In Spain they call it, a la plancha. Italians refer to it as, a la piastra. In Greece, on a staz. No matter what you call it, it’s a centuries old Mediterranean technique for grilling vegetables, fish and meats. In Spain they use a round metal plate, but in Greece they use a piece of sheet metal placed directly on the grill. From Italy, a stone or a metal plate creates a hot flat surface over an open flame. Essentially, it is a flat metal or stone griddle, set over a grill grate over an open flame. Mediterranean cooks know how to grill their vegetables because these grilled vegetables never tasted so good.
This technique does not produce fancy crisscross grill marks on your grilled vegetables, but what you do get are tender vegetables that retain some bite and have a good sear from the stone or griddle. Ultimately, the more surface area that touches the vegetables, means more flavor on your grilled vegetables from the sear. Another bonus is, no more vegetables falling through the grates and flare ups. Mediterranean style grilled vegetables are sweet, lightly flavored from the fire’s smoke, and seared to perfection.
A New Way with Grilled Vegetables
It all started yesterday on an impulse after coming upon the phrase, “… a la piastra,” in one of my cookbooks. It was an “Ah ha” moment for me with the realization of a refrigerator full of vegetables and an old cast iron griddle begging for use. With my fingers crossed and plans for dinner and a blog post on the horizon, I decided to give “A la piastra” grilling technique a try. It was just meant to be.
I do love the flavor of grilled vegetables, but when I grill chicken or meats, I don’t always grill vegetables for a side dish. Mainly, I do not want my whole dinner tasting all the same. Also, depending on how many people we are cooking for, there is just no room on my 22-inch charcoal grill.
Because this was somewhat impulsive, and I was “recipe testing”, I did not cook the vegetables in an organized manner, but fit the different vegetables here and there along with our dinner of stuffed rainbow trout. I was not sure how long the grill would stay hot, so I cooked things together instead of one at a time. Regardless of my cooking organization, I don’t mind a hodgepodge of grilled vegetables because my job was to use up a bunch of vegetables and test out this grilling technique. I call this mission a delicious success, hodgepodge or not. Now, I have a beautiful mess of tasty grilled vegetables ready whenever I want them.
Grilled Vegetables a la Piastra
What I discovered is if you have a cast iron pan or griddle, they create a hot surface to make delicious grilled vegetables, fish and meets. I have yet to test other types of food, but I can’t imagine there is an issue using this technique for shellfish, chicken or steak. Grilling a la piastra or plancha, works particularly well with thin vegetables or sliced vegetables that would normally fall through the spaces on a grill grate. I loved using this technique with thinly sliced zucchini, asparagus, sliced onions, and garlic scapes. Some additional vegetables I want to try are fennel, eggplant and mushrooms.
It is my opinion that grilling bell peppers works better over the open grill grate. They just took longer to get blistered and charred when on the hot surface vs the grill grates. Also corn works better over the open fire and by better, I mean it does not take as long to cook.
Fruit like lemons and oranges grill nicely on a hot plate, but my mind is not made up for peaches. My peach halves stuck to both the grill grate and the cast iron griddle, but this was also the first time I grilled peaches.
How to Grill Vegetables a la Piastra
First, this technique is best using a charcoal grill, but I believe will work with a gas grill, but you won’t get the smoky flavor. Using either grill you must make a hot fire that will last for a while depending on how much food you are grilling. Get the charcoal good and hot, then place the griddle pan or stone on your grate. Heat up your griddle surface for 15 minutes until the surface gets really hot. Close the lid if you are using a gas grill, keep the lid off if you are using a charcoal grill.
Once the grill is hot, oil the grill grate. Do not oil the hot griddle. It is possible that the oil soaked paper towel could burst into flames from the heat of the pan. Instead, generously coat the vegetables and fish in canola oil or other oil with a high smoke point. Arrange the vegetables on the surface of your “griddle” and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the vegetable.
Depending on the surface area of your plate, you will need to cook the vegetables in shifts. Just to be organized, cook the same vegetables all at the same time. Once done, remove the vegetables off the grill and place them spaced out on a tray or plate. If you pile them up, the vegetables will steam and get soggy.
Once done, let the grill plate cool completely before handling. If possible, use tongs and a scrubby to scrape off any stuck on bits while the surface is still hot. It is easier to clean off the charred bits when the plate is still hot, but not at the expense of getting burned.
Equipment for Grilling Vegetables
- You need a grill, preferably a charcoal grill but a gas one will work fine.
- Good quality charcoal without lighter fluid and a charcoal chimney to start the coals.
- BBQ quality oven mitt or glove.
- A cast iron pan or griddle, pizza stone, baking steel or food grade metal or stone surface that can tolerate temperature up to 700°F (371°C). Some pizza stones can only withstand temperatures up to 500°F (260°C) or lower.
- Long metal BBQ tongs without plastic tips.
- A good BBQ spatula.
- Several trays for putting the grilled vegetables on.
- A timer is helpful
What to do with all these grilled vegetables?
Serve grilled vegetables with grilled fish, grilled tofu, grilled chicken or steak, or roast chicken.
Assemble a platter of grilled vegetables, olives, cured meats, cheeses and crusty bread. Dine al fresco for a light dinner or a cocktail party.
Make a light pesto dressing with muddled basil leaves, smashed garlic, olive oil and vinegar and dress the grilled vegetables.
Grilled vegetable sandwiches with crusty bread, basil mayo or sriracha mayo, with Gouda or mozzarella cheese (smoked or plain) and grilled vegetables.
Frittata with grilled vegetables.
Where to buy a La Plancha griddle pan?
The Big Green Egg has a la plancha griddle for the Big Green Egg. It could work on other round grills depending on the size of the pan and your grill. (Not an add)
Lodge makes a round carbon steel griddle pan. They also make griddle pans in different sizes, shapes and materials. (Not an add)
Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style
- red bell pepper
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 red onion sliced into rings about ¼-inch .5 cm thick
- 1-2 leeks sliced in half lengthwise, cleaned and root and dark green parts trimmed off
- 4-6 garlic cloves peel on
- 2 zucchini sliced lengthwise into ¼- inch .5 cm thick slices
- 1 yellow squash sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch .5 cm thick slices
- 12 or more asparagus spears ends trimmed
- 8 garlic scapes optional
- 2 lemons cut in half across the width.
- 1 peach cut in half across the equator optional
- 2 ears of corn husk and silk threads removed optional
- 1 fennel bulb stalks removed and sliced in 1/4 -inch (.5 cm) slices (optional)
- 2-3 TB Canola oil or other oil with a high smoke point
- Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 loaf French bread sliced on a diagonal optional
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 TB Red wine vinegar
- 1 large bunch of basil leaves cleaned and stems removed
Prepare your grill. If using a gas grill, heat to 450°F (230°C). For a charcoal grill, fill a charcoal chimney to the top with charcoal. Rest the chimney on the charcoal grate. Light the chimney according to manufacture instructions. Heat the charcoal until all the coals are very hot. They will look mostly grey with streaks of black throughout each lump or briquette. Put on an BBQ mitt and carefully empty the hot charcoal onto the grate. Add an additional half chimney’s worth of charcoal and spread out over the hot charcoal. Arrange the charcoal over the bottom of the whole grate, but with one side having more charcoal than the other. Place the top grilling grate on the grill and the grill pan over the side with the most charcoal. Heat until the grill pan and grate are good and hot, about 15 minutes. Close lid if using a gas grill. The grill pan is hot when you flick water on the grill pan and it bubbles up and dances on the surface.
While the grill is heating up, add the zucchini slices, asparagus and scapes in a large bowl and drizzle about 1 TB (15 ml) of oil over the prepared vegetables. Use the remaining oil to baste the remaining vegetables. Arrange the onion slices and leek halves on a sheet pan and baste with oil on both sides. Baste some oil over the cut surface of the cut lemons. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of Kosher salt over the vegetables, except the bell peppers.
When the grill is hot, arrange the bell peppers on the side of the grill without the grill pan. Every few minutes, use long tongs to turn the bell peppers over so the whole pepper gets a good char and is blistered, about 15 minutes. Once the bell peppers get black all over, place them in a medium bowl and tightly cover with foil and plastic wrap. Set aside to allow the peppers to steam in the bowl for at least 15 minutes.
If using corn on the cob, place them on the grill grate with the bell peppers. Start the corn when you start the peppers. Cook the corn turning them periodically to get an even char on all sides, about 8-10 minutes total.
Meanwhile, arrange the onion slices, garlic cloves and leeks on the grill pan. Cook for 2 minutes then turn over on the other side. You want the onions and leeks to get soft with a nice sear on both sides. Once done, remove from the grill and place on a tray. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. The garlic is done, when you see some brown spots on the peel and they are soft in the middle.
Place the lemon halves cut side down on the grill or grill pan and cook until a good sear develops on the cut side, about 3-4 minutes.
When there is room on the grill pan, arrange the zucchini and yellow squash slices on the grate and cook about 2-3 minutes per side. You want browned surface on both sides and tender slices of squash with a slight crispness. Place the squash on a tray when done. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to evenly coat.
Cook the asparagus and garlic scapes on the grill plate. Turning each asparagus spear and garlic scape over around 3 minutes per side. You want the asparagus and scapes to get soft but still have some bite. When done, place the vegetables on a tray. Lightly sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat.
If you are grilling the fennel add the fennel slices when there is room on the grill pan and cook 3 minutes per side, or until soft but still firm. Place on a tray when done. Sprinkle on Kosher salt and black pepper and toss to coat.
Add the sliced French bread, if using, on the grill and toast until the bread is golden brown. How long it will take will depend on how hot your fire is at this time.
When all the vegetables are cooked, remove the skins off the bell peppers by rubbing your hands over the charred skin and pulling off the skin until it is all clear. Do not run the bell pepper under water, or you will wash away all that delicious flavor you worked so hard to make. Clean hands and remove the core from each pepper and slice into slices.
Remove the garlic peels off each clove. Take 1-2 grilled garlic cloves and rub it over the toasted French bread. Add any remaining cloves to the vegetable platter.
Arrange all the vegetables on a platter in piles. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, and torn basil. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Grilled garlic scapes taste great minced and placed on top of ricotta cheese toasts. Or, mince and add to the olive oil and fresh basil, then sprinkle over the grilled vegetables.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
What food do you crave on those warm sunny spring days? I crave ice cream, fresh fruit and salads filled with fresh herbs from my garden. One of my favorite combinations is strawberries and basil. The two just compliment each other perfectly. The strawberries taste so bright and fresh and the basil is warm and sunny. After all, what is more enchanting than the classic combination of strawberries and cream? Strawberries, cream and basil, whipped into no-churn ice cream.
Without an ice cream machine, making homemade ice cream is challenging. So, when I discovered Nigella Lawson’s No-churn coffee ice cream recipe last year I was thrilled. At last ,I can make homemade ice cream. I am not sure who came up with the idea first, either Nigella or Martha Stewart, but it doesn’t matter because it is brilliant and now is a universal recipe. No-churn ice cream is so simple and easy to make, even people with ice cream makers will want to make no-churn ice cream.
How to Make Strawberry No-churn Ice Cream
The basic no-churn ice cream recipe is simple with only 3 ingredients, sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream and flavoring like vanilla or freeze-dried coffee granules. However, if you want fruit flavored no-churn ice cream the fruit must steep in the heavy cream for about 20 minutes. It doesn’t take long for the cream to taste like strawberries, but it does take time for it to chill before you can whip it up into fluffy peaks. Flavoring no-churn ice cream with fresh fruit adds extra time to the overall amount of time to make this ice cream, but it is worth it and essential. The strawberry basil cream, or any fruit flavored cream, won’t whip unless it is completely chilled. This process takes about 3 hours resting in the refrigerator.
Additionally, you must plan for 6 hours to properly set and freeze the no-churn ice cream. This is not a dessert for those spontaneous moments, but your anticipation will be rewarded with homemade ice cream. I did notice the longer, as in days, the no-churn ice cream sat in the freezer to harder the ice cream got. I love the texture within the first 24 hours of making it. It is like a cross between soft serve and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream with it is smooth and creamy texture.
Other than allowing enough time for chilling and freezing, no-churn ice cream is easy to make and tastes just as delicious as churned ice cream. First you whip the heavy cream till fluffy with stiff peaks, then gently fold the whipped cream into the condensed milk. You do not need more sweetener because the condensed milk is sweet enough for the whole mix. One other area to watch out for is mashing the strawberries too much. The pulp could affect the texture of the ice cream if there is a lot of strawberry pulp in the cream.
Along with 80 plus food bloggers and Instagramers, on April 25th we are celebrating this spring featuring strawberries #strawberriesarethejam for a social media strawberry party. Strawberries are not quite in season here in New York, but they are bursting open in other parts of the US. After this crazy sprinter I am wrapping myself in sunshine by any means possible. This collaboration is made possible by Rebecca Bloom and Ruth Bloom the mother daughter team of Square Meal Round Table. We shared our seasonal recipes and ideas over this past year following their inspiring seasonal selection. Below my recipe is the list of all the participants in the strawberry party. Please check out what other creative food lovers are making with strawberries.
More Strawberry Inspiration on Lemon Thyme and Ginger
Strawberry Basil No Churn Ice Cream
I love how easy it is to get real strawberry flavor into ice cream just by steeping the berries in cream for several minutes. It is a great technique and an easy way to build up more flavor. I love strawberries and basil together. They pair almost as perfectly as strawberries and cream, No-churn ice cream is so easy and is a great alternative if you do not own an ice cream maker. Adding the strawberry flavor takes some time and the cream must be completely chilled before you can whip it. Infuse the cream and chill it the night before, then make the no-churn ice cream the next morning.
Note: Allow for a minimum of 3 hours to chill the strawberry basil infused cream before whipping.
Makes about 40 oz (1 liter 250 ml)
- 2 cups (500 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1 lb. (453 g) fresh strawberries, stems removed and rough chopped divided
- 3-6 medium size basil leaves see notes
- 1- 14 oz can (396 g) sweetened condensed milk
Infusing the cream
Pour the heavy cream in a medium non-reactive sauce pan. Turn the heat to medium. Add 10 oz (296 g) of fresh strawberries and the basil leaves to the cream. Mash up the strawberries in the cream with a potato masher. Bring the strawberry cream just to the boiling point. Turn off the heat and let the strawberries and basil steep in the cream for 20 minutes. Taste the cream and add more strawberries if you want more strawberry flavor.
Pour the strawberry basil cream through a fine mesh strainer held over a small bowl. Strain out the strawberries and basil leaves from the cream. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cream is completely chilled, about 3 hours. You can prepare this step the day before you make the ice cream.
Making the no-churn ice cream
Pour the sweetened condensed milk in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
Take the chilled cream out of the refrigerator and using a hand-held mixer or a stand mixer beat the cream until fluffy and stiff peaks. Be careful not to over-whip the cream.
If adding chopped strawberries into your ice cream, rough chop about 5 strawberries.
Add a quarter of the whipped cream to the bowl with the condensed mile and fold in to loosen it up. Add the remaining whipped cream to the condensed milk and fold in until completely Incorporated. Be careful not to deflate the cream.
Pour the strawberry basil condensed cream into an 8-inch (20 cm) loaf pan or a 2-quart (2 liter) freezer safe container with a tight-fitting lid. If you are adding fresh strawberries to your ice cream, pour about half of the mixture into the container and scatter some chopped strawberries over the top. Add the remaining cream and sprinkle the remaining strawberries. Take a knife or chop sticks and swirl it through the cream mixture.
Smooth out the top and cover the surface with wax paper or plastic wrap to prevent ice crystals. Freeze for 6 hours or until set. Serve in a bowl with your favorite toppings like chopped pistachios, chocolate sauce, or more strawberries. Or serve in an ice cream cone.
Depending on the size of your basil leaves will depend on how many you need to infuse in the cream. Start with four leaves, then after the cream has steeped for 8 minutes, taste the cream. Adjust the basil with more or less basil leaves if you feel it needs it.
Check out all the great strawberry recipes from all the #strawberriesarethejam participants. All blog posts should be live on April 25th 2018. As this is a collaboration of individuals from around the world the timing could be spotty. If you get a 404 page, try again at a later time. Some of the titles do not have links but you can copy and paste them in your browser. You can follow everyone on Instagram using the #strawberriesarethejam.
Square Meal Round Table’s Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Pavlova
The Cooking of Joy’s Strawberry Matcha Cream Cheese Tart
This Healthy Table’s Strawberry Tahini Shortcake
Flours in Your Hair’s Strawberry Milk Donuts
The Wood and Spoon’s Strawberry Icebox Pie
Smart in the Kitchen’s Rustic Strawberry Galette
The Herb and Spoon’s Strawberry-Jam Filled Brioche Donuts
Better with Biscuit’s Straw “berry” Cobbler
My Kitchen Love’s Strawberry Rhubarb Tart
Sift and Simmer’s Rose Strawberry Hibiscus Mille Crepe Cake
What Great Grandma Ate’s No Bake Strawberry Cheesecake Bars (Paleo, Vegan)
A Modest Feast’s Greek Yogurt With Crispy Quinoa and Roasted Strawberries
Hola Jalapeno’s Strawberry Pink Peppercorn Margarita
Worthy Pause’s Strawberry-Basil Shrub Cocktail
Hot Dishing It Out’s Panna Cotta with Strawberry Jelly
Figs & Flour’s Shrimp Tacos with Strawberry Apricot Salsa
Pie Girl Bakes’ Strawberry Ginger Pie
Crumb Top Baking’s Strawberry Chia Jam Oat Bars
The Gourmandise School’s Strawberry Pistachio Salad
Tiny Kitchen Caper’s Strawberries and Cream Pound Cake
Cook Til Delicious’ Mini Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Ganache
Something New For Dinner’s Watermelon, Tomato and Strawberry Salad with Burrata
A Spicy Perspective’s Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake
Easy and Delish’s Strawberry Brigadeiros
Plays Well with Butter’s Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese, Grilled Chicken, & Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Katherine in Brooklyn’s Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream
Sugar Salt Magic’s Strawberry Mousse Tart
The Healthy Sins’ Coconut Flour Crepes Topped with Fresh Strawberries and Coconut Yogurt
Lemon Thyme and Ginger’s Strawberry Basil No Churn Ice Cream
Jessie Sheehan Bakes’ Strawberry Basil Turnovers
Bavette Meat & Provisions’ Pickled Green Strawberries
Rezel Kealoha’s Apple Cider Rose Poached Strawberries with Thyme Flowers
Made from Scratch’s Roasted Strawberry and Basil Ice Cream
Eat Cho Food’s Strawberry Basil Glazed Donuts
What’s Karen Cooking’s Strawberry Eton Mess
More Icing Than Cake’s Strawberry, Balsamic & Black Pepper Babka
What Annie’s Eating’s Vegan Strawberry + Basil Ice Cream
Fufu’s Kitchen’s Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches
Flotte Lotte’s Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches
Rumbly Tumbly’s Strawberry Scones
Well Seasoned Studio’s Classic Vanilla Layer Cake with Mascarpone Buttercream and Fresh Strawberries
A Small Kitchen in Genoa’s Italian Riviera Strawberries Salad
Maren Ellingboe’s Angel Food Cake with Whipped Cream & Strawberries
Cooking with Cocktail Ring’s Basil Balsamic Strawberry Shortcake
Reencontrándome con la Cocina’s Chocolate Meringue with White Chocolate Mousse and Strawberries
Le Petite Eats’ Strawberry Elderflower Ice Cream Sodas
Clean Plate Club’s Mini Strawberry Bundt Cakes with Lemon Glaze
Just Date Syrup’s Strawberry Date Syrup Oat Crumble
Well Fed Soul’s Strawberry Almond Mascarpone Cake
Marianne Cooks’ Strawberry Madeleines
Food Solutions’ Strawberry Soup (Savory and Sweet)
Champagne and Cookies’ Strawberry & Sesame Whole Wheat Pop Tarts with Strawberry Tahini Glaze
Annie Campbell’s Strawberry Pavlova
Blossom to Stem’s Mezcal Lime Strawberry Pavlova
Cosette’s Kitchen’s Strawberry Shortcake
Ful-Filled’s Lilac Sugar Strawberry Shortcakes with Greek Yogurt Whipped Cream
Babby Girl Yum’s Strawberry Spinach Almond Salad
An Amazing Appetite’s Vanilla Strawberry Tart
Cocoa and Salt’s Strawberry Pistachio Tart
Frosting and Fettuccine’s Strawberry Basil Layer Cake with Strawberry Simple Syrup
Baking the Goods’ Mini Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes
My Berkeley Kitchen’s Strawberry Kale Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
No More Mr. Nice Pie’s Fresh Strawberry Pie
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
During the 70’s and 80’s, Deviled Eggs was a popular appetizer. Many cocktail parties had a tray of these creamy bite size egg nibbles politely passed around on a tray for your convenience. Of course, I was a teenager then, but during my teenage years I made money as a hostess helper where I prepped, cooked, served, and cleaned up at people’s parties. I loved the job because I got to see what people where serving and how they entertained.
For some reason Deviled Eggs lost some popularity in the 90’s. I believe it was because people believed eggs were unhealthy. Fortunately, eggs have made a comeback, and with that so have Deviled Eggs. I love Deviled Eggs and based on the reaction I hear from people outside my home, so do a lot of people. I believe they are a perfect appetizer for a cocktail party. One that is not too rich, are easy to eat while holding a drink, and provide some needed protein to help fill one’s appetite. In general, I believe eggs are comfort food and just like egg salad, deviled eggs have that creamy wholesome comfort I crave.
How to Cook Hard Boiled Eggs for Deviled Eggs
The key to making good deviled eggs is making perfect hard-boiled eggs. Ones that are not rubbery, with cooked but tender yolks, have an even oval shape, and have a shell that is easy to peel off. What I discovered is there are almost as many tricks as there are recipes, with most of them providing inconsistent results. Over the past couple of years, I discovered two techniques for making hard-boiled eggs that are consistently easy to peel and do not get over-coked. No technique is entirely foolproof, but these two techniques are very reliable.
First, according to Food52, warm up the eggs in hot tap water while you wait for the water to boil. Putting eggs straight from the refrigerator into a pot of boiling water causes the shells to crack and give the eggs a misshapen appearance. Warming the eggs for a few minutes helps the egg whites set into their natural oval shape and prevent the shells from cracking.
Second, if you only adapt one of these techniques, this is the one to do whenever you cook hard-boiled eggs. Shock the cooked eggs in ice water for 15 minutes or more just when they finish cooking. In layman’s terms, this technique causes the egg whites to constrict and pull away from the sides of the shell. With everything else being a constant, this one technique produces hard-boiled eggs that are easy to peel.
Also, the myth about younger fresh eggs being hard to peel is true. Older eggs like store-bought or farm fresh eggs that are at least 2-weeks-old are much easier to peel. Other than the shock from the ice bath, the age criteria is the only “egg lore” I found to be consistently correct. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of the best techniques for cooking hard-boiled eggs, read this article from Serious Eats.
If you are making hard-boiled eggs for deviled eggs, make more than you need so if you get a couple of eggs that don’t peel easily or are misshapen, you have extra to choose from. Use up the extra eggs for egg salad or chopped and sprinkled over asparagus with some olive oil.
Deviled Eggs Four Ways
There are endless ways to personalize this classic appetizer and I have provided four variations for you to choose from. First off is the foundation recipe which all the other recipes are a variation from. Each recipe is proportioned using 4 hard-boiled eggs, giving you a total of 8 deviled eggs. The recipe is easily adapted to doubling the amounts. With the egg yolk filling, I look for a smooth consistency with a very slight amount of grain, and a creamy balanced flavor between the mayonnaise, mustard and egg yolks.
From the foundation recipe I built two other variations. The first I made Pickled Deviled eggs with cornichons, a couple of the onions from the bottle, and pickling liquid to the foundation recipe. This added a subtle pickle flavor complimented with some heat from a light sprinkle of hot paprika. If you can’t find cornichons use sweet gherkin pickles or relish
For decadent deviled eggs, I used either white or black truffle oil and slightly adjusted the foundation recipe. If using white truffle oil, it will have a subtler flavor, but it is still delicious. The egg filling gets a double dose of truffles from truffle salt and truffle oil, which I am lucky enough to have both on hand. However, if you only have truffle oil, you will still have the truffle essence, albeit a subtler one. If you are fortunate enough to have a real truffle, mince up a sliver and add it to the egg yolks or use as a garnish. Italian truffles are not available now (early Spring), but usually become available for a couple of months in the summer, and in the winter.
The recipe for spinach deviled eggs is from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything. He made them sound so good I just had to try them out. He is right they are delicious with a great flavor of spinach and Romano cheese. The filling has a dark green color which was different from what I expected. (I thought they would have a pale green color.) Yet, I believe they will surprise and delight your guests as something delicious and unexpected.
His recipe calls for Parmesan Cheese, but I prefer the sharpness of Romano Cheese. If you wish, use Parmesan cheese, but make sure it is the Parmesan Reggiano from Italy.
Pair Deviled Eggs with any of these Appetizers
Deviled Eggs are a timeless appetizer perfect for a cocktail party. The foundation recipe is a traditional recipe made with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and some hot paprika. All the variations start from this traditional recipe with some tweaks. Listed below are four variations to choose from to suit your mood and preference. All of them are delicious.
The Spinach Deviled Eggs is from Mark Bittman's cookbook, How to Cook Everything.
Deviled eggs are best eaten the day they are made. Assemble right before serving.
- 4 hard-boiled eggs
- 2 ½ TBS mayonnaise
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- Pinch of Kosher salt
- A few rounds of fresh ground black pepper
- A couple of dashes of hot paprika to taste and garnish
- Dill for garnish only for the foundation recipe
Use a sharp paring knife, cut the hard-boiled eggs in half lengthwise. To make a clean cut, wipe off the knife between each egg. Scoop out the yolks and place into a small bowl. Reserve the egg whites. Mash the egg yolks with a fork until they look like small pebbles and almost a paste. Add the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and mix and mash together with your fork until it gets as smooth as you can make it by hand. Taste the mixture and adjust with any of the ingredients to get the consistency you wish. Sprinkle a couple of dashes of hot paprika, or sweet paprika if you do not want the spice.
Spoon or pipe the egg yolk filling into the body of the cooked egg whites. Garnish with a tip of dill and a dusting of paprika and black pepper.
Serve immediately or refrigerate covered in plastic wrap until needed. Deviled eggs are best eaten soon after they are made.
Cornichon Deviled Eggs
Follow the directions of the foundation recipe for deviled eggs. Once the egg yolks are mixed and add 4-6 diced cornichons and two diced pickled onions from the cornichons jar. Add about a half teaspoon and up to 1 teaspoon of the juice from the jar of cornichons. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon the deviled egg filling into the body of the hard-boiled eggs and garnish with sliced cornichon and a dash of smoked paprika.
Poor Man’s Truffle Deviled Eggs
Use the foundation recipe, except use only 1 ½ tablespoons of mayonnaise and add one tablespoon of white or black truffle olive oil. Use the same amount of Dijon mustard, but add a pinch of truffle salt instead of Kosher salt. (Optional, add 1 TB of butter.) Mix until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pipe or spoon the egg yolk mixture into the egg white bodies. Garnish with fresh ground black pepper and drizzle with truffle oil.
Spinach Deviled Eggs
Steam 3 oz (81 g) of fresh spinach (cleaned and stems removed) for 5 minutes. When cool plop into a flour sack kitchen towel and squeeze out as much water as you can. Or put in a fine mesh strainer and press out as much liquid as possible. Place the squeezed spinach on a cutting board and mince several times over. In a small bowl mash up the egg yolks and add the spinach, 1 ½ TB mayonnaise, and 1 TB extra virgin olive oil, 1 TB of slightly softened butter, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, less than a ¼ tsp. Mash everything together until smooth. Add ¼ cup, (65-70 ml) finely grated Romano Cheese and stir to completely mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pipe or spoon the filling into the hard-boiled egg whites. Garnish with thinly sliced pickled peppadews.
Hard Boiled Eggs
- 1-6 eggs
- 3 quarts (3 liters) water
Fill a pot large enough to hold the eggs without crowding them with 3 quarts of water. Turn on the heat to high. Bring the pot to a boil.
While the water is heating up on the stove, add the eggs to a bowl filled with hot water. Let the eggs warm up in the bath. This step help prevent the egg shells from cracking as they cook and maintain an oval shape.
Carefully, add the eggs one at a time to the pot of boiling water. A large slotted spoon or spider are great for this job, and cook for one minute. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for 10- 12 minutes. 10 minutes will give you eggs that are cooked but have a slightly soft middle spot in the yolk. 12 minutes will give you eggs where the yolks are cooked but not dried out.
Just before the eggs finish boiling, fill a large bowl part way with ice then fill it with cold water. Set aside.
When the eggs are finished cooking, immediately remove them from the pot and add them into the bowl with the ice water. Use a slotted spoon to lift the eggs out of the hot water before you add them into the ice water. Let them cool in the ice water for 15 minutes or longer, adding more ice if necessary to keep the water cold.
To peel the eggs, gently tap the egg against the side of the sink to make cracks all over the surface, then roll the egg back and forth on the counter’s surface. Starting at the wide bottom end of the egg, peel away the shell under cold running tap water. Repeat until all the eggs are peeled. Place the peeled eggs in a bowl of cold water and keep in the refrigerator uncovered until needed.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
I find it amazing that I can talk about my history and memories not just in a couple of decades, but in several decades. Over a half century to be exact. That sounds old to me, but I don’t feel that old. It is a momentous feeling to think about a friendship that is over 50 years old or remember an experience that happened 30 years ago. Even my food memories hold a place in my archives situated between remembrances of day-to-day life and momentous occasions. One such food memory that stands out is the first time I ate beef empanadas over 30 years ago.
It couldn’t be any clearer than if it happened yesterday. The sweet and savory flavors of the beef filling warmed my heart and surprised me. At the time I was pregnant with my first child, so this might anchor my taste memory. The sweet raisins made the savory meat filling come alive with each bite. I’ve had braised beef filled with raisins before, like in braciole, but raisins in beef empanadas are an addictive combination. I love it and often crave this Mediterranean flavor. Unfortunately, finding beef empanadas with the sweet and savory meat filling is more difficult than you’d think.
Finally, to satisfy my craving for sweet and savory beef empanadas, I decided to undertake the task of making them at home. What I learned during this process is, just like pot sticker dough, corn tortillas, or pie dough, the process of making the dough is easy in theory and practice. Yet, getting the dough’s texture just right takes some additional practice and helpful suggestions from experienced hands. Fortunately, there are two options: you can make empanada dough or buy it ready-made and shaped.
I tested both options and feel confident recommending buying the empanada dough if you don’t want to make it. I also believe buying pastry might be the difference between making empanadas this weekend or placing it on your bucket list. Believe me I get it, after-all it has taken me 30 years to finally make empanadas for myself. According to my recipe from Bon Appetit, Goya is the recommended brand. Find frozen empanada dough in the frozen food section with other frozen Goya products. They come in packages of 10 pre-cut pastry discs. Another bonus is they are vegetarian/vegan friendly.
Don’t let me stop you from making empanada dough if that is your desire. Click, this link for a recipe at laylita.com. Included with the recipe is a helpful video showing how to assemble the empanadas. I made this recipe by hand, with butter and with a flour mixture of 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour. Empanada pastry is different from pie dough in that it is not flaky, and is supposed to absorb the juices from the filling keeping a crumbly texture.
As for empanada filling, anything goes. There are many traditional fillings from South American and Central American countries, and within these countries each region has another variation. I am not sure of the origin of my favorite beef, raisin and Spanish olive filling so I feel at liberty to play around with the seasoning. The warm spices like cumin and cinnamon give the beef a lot of depth of flavor. Feel free to substitute it with ground pork, ground lamb, ground turkey, or shredded chicken. If you want a vegetarian empanada, substitute the beef with the filling from Swiss Chard and Feta Stuffed Pastry, or make this stuffed pastry as an option. I wonder how my Ratatouille made with Fennel and Chickpeas recipe would taste encased in empanada pastry?
My empanada recipe is slightly adapted from Argentinian Beef Empanadas from Bon Appetit, February 2017. I added additional spices and slightly adjusted their technique.
Where did the time go, and why did I wait so long to make beef empanadas? Beef empanadas are delicious either using homemade or purchased pastry dough. I know Joe is excited about having a freezer full of beef empanadas at his disposal. They make great snacks, appetizers, picnic food, or to eat for any meal of the day. Serve them plain or with chimichurri sauce.
3 Tips for Making the Perfect Beef Empanadas
- To ensure your empanadas have a tight seal and don’t explode in the oven, assemble the empanadas when the filling is at a cool room temperature or chilled. When the filling is cool there is less liquid oozing over the pastry.
- Second, when assembling the empanadas, make sure the filling stays compact in the center and does not roll out to the edge. Making a tight seal along the edge is important to ensure the empanadas do not leak.
- Third, once the empanadas are all assembled, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to an hour. This chilling time allows the dough to relax and secure the seal. Of all the tips to remember, chilling the empanadas before you bake them is the most important.
Sweet and Savory Beef Empanadas
- 3 TB olive oil divided
- 1.5 lbs (750 g) ground beef
- 2 onions chopped
- 2 red bell peppers chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 3 TB ground cumin
- 2 TB sweet paprika
- 1 TB dried oregano
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground clove
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) chicken stock
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt plus more for seasoning
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) raisins
- 1/2 cup Spanish green olives pitted and rough chopped
- 3 packages Puff pastry dough for Turnovers/Empanadas* preferably Goya or homemade empanada dough
- You will need 2-3 large rimmed sheet pans. If you only have 2 sheet pans bake the empanadas over two batches.
If you are making homemade empanada dough , make it first then refrigerate it while you make the meat filling.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a12-inch (29 cm) skillet (or Dutch Oven), at medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the meat and cook until browned with no visible pink spots. While the meat cooks, break it up using the side of a wooden spoon. Season with a pinch, about ¼ tsp, of Kosher salt and stir to mix.
Remove the ground beef using a slotted spoon and place on a plate and loosely cover aluminum foil. Reserve for later.
Lower the heat to medium then add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the chopped onions and bell peppers. Stir to evenly coat and cook until the onions and peppers have softened, but not browned, about 15 minutes. Stir frequently so the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add the minced garlic, stir and cook for about one minute.
Add the browned meat and any juices, bay leaf, cumin, paprika, oregano, ground cinnamon, ground clove and cayenne pepper to the meat mixture and stir to evenly mix. Cook for about one minute.
Add the chicken stock, sugar and a 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt, and several rounds of freshly ground black pepper. Stir the mix, scraping along the bottom of the pan with your spoon to loosen up any browned bits. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the liquid is evaporated.
Stir in the raisins and olives then transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper or sugar if needed. Remove the bay leaf. Allow the filling to cool down to a cool room temperature or cover and refrigerate for about an hour or more. The beef filling can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept in an air tight container in the refrigerator.
Assemble the Empanadas
Remove the defrosted purchased dough, or homemade dough, from the refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
For the homemade dough, follow the instructions given with your recipe.
Pre-heat the oven for 375°F / 190°C and place the racks in the upper and lower third position in the oven. Line two large sheet pans with parchment paper.
Fill a glass or small bowl with water and keep at your work area.
Place 6 pastry discs on a work surface. To prevent the pastry from sticking to your work surface keep the paper divider under the empanada pastry.
Add 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each disc. Dab your finger in the water and paint the edge of one pastry with water. Bring the two sides together by picking up the center points of the top and bottom of the pastry circle making a half moon shape. Starting at the center, pinch the edges together and move your fingers down both sides, pinching along the way to seal the edges.
Lay the empanada flat on the work surface and run your fingers over the mounded part of the pastry to work out any air around the filling. Press down to secure the edges. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork.
Place the empanada on a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet and continue until all the filling is used up. Loosely drape the assembled empanadas with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, so they do not dry out.
Each sheet pan holds about 12 empanadas. When one sheet pan reaches capacity, loosely cover the empanadas with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour. Continue assembling the remaining empanadas and refrigerate for 30 minutes – 1 hour.
Remove the empanadas from the refrigerator and baste each empanada with an egg yolk and water wash. Bake for 25-35 minutes, rotating the sheet pans front to back and top to bottom, half way through. The empanadas are done when they have a nice golden brown color and slightly darker around the edges.
Do ahead note: Unbaked empanadas will keep for 3 months in the freezer. Freeze them on a sheet pan until they are frozen solid, then transfer them into freezer bags and keep in the freezer.
Goya makes puff pastry dough for turnovers/empanadas. They are found in the freezer section of your grocery store with other Goya products. This product should not be confused with puff pastry dough found in the dessert freezer section of the store.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.