He wouldn’t touch his food, which, let’s be honest, is not out of the ordinary. Moans of disapproval filled their mouths instead of the food. A constant stream of requests were shot in my direction in a tone that is not unlike nails scraping down a chalkboard. There was bartering and attempts at making a deal, “If I eat this may I be excused?”
I was there. Mere inches separated me from the whiners yet I heard nothing. Closing my eyes I took it all in. The tender crust burst into flakes that melted the moment they hit the warmth of my mouth. The subtle sweetness of butter transitioned into a flurry of spices and a mellow familiar smokiness from deeply caramelized bacon. Jalapeno provided a new layer of heat which begged to be be soothed with green-tinged cream sauce floral from cilantro.
I returned back to the chaos of the table only when my plate was empty and I reached for another.
Although Baron helped me roll out the dough and fill our empanadas you would have thought I was punishing him by requesting that he merely try a bite. Roman also refused.
Around our table the food is not forced. Primarily because I don’t have the patience to sit there for hours fighting each bite into their mouths. I want to try and retain the joy that food is for me rather than have it become a continual source of contention in our family. Our one food rule: You must try everything once. This goes for mama and daddy too.
My hope, and I have confidence that it will be, is that as my kidlets grow older they will enjoy and appreciate food. They may not ever have the same intense passion for food as their mama, who thinks about the next meal while still finishing bites during the current one, but at the very least they will have a wealth of joy-filled memories that include us in the kitchen. Those memories are painted with the smell of roasting spices, the feeling of soft dough squeezing through their fingers, and the sound of the oven timer signaling the call to the table.
Until those days of a more peaceful mealtime I may occasionally find myself so pleased with dinner that I slip into a my own world where the flavors of cumin and coriander sing louder than the moans from the kids and I manage to tune out the unrelenting requests for the sake of one more bite into a perfectly formed crust. In fact, I hope I become a frequent visitor.
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Spicy Empanadas with Cilantro Cream
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 oz (1 stick) butter, cold
⅓ cup ice water
1 tablespoon vinegar (light in flavor such as cider or champagne)
In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour and salt. Pulse to combine. Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and scatter over the flour. Pulse about 5-7 times to just start to break up the butter. In a small bowl mix the egg, water, vinegar and gently stream into the food prosessor while pulsing. Stop when the dough is still a bit crumbly. Dump out the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and use your hands to gently coax the dough into a round. Cover the dough with the plastic wrap and chill for about an hour.
While the dough is chilling prepare the filling.
3 strips bacon, cut in ¼ inch pieces
½ cup onion, diced (about 1 small – medium onion)
1 red pepper, diced
2 teaspoons cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 medium potato, cut in ½ inch cubes
1 medium shallot, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
½ cup green lentils
1 ¼ cups water
¼ cup cilantro stems
1 serrano (or jalapeno) finely diced
In a large saute pan add the bacon and cook on medium heat until crisp. Add the onions, stirring occasionally until just golden, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the cumin, coriander, chili powder, and cayenne. Cook for one minute, until fragrant.
Add the red pepper and cook until just soft, about two minutes. Add the cubed potato along with ¼ cup water. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Stir in the shallot and garlic, saute until fragrant, just about a minute. Add the greens lentils and 1 cup of water. Give the whole pot a nice stir then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Remove the lid and cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Season with salt. The reason why we salt at the end is to ensure the lentils will be tender and soft and not rubbery which can happen if you salt before they cook.
Finally add the cilantro stems and Serrano (you can use more or less depending on how spicy you like it).
Put that aside to cool slightly.
Once the mixture has cooled and the dough has rested, roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness. Using a yogurt lid or large cup (depending on what size you want your empanadas). You can carefully roll out the scraps so that you get 6 large empanadas from one batch of dough.
Place ¼ cup of the filling on the left side of the dough round. With a pastry brush (or your finger) put some water around the edge to act as the glue. Fold the right side over the filling to match edges with the other side. Press and seal with your hands then use the tongs of a fork to ensure there is a tight seal. Using a sharp knife cut a slit on the top so the steam has a place to escape.
Place all of the empanadas back on a parchment lined baking sheet and chill in the fridge.
Pre-heat the oven to 400* and bake for about 20-30 minutes or until deep golden. For an a nice golden gloss, brush with a lightly beaten egg just before baking.
Cool slightly before serving.
¼ cup cilantro
¼ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Cholula*
1 garlic clove
Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Cover and chill until ready to serve.