Mushroom Empanadas

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In late 2005, I spent a month visiting my sister in Argentina. She and her best friends were studying abroad in Buenos Aries for the year and I had recently returned to America heart broken after ending a relationship with a Spaniard. I was depressed and unemployed and my parents didn’t really know what to do with me, so they sent me to South America for some sisterly love, sun, steak, and Malbec. It was just what the doctor ordered!

My dad, best friend, and I in my sister's apartment in Argentina, circa December 2005.

My dad, best friend, and I in my sister’s apartment in Argentina, circa December 2005.

One can’t visit Argentina without falling in love with the flaky and delicious empanada. The hand-held pastries are everywhere and made in so many different variations that they can suit virtually any tastebud. They can be baked and filled with ham and cheese or deep fried and stuffed with cinnamon, apples, and sugar. Continue reading

Mushroom Brie Phyllo Tartlets

IMG_2558When I’m entertaining, I generally stay away from fussy appetizers that require lots of preparation. However, this week I helped a friend plan a Valentine’s Day event at her jewelry store and I assembled two bite-sized, girly little appetizers. The first were crostini with goat cheese, heart-shaped figs, balsamic reduction, and rosemary flowers. The second were these phyllo tartlets filled with brie and mushrooms.

The three components can be prepared in advance and assembled just before serving. At the store, the tart shells and brie were at room temperature and the mushrooms were warmed in the microwave. At home, I warmed the whole thing in the oven for 10 minutes to melt the brie a little. The dish tastes delicious just from the oven and at room temperature making it perfect for a party.

Mushroom Brie Phyllo Tartlets

For the tartlets:
Cooking spray
1 package phyllo dough (about 18 sheets)
1 stick butter, melted
For the mushroom mixture:
6 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms (cremini and white button), finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup Spanish Sherry
1/4 finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For assembly:
1 triangle of brie, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons minced chives

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray a mini muffin tin lightly with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Working quickly and carefully, arrange one sheet of phyllo dough on a work surface. Cover the remaining phyllo sheets with a damp towel. Brush the phyllo all over with melted butter. Arrange another sheet of phyllo on top of the first sheet and brush that evenly with butter. Repeat, alternating phyllo and butter, until there are 6 layers. Brush the top layer with butter.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut the phyllo into 2-by-2 inch squares.
  4. Fit each square snugly into the prepared mini muffin tin, gently pressing the phyllo into the bottom and up the sides of each well.
  5. Bake until the dough is lightly browned and crispy, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining sheets of phyllo until you have roughly 36 tartlet shells. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. (The shells can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days.)
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the mushroom mixture. In a 12-inch heavy skillet cook onions in butter over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Stir in mushrooms and bell peppers and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mixture begins to brown. Add Sherry and cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated. Add the parsley and season the mixture generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (To make in advance, let the mixture cool slightly and transfer to an airtight container. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 days. Rewarm in a sauté pan over low heat before proceeding with the next step. If the mixture is too dry, add a splash of Sherry to moisten.)
  7. To assemble the tartlets, set the phyllo cups on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place one cube of brie in the bottom of each phyllo cup. Top with a heaping teaspoon of the mushroom mixture. Repeat until all the phyllo cups are filled. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until the brie is melted and the tart shells are warmed through.
  8. Garnish each tartlet with a sprinkle of chives. Enjoy immediately, preferably with pink champagne.

Makes about 36 bite-sized appetizers.

Roasted Mushrooms

I’m worried I’m becoming a lazy cook. When I’m making meals for just myself, which is basically all the time, I try to do as little work as possible. It’s so easy to let the oven do all of the work! Every week I’ll go to the store, select a different vegetable, roast it, and then use it in an assortment of dishes.

Exhibit A: these savory roasted mushrooms. The prep is minimal and even the cook time is fast. In less then 20 minutes, one has a delicious and versatile side dish. The mushrooms are wonderful on their own, but they’re also great in other items. Throw them in a salad, put them on top of a pizza, layer them in a grilled cheese, or make my current favorite preparation: bake them with eggs. Toss the roasted mushrooms with bread cubes and greens and put them in an oiled cazuela. Make a small indentation in the middle and crack an egg on top. Drizzle with a little cream or milk, season with salt and pepper, and place in the oven.

Bam! The resulting baked eggs are filling, scrumptious, and a little sophisticated. For the single girl who lives on her own, baked eggs with roasted mushrooms are an ideal meal morning, noon, or night.

Roasted Mushrooms

1/2 lb button mushrooms
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
1-2 tablespoons vermouth, optional
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh parsley

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Wipe the tops of the mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel. Slice off the muddy bottoms of the mushroom stems and discard.
  3. Cut the mushrooms into 1/4-inch pieces. Place the mushrooms in a medium bowl and add the garlic, shallots, and olive oil. Generously season with salt and black pepper and toss everything gently with a large spoon until the ingredients are well mixed and the mushrooms are coated with oil.
  4. Pour the mushroom mixture into a ceramic baking dish and dot with butter.
  5. Bake in the oven for 14 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and add the vermouth, if using, to the mushrooms. Toss to coat. Place the pan back in the oven for another 2 minutes.
  6. Remove the dish from the oven, sprinkle the parsley over the top, and use the mushrooms to your liking immediately.

Makes 2-3 cups of mushrooms.

Stuffed Mushrooms

28 white mushrooms, caps wiped clean and stems removed and reserved
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the mushroom caps, stem side down, on a large baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the mushrooms are soft, slightly darker in color, and have released their juices. Let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, make the filling: finely mince the reserved mushroom stems. Add the olive oil to a large saute pan set over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and chopped mushroom stems. Saute until soft and translucent, taking care not to burn, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the chopped spinach by the handful, stirring to wilt.
  4. When all the spinach has been wilted in, add the sun-dried tomatoes and heavy cream. Simmer for 3 minutes to let the flavors combine.
  5. Remove from the heat and add half of the parmesan cheese. Season liberally with salt and pepper.*
  6. When the caps are cool enough to handle, spoon a heaping teaspoon of stuffing inside each mushroom. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and remaining parmesan cheese.
  7. Place the stuffed mushrooms, stuffing side up, on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the stuffing is hot and the mushrooms are dark brown in color. Serve immediately.

Serves 6-8.

*Make ahead: The stuffing and mushrooms can be prepared one day in advance. Let both come to room temperature before stuffing the mushrooms and baking.