Finger foods are great. They're convenient, there's less silverware to wash, and people don't shake their heads at you if you eat them while standing up and walking around. This is why finger foods are well respected at parties. So, for you, I present a party-sized recipe of yummy, spicy veggies in a delicate, flaky pastry. Let's make some empanadas.
The first step is making the dough. If you've had experience with pastry before, you probably know the most important rules: don't work it with your hands (use a pastry cutter or something similar to break up the fats), mix in as little water as possible to get it to stick together, and keep it COLD.
Cut the vegetable shortening into the flour so it forms pea sized lumps like you see above. Once you form it into a dough with some ice water, keep it tightly covered in plastic wrap in the fridge.
Ever had plantains? They're delicious, and you can find them in a lot of grocery stores these days. They're ripe when the peels blacken. One of the best ways to prepare them is to pan fry them in a little oil until they're golden brown. Set them aside because they're going to be the sweet little jewels in our empanadas.
The filling starts off with a base of onion, bell pepper, chilies and garlic. More ingredients are added, and by the end, you've got a flavorful and nutritionally rich heap of beans, tomatoes, corn, chard and all kinds of spices. Don't forget to add those plantains back in. You can also throw in a little Daiya if you want.
Once the filling is ready, you can take that dough out of the fridge. Try to roll it out as thin as possible without tearing it. I use the mouth of a wide glass to cut mine into circles, but you can also cut it into squares if you want to make triangle or rectangle shaped empanadas. The size is up to you.
The most important thing to remember is don't add too much filling. It's okay, you're going to do it anyway, I know. After a bunch of beans and corn squirt out of the twelfth empanada when you're trying to seal it, you'll finally admit that you need to use way less than you think makes sense.
Some melted margarine will help the pastry brown. Depending on the size and number of the empanadas you end up with, you may need to cook them for a longer or shorter period of time. Just keep an eye on them and take them out when the edges are nice and golden.
Black Bean Empanadas
Makes about 20 (big) to 30 (small) empanadas
6 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups ice water (plus more if needed)
2 teaspoons vinegar
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 ripe plantain, peeled and finely diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
1-2 jalapeños (depending on spice preference), minced (see tip)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 roma tomatoes, finely diced
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 bunch chard, stemmed and finely chopped
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds (optional)
1/3 cup vegan margarine, melted, for brushing
Serve with: salsa and vegan sour cream
- Prepare the dough. Combine flour, cornstarch and salt in a large bowl. Cut the shortening in with a pastry cutter or fork until pea sized crumbs appear. Whisk together water and vinegar in a small bowl then stir it into the dry ingredients until a dough forms. Add more water by the tablespoon if necessary, but try to use as little as possible.
- Knead briefly until dough is smooth and elastic. Divide in half and form into two balls. Wrap each ball of dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill in fridge while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Prepare the filling. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the plantain and sauté 5 minutes or until golden brown. Move to a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in the pan. Add the onion and bell pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add the jalapeños and garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more or until soft.
- Add the beans, tomatoes, maple syrup, spices and salt. Cook 5-7 minutes or until the tomatoes have broken down and the liquid in the pan has evaporated. Add corn and cook 1-2 minutes or until heated through. Add the chard in batches, cooking 2-3 minutes or until just wilted but still bright green. Remove from heat. Stir in plantains, lime juice, cilantro and Daiya (if using).
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- On a floured surface, roll out the empanada dough to 1/8” thickness. Cut into 4-6” squares or circles.
- Spoon a little filling into the center of each piece of dough so that you will still have enough room to seal the pastry. Fold circles or squares in half, then seal tightly with your fingers or a fork.
- Arrange on baking sheets and brush with melted margarine. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown, switching the baking sheets halfway in between. Move the empanadas to wire racks and let cool 10 minutes before serving with salsa and vegan sour cream.