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ImageYou must be asking, dear reader, “Why Argentinian food in a blog about food in Israel?” And my answer is, “Because I live with an Argentinian Oleh Chadash (Congrats Professional Eater!).”  But OK, I understand that this might not be sufficient to explain the general connection between Argentina and Israel.

The way I see it, Israel is to a certain extent a nation of immigrants. Israel’s stated purpose is to serve as a country that all Jews may live in, no matter their nationality. Thus, it strongly encourages new immigrants from the Jewish diaspora. Because of this, ‘Israeli food’ is actually a combination of many different cuisines and includes anything from traditional Ashkenazi Kugel, to Ethiopian Injera. It’s not all just pitas and hummus, you guys.

Since its birth as a state in 1948 about 67,000 Argentinians* have immigrated to Israel. If you meet a Spanish speaker on the streets of Tel Aviv, probably 9 times out of 10, he/she will be Argentinian. So lets eat some empanadas!

*For more information about the nationalities of immigrants to Israel. See the interesting chart here.

ImageThe original recipes are here (dough) and here (filling).
A Note on Dough: If you do not want to make the dough from scratch, you can buy it in America in the frozen section labeled as empanada dough/disks. In Israel, I believe that frozen “batzek parich” (בצק פריך) is a suitable substitute.

Ingredients for Dough: makes 8-10 empanadas

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
100 gr. (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Directions:

Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. If using your fingers, make sure to use only the tips and not the palm of your hand, as this will prevent the butter from melting excessively.

Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.)

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Dough after kneading and ready for refrigeration.

Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.

ImageIngredients for Filling:

2 hard-boiled large eggs, cut crosswise into 10 thin slices
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
375 gr. ground beef chuck (about 3/4 of a frozen package)
2 tablespoons raisins (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped olives
1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice, drained, reserving 2 tablespoons juice, and chopped
salt and pepper

1 egg, beaten

A Note on Baking vs. Frying: For me, baking is a healthier, easier option than frying, but it results in a less crisp empanada. If you want to fry the empanadas, add 4 cups of vegetable oil to your ingredients list and fry them at 360° F until golden.

Directions:

Set oven to 200° C (425° F).

Cook onion in olive oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until yellow. Add garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in beef and cook, breaking up lumps with a fork, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.

Add raisins, olives, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and tomatoes with reserved juice, then cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced but mixture is still moist, about 5 minutes. Spread on a plate and refrigerate to cool completely.

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Filling mixture before liquid is reduced.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough into 5 inch circles using a cookie cutter, bowl, or glass. Continue gathering the excess dough, rolling it out, and cutting in circles until you have 8-10 prepared circles. During this process, try to use flour sparingly as too much will change the texture of the dough. While you are cutting out more circles, you may lay prepared circles on plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to use them. At this stage, you may also freeze the dough between layers of plastic wrap to use at another time.

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Empanada dough circles

Once you are done preparing your dough, lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on a dampened work surface (to help keep plastic in place), then roll out an empanada disk on plastic wrap to measure about 6 inches. Place 3 tablespoons meat mixture on disk and top with 2 slices of egg. Moisten edges of disk with water and fold over to form a semicircle, then crimp with a fork. Make more empanadas in the same manner.

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Empanada folded over and crimped

Place the prepared empanadas on a baking sheet covered in non-stick baking paper and brush tops with reserved egg.  Bake about 10 minutes in oven until lightly browned.

Now pat yourself on the back for all of that hard work, and enjoy!

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