Baked Sweet Potato and Tempeh Empanadas with Avocado Chimichurri

Empanadas and Chimichurri
Before today, I had never had an empanada. I knew they were a savory pastry stuffed with seasoned meat and I’m sure vegetarian versions can be had, but with lots of lard or butter typically in the crust, it wasn’t anything I was in a hurry to try.

My mom recently renewed her subscription to Food & Wine Magazine and with it, she received a complimentary gift subscription, and guess who the lucky recipient was? Yes, me! I was paging through the first issue to arrive and the word “tempeh” jumped out at me from a recipe. Baked Sweet Potato and Tempeh Empanadas. Very intriguing!

Side note: Like tofu, tempeh is a soy product, but it uses the whole soy bean and has a firm texture with an earthy flavor making it more palatable to some than tofu. Tempeh is also high in protein, fiber and vitamins and when crumbled is a tasty vegetarian substitute for ground beef in many recipes. It’s easy to find in well-stocked grocery stores, Trader Joe’s and natural food stores.

In addition to having a vegetarian filling, this empanada recipe also appealed to my health-conscious side—there was no large quantity of lard or butter in the dough. Surprisingly, the only fat was two tablespoons of coconut oil. Time to lose my empanada virginity!

The dough came together smoothly and was really nice to work with. The filling smelled amazing, and with the Avocado Chimichurri (how can anything with avocado not be wonderful?), a memorable and hearty meal was had and in a household of two, there were plenty of leftovers. And healthy to boot! Enjoy!
Baked empanadasChimichurri

Baked Sweet Potato and Tempeh Empanadas with Avocado Chimichurri

Slightly adapted from the March 2015 issue of Food & Wine Magazine

Empanada Dough:
1 lb. sweet potatoes, baked, cooled and peeled

½ cup whole wheat flour

½ cup white whole wheat flour

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup fine cornmeal

¼ teaspoon kosher or sea salt

2 tablespoons coconut oil, at room temperature

Filling:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 8-ounce package tempeh, crumbled

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 cup tomato sauce

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Kosher or sea salt

Avocado Chimichurri, for serving (recipe follows)

To make the dough, mashed sweet potato. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cornmeal and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat 1 ½ cups of the mashed sweet potato (save the rest for another use if you have extra–I had just the right amount) with the coconut oil until smooth. Gradually beat in the dry ingredients until a smooth dough forms.

Scrape the dough onto a work surface and gather into a ball; divide in half and pat each half into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add the tempeh, garlic, and cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until fragrant and heated through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, water, adobo sauce and oregano and cook for a couple minutes. Season with salt and let the filling cool completely.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, working with one disk at a time, roll out the dough to ¼ inch thick. Using a 4-inch round cutter, cut out rounds, scraping extra dough together and continue rolling and cutting rounds until dough is gone (you’ll get 9-10 rounds from each disk).

Moisten the edges of a round of dough and mound a scant 2 tablespoons of the filling on one half of each round; fold the dough over to form half-moons. Press the edges to seal and pleat at intervals or crimp with a fork. Transfer the empanadas to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Bake the empanadas in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for about 25 minutes, until browned; shift the pans halfway through baking. Serve warm with the Avocado Chimichurri. Makes 18-20 empanadas.

To make ahead, freeze the unbaked empanadas for up to 2 months. Bake from frozen.

Avocado Chimichurri:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice

1 garlic clove, minced

A pinch of kosher or sea salt

1 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

1 tablespoon finely chopped oregano

1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced

Additional salt, to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, garlic and salt. Stir in the chopped parsley and oregano. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Fold in diced avocado and season with additional salt.

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