozen kernels
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 small can black, pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 small can diced green chilis (you can use fresh if you like it hot, but then it’s 2 small chilis, seeded and 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
For the dough:
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cubed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup ice water, plus more as needed
For the egg wash:
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
In a large rimmed sheet pan, lined with foil or parchment, lay the corn and squash in one layer, season generously with salt, pepper and chili powder. Drizzle the olive oil over the ingredients, and with your hands, toss everything so they’re well covered with oil and seasonings. Place in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, but after 15 minutes start checking so the corn doesn’t burn. You want everything browned and a little toasted. Depending on how fresh it is, it might be drier or full of sugar, which tends to make it burn faster. If you feel like it, after 20 minutes, if everything isn’t already browned, give the pan a shake to redistribute and allow the other side to brown. Once it’s done, remove from the oven and allow to cool down. Check your email, check the mail, clean the bathroom, whatever will take enough time for the ingredients to cool off! Once it’s cooled, place in a large bowl, and add the beans, green chilis, cumin and chili powder. Mix all together well, taste and adjust to your liking. Then cover, and set in the fridge to mingle a little. The mixture should be wet enough to hold together on a spoon, but not watery.
Meanwhile, make the dough. I used a food processor, you can use your hands, or a pastry cutter or two forks. I find the processor is just faster. In the bowl of your processor, place the flours, salt and cumin. Pulse a few times to mix well. Drop in the butter and begin to pulse until everything looks like lumpy cornmeal. Then start to pulse while you drizzle in the water a few spoons at a time. Pulse until the dough starts to cohere and ball up. If it looks too shaggy/dry to cohere after 1/4 cup, measure out another 1/4 cup and pulse it in, 1 tablespoon at a time. Once it’s in a ball like stage, dump it all out onto a scantly floured board and knead the dough, until it’s smooth and will hold it’s shape. Wrap in plastic and put in the fridge to rest, 20 minutes or so. If you’re freezing it, wrap well in plastic, then put into a freezer bag. When you’re ready to use it, aloow it to thaw overnight or for 8 – 10 hours in the fridge, then knead until pliable.
When you’re ready to assemble, pat the dough into a log like shape and cut into 12 pieces. If you like a thick dough, cut into 10 and cook 4 -5 minutes longer. Roll each piece into a ball with your hands, then flatten out on a cutting board, and with a rolling pin, roll it out into a circle shape. It should be about 4 – 5 inches in diameter and fairly thin. This dough is fairly tough, so it can handle thin rolling.
In the center of your dough spread a tablespoon of the filling. Pull the top of the dough over the filling and press into the bottom half, carefully pushing out any air pockets in the filling. Then, twist the edges together and press down, crimping as you go. Mine looked like this:
You should get 12 out of the batch, but if you only get 10 that’s fine! Use a fork to punch some holes in the dough, so there is somewhere for the steam to go. In a small bowl, beat together the egg and water, and use a brush to brush all over the exposed parts of the empanadas. Place in the oven (at 400 degrees) for 20 – 25 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they look browner and slightly shiny.
You can serve these with salsa and sour cream, or just eat them as they are. They’re so good, and make a fab hand held lunch. Think of them as home made “Hot Pockets”!
Have a lovely Thanksgiving all, and let me know what you end up cooking!!
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