In these last several posts we are exploring traditional dishes of Argentina.
My family and I were born in Argentina and immigrated to the United States in the late 70’s and one of my earliest memories as a child in Southern California was going to the grocery store. Everything looked and smelled so differently than what I was accustomed to in Argentina. The grocery store, along with everything else appeared so large to me. I was used to going to the bakery to pick up fresh bread for my family daily and we went to a deli for our lunch meats and cheeses, a butcher for our meat, and a grocer for our produce. Yes, there are huge grocery stores where we lived but most people just shop and support their neighborhood businesses.
I’ve got to say that I still miss the scent of warm fresh bread coming from the bakery down the street. There’s nothing like it!
There’s something that always takes me back to my childhood in Argentina and in Southern California, and that is Empanadas, especially Beef Empanadas. They can filled with beef, chicken, spinach, creamed corn, ham and cheese, and sometimes sweet ones can be found. But the traditional empanada is filled with ground beef, green Spanish olives, chopped shard boiled eggs, and raisins. You can leave out any of these toppings if you choose. We don’t like raisins in our empanadas, so I leave them out for my family.
The dough for the empanada can be homemade but any Latino market will carry empanada dough. They are cut into circles and ready to use. You can also stick up and store the dough in your freezer. The brand I found here in Boise is Goya, but there are other brands too. As long as it says “Tapas para Empanadas” on the label, you are good to go!
I love to use my stone for baking because there is no need to grease anything and everything cooks evenly.
Serve warm or cold. Empanadas can be served as a main dish with a salad or other vegetable or as an appetizer.
Traditional Beef Empanadas from Argentina
- 2 packages (Empanada dough) Found at Latino markets
- 2 lbs. Ground beef. (Not too lean, you need some moisture and fat for this recipe)
- 1 large yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ red bell pepper. Diced
- 1/2 tbl cumin
- 1 tbl sweet paprika (pimenton)
- Salt to taste
- Green Spanish olives
- 4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
Sautee your onions and red bell pepper for about 5 minutes.
Add ground beef and brown for a few minutes, then add minced garlic.
After everything is combined well add cumin and paprika and salt to taste.
Open dough package and lay out discs on your counter.
Spoon 2-3 tbl of filling onto center of discs. Then top with egg and olives.
Fold over and seal. You can use your fingers or a fork to seal and mark your dough with fork marks.
Fry at about 375 degrees for 3 minutes or until golden brown.
*Healthier method is to bake your empanadas at 350 degrees for approximately 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Both ways are delicious. Fried empanadas are the traditional way to cook them in Argentina. I grew up eating the baked ones, which many people do to cut down on fat.
Tortilla de Papa is a staple in every home in Argentina. I guess you could compare it to something like Mac and Cheese in the United States. Tortillas originate in Spain, where they are usually cooked with onions, but in Argentina they contain just two simple ingredients, potatoes and eggs, and of course salt and pepper. You can even throw in a bit of garlic powder or a crushed garlic clove. When we run out of food at home, most of us still have potatoes and eggs, right? This is one of those dishes that take back to my childhood. We wanted my mom to make this all the time. And I still have much to learn about Argentine cooking. I think I do a pretty good job, but my mom still reigns. Which reminds me to let you all know that I will have a couple of blog posts with her specialties when she comes to visit soon for Christmas.
The secret to a good tortilla is to cook the potatoes evenly at a low temperature. You should check the potatoes every few minutes but don’t stir them, but rather flip them, as to not disturb the beauty of your tortilla because nobody wants a broken tortilla, right? It will taste the same, but it won’t look as pretty. After your potatoes are cooked, pour in the scrambled eggs and cover and cook for a about two to four minutes. When the edges look cooked, place a plate over your frying pan and flip the pan upside down on your plate, and gentle scoot the Tortilla back into the pan to cook the other side. This will take an additional two to four minutes.
In Argentina, tortillas are most often served with a salad for a simple and light lunch or dinner and often as a side dish for beef or chicken. Next time you don’t know what to cook, or you’re out of almost everything, remember Tortillas de Papa. They are healthy and light and so simple!
Tortilla de Papa ( Potato Frittata) Argentine Style
- 4 large potatoes
- 5 eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 crushed garlic clove or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- Basil and Oregano, herbs for garnish
Wash and Peel Potatoes, Slice potatoes into !/4 inch pieces. Heat pan with 2 Tbl oil. Add potatoes to pan, cover with lid, and cook for approximately 15 minutes, checking twice and turning potatoes to cook both sides evenly.
After potatoes are soft, scramble the eggs, add salt, pepper, and garlic to the eggs and pour into pan.
Turn temperature down to low. (This is very important or you'll burn the eggs and the tortillas will stick to the pan and fall apart when you try to flip it.) Evenly distribute egg mixture throughout pan. Cook for about 2-4 minutes. After edges look cooked, place a plate over the top of your frying pan and flip tortilla onto the plate, then slowly push it back into the pan to cook the other side. This will take an additional 2-4 minutes.
After both sides are cooked, Flip upside down onto plate and you're done.
Chile Rellenos are one of my favorite Mexican dishes. But being gluten intolerant and lactose intolerant makes it rather difficult to be able to eat them. I thought I would come up with a way to make them so I can eat them and also have them be lighter and healthier. These aren’t your traditional batter fried cheesy chile rellenos. This filling is a little different. (My family and friends who read this will understand.)
I actually made the chile relleno filling an Italian filling. Growing up in an Italian home, my mom turned everything into an an Italian dish. It used to bother me because I thought it didn’t taste quite authentic, but now I’ve embraced my mom’s inventive side, plus it’s all the rage now. People are mixing flavors and dishes all the time now and it’s called “fusion.”
I first heard of fusion food about 7 years ago living in Southern California. Mu husband told me about this guy who made Korean style tacos. He had a food truck that he parked and sold out of throughout L.A. This was when food trucks were just becoming a thing. I thought, wow sounds interesting. We need to try these tacos. and guess what? Holy moly! The variety and depth of flavor in these tacos was incredible! I became a fan of “fusion.” I began to see it more and more and realize more and more that mom was on to something in the 80s. Combining foods from different cultures can be tricky, but if done carefully can be heavenly. So there you have it, my version of fusion Chile rellenos. I know you’re going to love them!
I created a fusion chile relleno recipe. Mexican on the outside and Italian on the inside. Sauteeing the red bell pepper, garlic, and the onion creates a robust and rich flavor with a little sweetness and complements the spiciness of the pasilla pepper.
Gluten Free Chile Relleno
- 5 pasilla chilies
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- 10 beef meatballs( make your own, store bought, or leftovers)
- salt and pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- pinch of oregano
Set chilies over flame and completely char outside. Set aside to cool.
Peel chilies and slice open one side and discard seeds,
Heat pan with 1 TBL of olive oil and sautee onion, bell pepper, and garlic cloves. Add oregano.
Chop meatballs and place in pan and combine with veggie mixture.
Stuff peppers with mixture.
Beat eggs and dip chilies in beaten eggs.
Fry stuffed chilies in 2 Tbl olive oil. (they only take a couple of minutes to cook)
As soon as egg is set flip to other side and cook an additional one to two minutes.
There are so many ways to cook eggs and I don’t think I can say which is my preferred method. I’m sure you have your favorite ways to eat eggs, but just expand your mind a bit and imagine the countless ways and the variety of recipes that utilize eggs. Here I share one of those ways. Eggs are what I often eat for breakfast or lunch. For example, use whatever vegetables you have in your fridge and get creative by looking for ways to incorporate veggies into your diet.
In this recipe I used yellow bell peppers, portobello mushrooms, onions, and kale. If you have zucchini, eggplant, spinach, or anything else that can be sauteed, go for it. After you do it a couple of times, you won’t need a recipe, because it just becomes second nature. My kids love these veggie toasts as much as I do and it makes me feel like a good mom because I’m feeding them veggies for breakfast.
Fried Egg and Veggie Toast
- 2 slices of bread. (I use gluten free bread but any bread of your choice will do.)
- 1/4 of a yellow or red bell pepper, sliced
- 1/2 portobello mushroom, sliced
- 1 kale leaf roughly chopped (remove rib from center)
- 1/4 yellow onion, sliced
- 2 eggs, fried
Chop veggies and sautee in olive oil or coconut oil.
Toast bread slices
Place veggies on toast. Top with egg.
*Optional (Serve with Salsa)