Friday, April 18, 2014


I've been on a huge latin food kick lately.  I just can't get enough tacos, quesadillas, fajitas, patacones, chimichurri, empanadas...and the list goes on.  Since I'm still searching for that perfect hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant here in Columbus that serves all of the above, I've been trying my hand at some of my favorite dishes in my own kitchen. Empanadas are definitely at the top of the list and what do you know, they're easy enough to make at home.  I first tried empanadas in Barcelona, near La Segrada Familia and I fell in love with their buttery, flaky crust and the powerhouse flavor packed inside.  My empanadas are dynamic, smoky and indulgent and repackaged a croissant-like crust.  They are best served hot, right out of the oven, but taste great at room temperature as well.  They can even be made in advance, frozen and cooked later on.  You gotta try these!

This recipe has many steps, but don't be intimidated.  They're all easy and the result is worth it.   

Empanadas Perfecto 
This recipe makes 8 empanadas.

For the marinade:
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lime
2 garlic cloves
1 t. Cumin
1 t. Smoked Paprika
1 Chipotle Pepper in Adobo sauce (more if you like it spicy)
1 T. Cilantro
1/4 C. Oil
Salt & Pepper 

For the filling:
Flank Steak, cut into small cubes
1 Onion, diced
1 Red Pepper, diced

For the crust:
Puff Pastry (2 sheets)
1 Egg, beaten
Avocado, tomato & cilantro, for garnish

In a blender, pulse the citrus juice, garlic, spices, chipotle, cilantro, oil and salt & pepper.  Your mixture should be thin and a bright orange color.

Carefully pour this marinade into a big resealable bag.  Add the cubed steak and allow it to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, or at least for 30 minutes.

Heat a couple Tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet.  When it's hot, add the onions and peppers.  Cook over medium until they have caramelized.  When they are dark and golden, remove them from the skillet and set aside to cool.  Don't skimp on their cooking time - they're going to add great flavor to the empanadas.

Remove your puff pastry from the freezer and allow it to thaw.  Preheat the oven to 400.

Reheat that same skillet over medium heat.  Add your steak with the marinade and cook over medium heat until the steak is cooked through, about 10-12 minutes.  When the meat is thoroughly cooked, but not overdone, remove the skillet from the heat.  Allow to cool slightly.

Open your puff pastry and lay it flat on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Working quickly, cut the puff pastry sheet into 4 equal squares.  To each square, add about 2 Tablespoons bit of the steak and onion mixture.  Brush the left side and bottom side of each square with a bit of beaten egg so the pastry seals when it's folded.  Take the top right corner of each square and fold it over to the bottom left corner.  Use a fork to crimp the edges, sealing in that great flavor.  Slice an X on the top so the steam can escape and brush the entire triangle with beaten egg.

Pop them in the oven for about 12 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.  Serve with fresh avocado, tomato and cilantro.

If you find that you have leftover filling, use it in some tortillas or simply with an egg on top.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Baby Greens Salad with Accoutrements

From time to time, my body just craves something light and healthy.  I don't know if it's the yoga I've started doing or the warmer, longer days, but this weekend was a good time to eat light.  And this salad hit the spot.  I've said it before, but salads can be really good or really boring.  I like to experiment with different fruit and veggies, nuts and cheeses in my salads - there are many winning combinations.  This salad is sweet and tropical with golden brown chicken and a satisfying crunch.  

Baby Greens Salad with Accoutrements

Baby Greens
Chicken, sliced (grilled, pan-fried or rotisserie)
Gorgonzola Cheese
Strawberries, sliced
Mandarin Orange wedges
Nuts (almonds, pistachios or pecans)
Champaign Vinaigrette (or your favorite dressing)
Salt & Pepper

In an extra large bowl, toss the mixed greens in a couple tablespoons of the salad's dressing.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  (This is how they do it in a restaurant; so the salad is completely coated, but not soggy).  

Transfer the greens to a plate and top with the chicken, cheese, fruit and nuts.  Top with more dressing and salt & pepper.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kung Pao Bánh Mì

Not too long ago, a thought occurred to me while I was eating cold, leftover Kung Pao Chicken for breakfast.  Yes, breakfast.  (You know you've done it too).  The flavors were still great but it wasn't substantial enough for a meal since the rice had dried out.  So, I spooned it onto a baguette, topped it with some mayo, cilantro and cucumber et voila!  A homemade version of Vietnamese Bánh Mì without all the daunting hassle of the original.  This Kung Pao Bánh Mì has all the flavor of the classic Chinese take out dish, but it's served anew on a crunchy light fresh delectable vessel. 

*Bánh Mì means baguette and was introduced to the Vietnamese culture by the French during its Colonial Period.  

Kung Pao Bánh Mì 
1 Mini baguette, sliced laterally
3/4 C. Leftover Kung Pao Chicken
Cilantro, chopped
Cucumber ribbons
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350.  

Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on both sides of your baguette. Spoon the Kung Pao Chicken onto the bread.  Pop the open-faced sandwich onto a baking sheet and into the oven.  Allow it to just warm through, about 8 minutes.  Remove from the oven and top with cold cucumber ribbons and fresh cilantro.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to finish.  Place the top of the baguette on the laden bottom slice and enjoy!