I know I said that spring rolls are the perfect food, but it turns out that empanadas are. Havana Rumba here in Louisville has an incredible version stuffed with cheese, spinach, and other vegetables that both Tamsen and I crave all the time. Using storebought empanada wrappers, we made our own version with arugula and the slight tang of goat cheese.
Arugula & Goat Cheese Empanadas
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups arugula, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterrey jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded semi-firm goat cheese (we used Drunken Goat, found at the Highlands Kroger)
11-15 Empanada wrappers (we used Goya, found in the freezer case at the Iroquois Manor ValuMarket)
1 egg white
Vegetable oil for frying* (a few cups, depending on the size of the pan you use)
Sautèe bell peppers, onion, and garlic in 1/2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat for about 6 minutes, until softened. Add arugula to the pan, turn heat to low, and cook for about a minute, until the arugula wilts. Remove mixture to a bowl and stir in black pepper and corn. Allow to cool while you set up a station to assemble the empanadas. You'll need a clean, smooth surface like a cutting board, and have your egg white with a pastry brush nearby, your empanada wrappers (unthawed if purchased frozen), a fork, and your vegetable mixture. Add the cheeses to the mixture and stir well.
To assemble the empanadas, place a wrapper on the workspace. Brush egg white on the edge of half the circle. Scoop 1 1/2 tablespoons of the filling onto the half of the wrapper with the egg white; you may need more or less, depending on the size of wrapper you use. Fold the other side of the wrapper over, and press along the edge with your finger. Then, crimp the edge with a fork. Repeat until you've used up all the filling and wrappers.
In a heavy pan, heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil over medium heat. Use a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature. As it gets to 300°, turn the heat to low; the temperature will continue to rise. When it gets to 365° add 3 or 4 empanadas to the oil. Cook, turning with tongs, until golden and crispy, about 6 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Continue to cook the empanadas in batches, allowing the oil to heat back to 365° each time.
The empanadas are best immediately after they're cooked. Serve with red pepper aioli for dipping (recipe below).
*The empanadas can be baked instead, but they won't be quite as tasty. To bake instead, preheat oven to 375°. Arrange empanadas on a parchment-lined pan, and spray each one with cooking spray. Bake in preheated over for about 7 minutes, then rotate the pan and cook for about 7 more, until empanadas are golden and crispy.
Red Pepper Aioli
1/3 red bell pepper, patted dry
3/4 cups mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon vinegar
dash of pepper
dash of salt
Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve with empanadas.
Recipe by Tamsen and Kathleen, photos by Tamsen, text by Kathleen