Monday, April 18, 2011

CSA 29: Mustard Green Empanada

The U.S. is known as a cultural melting pot, New York City especially. And within NYC, it’s Queens that holds rank as most culturally diverse. It been said "if a place exists, someone from there lives in Queens". And they probably have a restaurant, or at least a bodega that imports products from their country of origin.

I've lived in NYC my whole life, and the vast majority of that was in Queens, where I still reside. I love my city like a family member; it is so a part of who I am. And I do especially identify with Queens (although while I do have at times a bit of an accent, I reject the annoying Queens speech habit of constantly asking & then answering questions to make a point. Why? Because it’s moronic).

And one of the best things about culturally diverse, working class Queens, is the food. I grew up exposed to all sorts of interesting foods, from all sorts of places and oh, how I love most of them. I often remark there are only 3 things I won't eat: green beans, eyeballs and olives. There's stuff I don't prefer of course, and combinations or preparations I tend to not like, but pretty much I'll try anything edible at least once. Just last week at an almost no-English Korean restaurant I ate unidentifiable sausage accompanied by slices of beef intestine and heart. Korean food is chock full of delicious and often unidentifiable vegetables as well, last week's dinner no exception.

Recently I used the last of my frozen CSA greens, blanched & frozen last autumn. I had 2 cups of mustard greens and limited other ingredients on hand. I felt like I was channeling Chopped, the show where chefs are given a basket of random ingredients and challenged to make a meal of them. So I made what can only, in my opinion be described as a Queens fusion dish. Channeling the cultural influences found along Northern Blvd, the main thoroughfare that runs east and west of my home, I made Greek inspired empanadas. They were awesome. A juxtaposition of Europe and the Americas, healthful and decadent, easy but multi-step.

I used low fat feta crumbles and pre-made empanada disks but I suppose one could make their own dough. And while I used mustard greens, certainly any greens (chard, spinach, turnip greens, etc) can be substituted, just make sure if they start out frozen that you defrost them but don’t add them to the egg hot, otherwise you’ll end up with bits of scrambled egg in your empanada (scrambled egg empanadas are awesome, just perhaps not in this recipe).

Mustard Green Pie Empanada
2 cups chopped, cooked mustard greens, cooled
1 egg
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1 tbsp diced onion
Salt & pepper
3 empanada disks (defrosted enough to work with)
Oil for frying

Sautee the onions in a touch of the oil for a few minutes to soften. Put aside for a moment to allow to cool. Heat your oil.

In a small bowl mix the egg, greens, feta, seasoning and onion together well.
Arrange your disks on a work surface. Using tongs to help avoid excess moisture, divide the greens among the disks. Pinch them shut, allowing any renegade excess liquid to drip out before making the final pinch. Deep fry until golden brown, and then allow to cool & drain on a cloth.


(For best enjoyment, perhaps try some Queens-centric music as an accompaniment. I tend towards rock like The Ramones and KISS but certainly other classic pop genres have also hailed from mighty Queens, such as Louis Armstrong of jazz fame, folk rockers Simon & Garfunkle, and rap/hip-hop trend setters LL Cool J and Run DMC, to the more recent American Idol hopeful Pia Toscano.)

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