April 3, 2010

    Empanadas and Halibut Ceviche

    My empanadas have almost become legendary for those I've made them for. They're the perfect little package of food - much like how the atrociously unhealthy Hot Pocket found it's rise to fame. The original recipe I found some years ago on the Everyday Food website. Or perhaps it was the blog. I'm really not sure. Over the years the recipe has evolved some, and while I don't always maintain records with what I've done different, it lends itself to many different changes. I've never had a bad batch of empanadas!

    I will say, this is a weekend meal - only because in making your own crust it is time consuming. However, these freeze amazingly once they are done, so I make large batches and freeze for weeknights when they only take a 30-40 minute trip through a hot oven to finish.

    I decided that it would also be a night to try something different, and made a batch of ceviche. Ceviche is a hispanic dish of fish "cooked" by marinating in lime or other citrus juice. There are hundreds of wildly different variations on ceviche, so I decided to go with a more classic Mexican version. Recipe on the bottom provided by Chef Rick Bayless on the Food and Wine website. The ceviche was wonderful, though for those who are not a fan of the texture of sashimi, it may take some getting used to because the fish never gets to the full firmness one expects when they heat it in a pan. I adored it, though my husband felt there was a little too much cilantro for his tastes.



    • 2lbs ground pork, beef, or turkey (I've also used 1 lb of meat and 1 can of salt-free black beans, drained and rinsed)
    • 2 jalepeno chilies, minced (I used four Serrano peppers I had frozen from last seasons' farmer's market)
    • 2 cans (14.5oz or one 28oz) diced tomatoes. Muir Glen Fire Roasted highly suggested
    • 1 c fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 2 medium onions, finely diced
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Optional - I keep some salt free fajita seasoning in my spice mixes, and I'll often add a good bit to my empanada filling when the chili powder goes in. Season your filling to taste, don't be afraid to experiment here. I've found oregano, cumin, pepper, garlic and a little coriander all work well. Taste, taste, taste!!


    • 4 c all-purpose flour, plus some for dusting (for healthier empanadas, I use 1/2 white, 1/2 wheat flour)
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 1 c cold water
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 c (1 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tbs water

    Make the filling: In a 12" skillet over medium high heat, cook meat completely until there is no pink. (5-7 min)

    Add jalepenos and onion, cook until soft, about 5 min. Stir in chili powder and tomatoes and cook over medium until mixture has thickened, 12-15 min. Season with salt, pepper, and other spices to taste. Fold in cilantro and let the mixture cool COMPLETELY.

    Make the dough: In a bowl, combine flour, baking power and salt. Using your fingers, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add just enough water so dough comes together (this may take a bit more if you're using wheat flour at all).

    Form empanadas. Roll out dough, cut into circles. I use a small plate or bowl as a template. Place some cooled filling on one half of the circle, dampen edge of dough with a touch of water and fold over and crimp.

    At this point, place on a cookie sheet and freeze if desired for 2 hours, then bag up for storage.

    To cook either fresh or frozen: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place on parchment lined (or silicone Silpat mat) cookie sheet. Brush with egg wash and bake until golden brown (30-40 min) rotate the sheets halfway for even browning.


    • 1 pound fresh, skinless snapper, bass, halibut, or other ocean fish fillets, cut into 1/2-inch dice
    • 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice
    • 1 medium white onion, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 2 medium-large tomatoes (about 1 pound), chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
    • Fresh hot green chiles (2 to 3 serranos or 1 to 2 jalapenos), stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
    • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnish
    • 1/3 cup chopped pitted green olives (manzanillos for a typical Mexican flavor)
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
    • Salt
    • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice or 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 large or 2 small ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
    • Tostadas, tortilla chips or saltine crackers, for serving

    In a 1 1/2-quart glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the fish, lime juice and onion. Use enough juice to cover the fish and allow it to float freely; too little juice means unevenly "cooked" fish. Cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours, until a cube of fish no longer looks raw when broken open. Drain in a colander.

    In a large bowl, mix together the tomatoes, green chiles, cilantro, olives and optional olive oil. Stir in the fish and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Add the orange juice or sugar. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately. Just before serving, gently stir in the diced avocado.

    Make Ahead
    Working ahead: The fish may be marinated a day in advance; after about 4 hours, when the fish is "cooked," drain it so that it won't become too tangy. For the freshest flavor, add the flavorings to the fish no more than a couple of hours before serving.

    Serving options: Place the ceviche in a large bowl and let people spoon it onto individual plates to eat with chips or saltines; spoon the ceviche into small bowls and serve tostadas, chips or saltines alongside; or pile the ceviche onto chips or tostadas and pass around for guests to consume on these edible little plates. Garnish the ceviche with cilantro leaves before serving.


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