Friday, March 11, 2016

Savory Empanada Tarta with Roasted Vegetables and Cheese

Most nights when there isn't really anything on TV, Joey and I will put the Food Network on. There's usually something interesting to watch, and if we're lucky, we find a meal inspiration. A lot of the time, our inspiration comes from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I know that a lot of people don't like Guy Fieri, but I do like seeing the variety of cuisines featured on the show.

Recently, we saw an episode that featured a cafe called Maria Empanada in Denver, CO. Their empanadas looked fantastic, but the star of the episode was her empanada tarta - a savory tart that was made with her empanada dough, smeared with cream cheese, and then layered with roasted vegetables. It looked so good! While I copied down most of what she said, I didn't have any plans to try making it right away. However, Joey immediately started searching for empanada dough recipes, and we decided to make it for a potluck dinner we went to recently.

It was such a hit! We only got a slice each at the potluck dinner, so we made it again just 4 days later. The dough is so easy to work with, and has turned out crispy and flaky every time. You really can use any filling you would like, but the flavor of the roasted vegetables works really well, especially with a generous layer of tangy cream cheese. The second time we made it, we had some leftover ricotta cheese, so we put in some dollops between layers.

Empanada Dough
Recipe from Epicurious

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the bowl. Using your hands (or if you prefer to keep your hands clean, a pastry blender or two knives), and work the butter into the flour until you have small pieces/ribbons of butter that are pea-sized. Put the whole bowl in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes, to keep it cold.

In a small bowl, mix together the egg, water and vinegar, until homogeneous.

Pull out your bowl from the fridge/freezer, and add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Use a fork or a spoon to gently mix together until there are no visibly wet areas. Use your hands to help it form into a ball. It will seem like there is too much flour - that is okay!

Lay out a piece of plastic wrap onto your counter, and dump the contents of the bowl on it. Use the plastic wrap to help guide the dough into a disc - it helps to act as a shield so it won't stick to your hands, and will help some of the excess flour adhere to the dough. Wrap the disc well with plastic wrap (get another sheet if necessary), and put it in the fridge for 1-1.5 hours.

Empanada Tarta:
Note: these are just suggested vegetables to use - feel free to use your favorite.

1 medium butternut squash (or similar squash), peeled and chopped
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 head broccoli, chopped
Olive oil
salt and pepper
3 tbsp cream cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Ricotta cheese, if desired
Herbs, if desired


Preheat oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.

Toss the veggies with olive oil, spread out on the baking sheets, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until tender and slightly caramelized. Let cool and set aside.

Shake out some flour on a large work surface. Once the dough has been chilled, set it out, and sprinkle some flour on top of it. Roll out until ~1/4 inch thick, and it extends beyond a 9-inch springform pan (or deep dish pie pan) by a couple of inches in all directions. Carefully transfer to your pan, and let it sink onto the bottom. Press it down on the bottom and onto the sides of the pan - if there is excess, push that down onto the top of the pan so the sides stay up. Put it back in the fridge while you are waiting for the veggies to finish cooking/cooling.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Once everything is ready, take the dough back out of the fridge. Spread the cream cheese on the bottom. Make sure the veggies aren't too hot (it will just melt the butter in the crust), and sprinkle them over the cream cheese until they have just covered the bottom. Sprinkle with ~2 tbsp parmesan cheese, and any fresh herbs or dollops of ricotta, if desired. Add another layer of veggies, another layer of parmesan cheese (and desired herbs/ricotta). Gently peel the dough off the sides of the pan, and fold over the veggies, still leaving a large portion uncovered.

Cover the pan with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, and bake another ~25 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and flaky.

If cooked in a springform pan, let it cool 5 minutes, and then remove the sides. Let cool another 5 minutes, and then enjoy!

See how messy my dough was! But it all works out in the end, I promise

Here is the first layer of butternut squash

We topped the butternut squash with onions, mushrooms and broccoli

Here is where you add your ricotta/herbs

Another layer of veggies

Gently fold the edges of dough over your filling, still leaving the center uncovered

This is what it looks like after the first 30 minutes in the oven. The last 25 minutes are where you get all of the color on the pastry

Beautifully golden brown!

It is golden brown all the way around, not just on the top

Look at that flaky pastry

Update: If you want to make individual empanadas, check out this recipe