Thursday, February 14, 2013

Green Banana Empanadas Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan Options

 photo 100_6552_zps9d1da3be.jpgI was visiting my friend Debbie today with my kids, and while I was there, my kids helped themselves to bananas from her shelf. "Make sure you take bananas from the bottom, those are ripe- the ones on the top aren't," she warned them. Debbie told me that her kids, roughly the same age as mine, often take bananas from the shelf, without paying attention to see if they are ripe, open them up, take a bite, and get grossed out by the chalky taste of the unripe bananas. They end up going in the garbage, which is a waste, but Debbie felt that that was inevitable, because nothing could be done with those open green bananas that wouldn't ripen?

I told Debbie about making fried green bananas, a really yummy and easy thing to do with unripe bananas, and she liked the idea. I mentioned that you can use green bananas in place of plantains in any recipes that call for plantains. O, a Puerto Rican friend who was there also shared that she used to have a lasagna type dish made with fried plantain and ground beef and tomato sauce- you could use green bananas for that as well. And then I remembered a recipe my friend D shared with me recently- gluten free vegan empanadas made out of plantains- I had wanted to try that recipe with green bananas as well, but haven't been buying bananas much lately because they haven't been too cheap.
But then later on today I got a bunch of bananas (reduced rack quality) free, some of them green bananas that needed to be used up ASAP because they wouldn't ripen as they were partially open.
Perfect- why not try out those empanadas?

Empanadas are filled dough pockets, similar to pierogi, usually fried, but sometimes baked. Empanadas sometimes are filled with meat or vegetables or cheese, etc... They can be made vegan or not, sweet or savory. Often empanadas are made with a wheat dough outer, but there are recipes where the outside is made out of mashed plantains.
I had to change up the recipe somewhat because I was using green bananas instead of plantain, but they worked beautifully. I made them gluten free, but you can make them with gluten if you like.

This recipe is very versatile- its the concept that is important more than the exact recipe and details.

Green Banana Empanadas Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan Options

Dough Ingredients
6-7 green bananas, or 2 cups of mashed green bananas
Approximately 1 1/2 cups flour- I used brown rice flour, you can use wheat or spelt or any other flour if you have no need to be gluten free, and this would probably work well with potato starch or arrowroot starch, depending on your special dietary needs.
1/2 cup ground flax seeds or 1 egg (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling Ingredients
Anything "Mexican" or Latin American cooking style can go inside, so long as it's cooked first. If you're into fusion cooking, you can experiment with other types of fillings as well.
I used one time- tomatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic, cumin, homemade chili powder, tomato paste, chicken gizzards, salt. You can mix and match this with other similar veggies like green peppers, cactus paddles, adding cilantro or oregano. You can replace the chicken gizzards with any other type of meat or poultry or with beans, or just leave it out entirely.
A different type I used red beans cooked Caribbean style.
You can use refried beans, chili, Cuban black beans, etc...
The most important thing is that the filling not be liquidy- if it is, strain it through a colander to take out the liquid.
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This is one of the fillings I used.
1. Peel the green bananas, and either mash with a fork or blend in the food processor, until completely mashed. The more green the bananas being used, the better. If you can mash with a fork instead of a food processor, it's better, because it'll get less gummy and need less flour.

2. Add flour and maybe an egg or ground flax seed. If using ground flax seeds, you'll need less flour, if using eggs, you'll need to use a bit more. Add flour until the dough is no longer wet, and instead is a little bit sticky.

3. Refrigerate for half an hour or so. The dough should get less sticky after refrigerated.

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4. Take a piece of parchment paper, and oil it very well.

5. Take a golf ball sized piece of the dough,

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and fold the piece of parchment paper in half so the dough is being rolled out into a flat pancake between two sides of oiled parchment paper.

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Don't roll it too thin, but somewhat thin is good.

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6. Carefully pick up the top layer of parchment paper, being careful not to rip the dough when lifting the paper.

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7. Place the filling in the center, off to the side, of the dough circle.

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8. Pick up the parchment paper, picking up the dough circle with it, to help you fold over one half of the dough circle to reach the over and cover the filling.

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Press down the edges to seal.

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Carefully lift up the parchment paper that it doesn't rip the empanada dough. If it does rip, that's ok as well.

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9. Fry in oil on medium/high heat until golden...

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...Or bake in the oven until solid.

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 I prefer the fried method. To get the empanada into the pan or onto the oven tray in one piece, bring it over on the parchment paper, and flip the parchment paper over so that the empanada is down in the pan/on the tray, and then slowly, carefully, lift off the parchment paper.

10. Repeat this for all the rest of the empanadas.

11. Serve either plain, or with some Central American style dipping sauce, like salsa, guacamole, enchilada sauce, etc...

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Cross section of the empanada.
Ever have empanadas? Ever cook with green bananas? Does this seem like a recipe you'd try out?

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