Monday, May 4, 2009

Spinach Empanaditas

I really like spinach and have been trying to incorporate it into meals (Brian doesn't really like it, so I'm trying to convince him through wonderful tasting food). I was searching the food network site trying to find spinach filled main dishes. Emeril Lagasse provided this dish, which is spinach filled AND cheesy (which makes it extra good)! UNFORTUNATELY, while they are quite delicious, they are in no way a main dish (if I spoke Spanish, I could have deduced that from the name). And, they are just little dry, I felt like I needed to dip them into something. The crust was really flaky, so that's good. But I'm labeling this recipe as an appetizer. Brian ate some chicken tortilla soup after a couple empanaditas. For the record, he did like them. And I would add the picture from, but it honestly doesn't look as appetizing as they really are. AND this recipe may look pretty involved, but to me, it was no different than a regular meal.

Spinach Empanaditas

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and lightly grease a baking sheet.

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt

2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained and crumbled (drippings reserved)-I tried to use 6 pieces, but Ellie ate 2...I would definitely go with more bacon
½ pound fresh spinach leaves, washed
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup cottage cheese, farmer's cheese, or ricotta cheese-I used ricotta
Ground black pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg-I didn’t have any and it turned out well
Egg, lightly beaten

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on high speed until very smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, little by little, and the salt, and process until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly. Form the dough into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight. I didn’t do that, I just stuck it in the fridge until I was done with the filling.

Heat 1 teaspoon of the reserved bacon drippings in a medium nonstick skillet and, when hot, add the spinach. Cook, stirring frequently, until the spinach is wilted and has released its liquid, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a colander to drain. When the spinach has cooled enough to handle, squeeze to release any excess water, then transfer to a cutting board and finely chop. Set aside. I didn’t squeeze any excess water either, it was fine.

Add 2 more teaspoons of the bacon drippings to the same skillet, then add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the reserved spinach, crumbled bacon, cottage cheese, pepper, nutmeg and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool thoroughly. It doesn't take long to cool, maybe 5 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, working on a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough to a thickness of about 1/8-inch. Using a biscuit cutter or a small glass as a guide, cut the dough into as many 3-inch circles as possible. Place a teaspoonful of the spinach filling in the center of each dough circle. Using your fingers, lightly moisten the edges with some of the beaten egg-water mixture, then fold 1 side over so that the edges meat, and press to seal. Crimp the edges using the tines of a fork and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all of the empanaditas are assembled. Brush the tops of each empanadita with some of the beaten egg and bake uncovered until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. I also didn’t use the egg on top, I just used butter, maybe that’s why it was all nice and golden and flaky.