12/09/13 10:00am

Desify: Enter the Empanosa

Empanosas, fresh from the oven. Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

Frankenfood mash-ups are everywhere these days (ahem, Cronut-mania and gonzo ramen burger lines). So Desify is jumping on the bandwagon and offering up yet another improbable, over-engineered edible creation.

Introducing: the empanosa, an Argentine-style, baked empanada made with Indian roti dough and stuffed with Indian leftovers (like a samosa, get it?).

Indian lentil and vegetable dishes lend themselves to mashing, so it’s easy to get them neatly tucked into packets of dough. Making the wrappers with Indian roti dough is a healthier option than typical empanada wrappers, which are usually very rich (hello, butter or shortening).

Empanosa stuffed with kadu sabzi. Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

I experimented with a few different fillings: maa ki daal (whole black lentils simmered with tomato and Punjabi spices), chana daal with ghiya (rich yellow lentils simmered with bottle gourd, tomato, and Punjabi spices), kadu (pumpkin cooked South Indian-style with onion and curry leaf), and minced Brussels sprouts lightly sautéed with mustard oil and ginger (quasi-Nepali style).

They were all tasty, but the mild, savory pumpkin (shown above) seemed to hold up best to mashing, straining (to remove excess water), and baking. Unfortunately, purging the lentils of their excess water also removed a lot of their flavor—live and learn.

I assembled my empanosas and then popped them in the freezer, baking them as I was ready to eat them for, say, lunch on the run. Read on to learn how to play Desi Frankenstein in your own kitchen. (Cue thunder clap and diabolical laughter.)

Kadu sabzi ready for straining. Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

The Filling: Kadu Sabzi (aka, South Indian Pumpkin) / adapted from ABCDs of Cooking

1 tablespoon canola oil
1.5 pounds kadu (pumpkin), peeled and cubed—available at most Indian grocery stores, or substitute butternut squash
1 medium-size onion, diced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
1/2 teaspoon split urad lentils (optional, but strongly recommended)—available at most Indian grocery stores
1/2 teaspoon chana lentils (optional, but strongly recommended)—available at most Indian grocery stores
3 fresh curry leaves—available at Patel Brothers grocery stores
1 dried red chili (or substitute 1/4 teaspoon ground red chili)
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
handful of cilantro

In a large pan, heat oil on medium and add asafetida, mustard seeds, urad lentils, and chana lentils. Cover the pan and cook until the mustard seeds start popping and the lentils turn golden brown.

Add the curry leaves and red chili (brace for wildly splattering oil!) and cook for half a minute.

Add the onion and cooked until translucent (3 to 5 minutes). Add the ginger and turmeric and stir thoroughly.

Add the pumpkin and stir to coat the vegetables evenly with the spices and seasonings. Put the lid on and cook for 10 minutes, or until pumpkin is soft but not mushy. (Check every few minutes and give it a good stir to prevent burning.)

At the end, mix in the cilantro and cook for a minute. Shut off the heat and serve with rice or roti (flatbread).

Save your leftovers, mash them up, and strain them through a cheese cloth (shown above) to remove excess water. Your empanosa filling is ready!

The Wrappers: Roti Dough

1 cup durum wheat flour— available at most Indian grocery stores
Water as needed (about 1/4 cup)

In a medium-size bowl, slowly knead water into the flour until dough is smooth but not so wet that it sticks to your hands.

Chill dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Empanosa, fresh from the oven. Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

Assembly / makes 6 to 8 empanosas

Kadu sabzi leftovers, mashed and strained
Roti dough, chilled
1 cup water
1 egg (optional)

Roll dough into ping pong ball-size balls of dough. Then use a rolling pin to roll out each ball of dough (on a floured surface) until it is just big enough (4 to 6 inches) to hold about 1/3 cup of the pumpkin filling.

Place 1/3 cup of the pumpkin filling in the center of the wrapper and wet the edge with water. Then fold the wrapper over, pinching the upper and lower edges together to form a firm seal.

Crimp the edge using a fork or, if you’re feeling fancy, roll the edge into the traditional braid-like design.

If you’re freezing your empanosas, sprinkle them with flour (to prevent sticking) and set them on a cookie sheet in your freezer for a few hours. When they’re frozen solid, put them into a plastic bag for storage.

If you’re baking your empanosas right away, pre-heat your oven to 400F and bake on a cookie sheet for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top crust is brown and crisp. (If you’re feeling fancy, beat an egg and apply an egg wash to the upper crust.)

Check out Anne Noyes Saini’s ongoing food + audio projects on SoundCloud.

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One Comment

  • I like to buy supermarket pierogies, pan fry, then simmer in whatever curry sauce I happen to have around. Potato and spinach works particularly well.