Tuna and Red Pepper Pie (Empanada de Bonito)
So everyone, I’ve been really into Spain lately. It all started when I picked up a copy of Penelope Casas’ cookbook entitled The Foods and Wines of Spain at the sale section of my public library for two dollars (!) last week, and has continued on as I’ve been spending the last of my summer days reading Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Oh yeah, and my family went out last night to a Spanish-Basque tapas restaurant which was no less than fantastic, only furthering my new found belief that Spain is the current New World of cuisine and culture.
Do I sound a little bit over the top? Well I can’t really help it and truth be told, even if I could help it I would probably still want to remain in my own romanticized view that Spain really is as wonderful as I’m making it out to be. In addition to this, once I become obsessed with something I just can’t stop at the personal enjoyment I’m getting from it, I want the whole world to love it too. So yes! You should be really into Spanish cuisine and all of that because I say so. But if you need more convincing, here is a nice quote from the preface of Penelope Casas’ book:
“For Spaniards, eating is a social occasion that often takes place outside the home, and their eating schedule reflects a large amount of time spent in cafeterias, bars, cafes and restaurants… Spaniards never skimp. It seems that the day never ends in Spain, beginning for most before 8 a.m. with hot coffee or chocolate, toast or those wonderful strips of freshly fried dough called churros, and continuing well past midnight for many, especially in the summer. Is it any wonder, with the day revolving around food, that “on time” performance and efficiency are not among Spain’s shining glories?”
Oh, how lovely! Anyway, this current phase I’m going through has culminated in my trying out one of the dishes from Casas’ book. I ended up choosing a recipe for an empanada, Spanish style, filled with red peppers (pimientos) and tuna. Unlike its Latin American counterpart, Spanish empanadas are not made as individual hand-held pockets, but rather one large pie that can be later cut up to serve as tapas or a light dinner or lunch, served alongside a salad. I loved the recipe–it created a savory, well-rounded filling sandwiched in between fluffy layers of yeasted empanada dough. The dough may sound a little fussy, what with cooking and straining and reserving, but it’s simple and straightforward and results in an easy-to-work-with and very forgiving pie dough.
Not into tuna and red peppers? I’m planning to make another batch of empanada pie dough to be filled with a spinach and pine nut mixture, or one made with a sausage like chorizo. On the other hand, if you don’t want to go through the time of making the yeasted pie dough, you can create the pepper tuna filling to be filled in sandwiches, added to eggs, or to be stuffed in Latin-American style pocket empanadas.
Tuna and Red Pepper Pie (Empanada de Bonito)
Adapted from Penelope Casas’ The Foods and Wines of Spain
Amy’s Notes: You will most likely have remaining oil from the empanada dough recipe. Feel free to use the extra onion and garlic infused oil for other purposes as you see fit. Also feel free to substitute the red peppers for green, or for adding a bit more canned tuna if you’d like.
Empanada dough (recipe follows below)
2 red peppers, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons reserved oil (remaining from dough recipe)
reserved onion and garlic (from dough recipe)
10-ounces canned light meat tuna (about 1 1/2 cans)
4 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 tablespoons water
freshly ground pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
Prepare the dough the day before according to instructions. In a skillet over medium heat saute the red peppers in the reserved oil, covered, until tender and slightly softened (about 7 or 8 minutes). Add the reserved onion and garlic, the tuna and the tomato sauce and cook, uncovered for about 5 minutes. Stir in the water. Taste for salt and pepper (you’ll most likely need a good couple tablespoons of salt at least).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Transfer the empanada dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Roll each piece to fit roughly 10 x 15 inches. Place one piece on a greased cookie sheet or one lined with parchment paper. Spread on the filling, evening it out to cover the dough almost to the edges of the dough. Cover with the other piece of rolled dough, rolling up the edges to seal the pie. Make several slits (be as decorative as you like, but the yeasted dough makes it a bit tough to get too creative). Let sit to rest in a warm place for about 20 minutes. Brush with the beaten egg, and bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, or until golden. To serve, cut in squares.
Empanda Pie Dough (Masa de Empanda)
Amy’s Notes: I made this dough a day and a half ahead of time, so after I finished kneading it I placed it in the fridge until the morning that I needed it, allowing it to sit at room temperature for an hour or two before using it. But really, this dough is very forgiving and very great to work with.
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup olive oil
5 1/3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry active-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 to 2 1/2 cups warm water
Slowly saute the onion and garlic in the oil over medium heat until the onion is wilted, about ten minutes or so. Strain the oil, reserving the oil, and separately, the onion and garlic.
In a large bowl, mix the flour and the dry yeast. Dissolve the salt in the warm water and add the water to the flour– I’d start with 2 cups and add as needed to make a cohesive (but messy) mass. It will be quite shaggy, and will smooth out with the addition of oil and kneading. Once mixed, turn the dough onto a floured work surface. Gradually incorporate 1/2 of the reserved oil, kneading in about 2 tablespoons at a time and adding more flour as necessary. Save the remaining reserved oil to use in preparation of the filling. The dough should feel softer and pretty pliable, and the process should take around 10 or 12 minutes.
Place the kneaded dough in a large oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let sit in a warm spot (inside a kitchen cabinet is good) for 12 hours, or overnight. Continue as directed in the Empanada recipe.