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I know that I promised you quail. Stuffed quail to be exact. But due to a glitch with our butcher’s bird supplier, the quail won’t be coming until Sunday. Apparently, when he ordered caille (French for quail) that some how translated to canard (duck) and the delivery last Saturday included two ducks instead of two quail. I love duck, but I didn’t need two of them. This weekend, he promised us, he’d go pick up the quail personally. We’ll see. I think he knew I was so disappointed.

In the meantime, I give you a Français-Sud Américain blend for lunch. Red Bean Plantain Empanadas with Tomato Mozzarella Salad.

I’d been thinking about empanadas for some time. They just sounded fun. Simple – only a few ingredients are in the filling. Hot – baked in the oven. With a crust. I love crunchy crusts. I’m a pie-without-the-pie-filling kind of girl. It’s weird.

Why red beans you ask? Well, I have looked EVERYWHERE – in fact in every market and grocery I go to, I still look – and I cannot find black beans anywhere. If you live in Provence and know of a place that sells black beans let me know. Or, if you’re feeling generous and live in the States, I haven’t lost anything in the mail yet.

There are many different recipes out there for empanada dough. But I was feeling lazy and simply bought two pâte brisée, which are close enough. That’s the French twist to these I guess.

Red Bean Plantain Empanadas

(Makes 8 LARGE Empanadas)

  • 1 can red beans – drained
  • 1 plantain
  • 1/3 red onion finely chopped
  • 1 – 2 cloves of garlic
  • ½ tsp of chili powder or to taste (I have super hot chili powder so I have to scale it back a lot)
  • ½ tomato finely chopped.

Slice up your plantain. In a heated frying pan with a little bit of oil, sautée your onion, garlic, and plantain until softish – about 8 minutes. Lower heat. Add beans, tomato, and chili powder. Cook until heated, then remove from heat immediately. Mix and mash up the plantains a bit. This is really just a texture thing and to get a good blend of plantain-bean in your filling. It’s entirely unnecessary.

Roll out your dough.

Here’s where I decided to forget the half-moon shape and just go for ease in presentation. I scooped a generous portion of the bean-plantain mixture onto one of the dough circles in about 7 portions.

Then I laid the other dough on top of it. Used a big coffee mug to mark out my empanadas. Cut the excess away and used it to make one final empanada.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 180°C or until golden brown.

You might want to add a little more oil to your filling before making your empanadas for some extra moisture. Or add cream or cheese if you’re like the husband and can’t imagine having something that doesn’t have meat and cheese in it:

“Mexican food has cheese!” He cried. Apparently, he’s the authority despite never having eaten Mexican food until he met me.

“They’re not Mexican,” I told him. “They’re from South America. Some say Peru, some say Argentina.” Actually, I looked it up and they’re originally from Moorish Spain and Portugal.

“Oh,” he said. But I could still hear the unspoken cries of “CHEESE!!!” going around in his head.

Serve your Empanads with something light. Because these babies are deceptively heavy. Tomato salad is a good choice. Simple, fresh, and so colorful.

  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1/3 red onion
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 can corn
  • 1/2 ball of mozzarella
  • Salsa verde or dressing of choice (lemon, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard)

Chop all ingredients. Put into a bowl. Mix. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little salsa verde. Mix. Serve.

What is so fabulous about this lunch is that it’s so few ingredients and easy to prepare. Other than putting the empanadas together, it takes little time (around 30 minutes) and there was no stress involved, the way stuffing a quail might be stressful.

Definitely Thursday lunch comfort food. The type of thing you eat on a day off and then lie on the couch after with a cup of coffee trying not to fall asleep, so you type up a blog entry about your lunch that includes a myriad of run-on sentences because you’re so excited about how well your empanadas and tomato salad worked out and how the textures and flavors binded so wonderfully together and yet it was so SIMPLE.

I need more simplicity in my life. But that’s something for another day. Sorry about the run-on sentences and the quail. Here’s hoping Sunday won’t disappoint!

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For some time I’ve been thinking about two things – that are food related, that is – my brain is usually thinking about 1,000 things not food related. The first is basil infused dough and the second is homemade pasta.

I wanted to make a bread that had the herb flavoring all the way through without the leaves of the herb. Obviously the leaves of basil are fine in dough, but I wanted something that would infuse the taste of basil all the way through the bread. Since dough uses water, I thought I’d try and infusion of fresh basil leaves in water for my dough.

Where does homemade pasta come in to this?

I didn’t feel like making bread.

Of course, pasta dough uses egg. And of course, I didn’t have any because I never plan ahead. So I decided to make eggless dough.

I boiled my water and added the basil.

Lovely green water. Did you know that basil is from the mint family? When you make an infusion you can smell the mint.

Wait for the water to cool down to a tepid temperature.

In the meantime put two cups of flour in a bowl and poke a little hole in the middle. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil into the hole.

When the water has cooled, slowly add ¾ cup of the infusion and mix them slowly together.

Continue to add the water and mix. Eventually you’ll have to use your hands, but what’s better than getting your hands covered in flour?

When the dough has mostly come together, take it out of the bowl and on a floured surface, knead away for about 10 minutes. If it’s too dry, add a little more of the infusion. If it’s too wet, add a little flour, but it should be a firm ball. Whatever that means to you.

Set aside in plastic wrap or a covered container for 20 minutes. I put mine in the refrigerator because it was only 4:30 and dinner wouldn’t be for another 3 hours. You’ll have a lovely floury mess on your counter. Keep it there, because you’re just going to mess up your counter again when you roll the dough out.

So the thing about this is, I don’t have a pasta machine. Cutting strips of spaghetti is way too time consuming, not to mention way too difficult given my inability to do anything in a straight line. Therefore I took the easy way out. I decided to make ravioli. But what to put in the ravioli?

How about caviar d’aubergine?

Aubergine = eggplant. Caviar d’aubergine is really easy to make and has nothing to do with fish eggs.

  • Peel your eggplant, slice thinly.
  • Peel some garlic, mince.
  • Heat up a pan with some olive oil.
  • Put in your garlic and eggplant, season with salt and pepper, add a cup of water or two.
  • Once it’s simmering nicely, lower the temperature to minimum and cover.
  • Let the eggplant and garlic simmer and cook down for about an hour until it’s completely soft and mushy, and most of the water is gone.

Of course by then it was only 5:30 and I still had two hours. So I set it aside.

That meant I could enjoy a glass of wine.

 

When it’s time for dinner, or you just can’t wait anymore roll out the dough to be as thin as possible – ravioli thin to be precise. Use a quarter of the dough at a time if there’s not enough work space or if this is the first time making ravioli and you have to go slowly because you have no idea what you’re doing. Keep the rest of the dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.

I’m not going to lie. It took me over an hour to put these raviolis together, and all the while I was thinking “They aren’t thin enough. They aren’t the same thickness all the way through. This dough isn’t going to take.”

I also pulled a muscle in my back rolling out the dough.

I had a margarita while putting them together.

At least, the husband was excited and into boiling water they went.

It fogged up my camera lens.

I wasn’t sure of the cooking time, as they were pretty thick, so I left them in the water for 11 minutes. In reality, they could have probably stayed in the water for another 2 minutes, but what are you going to do. A few of them fell apart – like raviolis do, but there were plenty for the two of us, so it didn’t matter too much.

Topped with olive oil, fresh basil and cheese.

While the husband was well pleased and once again told me I needed to open a restaurant, I’m not going to brag about how great they were. They were good, but the dough definitely needed to be thinner. With a rolling pin I did the best I could.

So I discovered a few things. One: I really need a pasta roller machine. Two: egg, while it gives a taste to pasta dough, isn’t necessary. Since these were raviolis, the lack of egg was covered by the eggplant, cheese and olive oil. Three: I didn’t infuse the basil long enough. Or maybe I should have added basil into the dough. Who knows? I’ll try it again another time, but at least my raviolis were a moderate success. And I got to make a huge floury mess all over my kitchen.