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MEalVOLUTION part II: Adapting domestic cuisine overseas

I’m adopting a new style of cooking while living in Argentina which is, in a word, Spanglish. I’m taking elements from my homeland and new province and melding them together. After all, what could be more American than that? 🇺🇸🥧🇦🇷🥟

We often hear about authentic,  international dishes being “Americanized.” I used to believe that this concept was to make said meals more suitable for American palates. Now, after having some experience cooking in a foreign land, I believe that these adaptations were more out of necessity in adjusting familiar flavor profiles to locally available ingredients. Some examples of these mealvolutions (yes, I’m making this word a thing) that I personally love to eat in the US are queso, fajitas, chicken parmesan, spaghetti and meatballs, the Cuban sandwich and sesame chicken. 🧀🇲🇽🍝🇮🇹🥪🇨🇺🍛🇨🇳 

Speaking of sesame chicken, a funny story comes to mind which may also serve to illustrate my point. I visited a childhood friend who was living in Vancouver during my college years. She was married to a man of Asian descent whose family owned a Chinese restaurant in the city. Her husband took us by there one day to grab a bite and say hello to everyone. This was after the lunch rush so several of his people were seated together around a table eating. 

His uncle engaged me in conversation by asking what was my favorite Chinese dish to which I replied “sesame chicken.” Everyone stopped eating and just stared. It was so quiet you could here a chop stick drop.🥢😦His Uncle suddenly exclaimed, “sesame chicken is not real Chinese food!” He started laughing and his whole family joined in unison. I could feel my face turn beet red and I just kind of stood there awkwardly, contemplating my next move after committing this apparent foodie faux pas. 🤷‍♀️ 

He disappeared into the kitchen and promptly returned with a steaming bowl of Hot and Sour soup which he presented to me with pride. I cried after my first spoonful. Tears from joy but also from heat! The soup was spicy as heck but sooooooo delicious.🌶 I mean, truly life changing. 😇🎺😋💛 I had her husband bring me the heavenly hot liquid three more times that week.🥡 That is a dish that I will never forget. The robust broth was so rich and complex. The vegetables and tofu were so fresh and flavorful. The spicy heat was challenging but also addictive. I simply could not get enough. Yep, hot and sour soup just got added to my culinary to do list. ✅🇨🇦🇨🇳🍲 

Empanadas perfectly embody the spirit of a mealvolution. They are considered a food staple in Argentina due to their portability and all-purpose nature. They are readily available in grocery stores, corner markets, gas stations and specialty shops. I’ve tasted a variety so far to include spinach, corn with white sauce, cheese and onion, potato, chicken and veggie, carne (hubby’s fave), pork and pineapple (my fave) and ham and cheese (baby’s fave). They are a great vehicle to incorporate leftovers. If you can dream it, you can fill it!👍 I’ve made ham and cheese for baby which were good dipped in honey mustard. I tried making a carne pizza mashup but the ingredients weren’t quite there yet.🍕🥟🧠⛈📝 

Before embarking on my next empanada fiesta, I wanted to know more about it’s history. I performed a rudimentary search online and discovered that it’s name and origin derive from the empanar in Spain which means to wrap in bread. Additionally, it’s roots go back to Arab cuisine and further still to Greece, circa before Christ! Did you follow all of that? Here’s a recap: Greek bougatsa beget Arab fatays who beget Spanish empanadas which were then introduced to Argentina. 

Empanadas are prevalent in many Latin American countries that produce their own unique versions. Additionally, there are variations sprinkled around the globe to include the Philippines, Italy (panzerotti), Cape Verde (pastel), Belize (panades) and Bangladesh (Kushi pita). The empanada is also akin to the turnover family with distant cousins such as the British pasty, the Asian samosa and the Russian pirozhki. Do North American hand pies count? I vote yes! I’m sure that there are many more renditions that I am leaving out. Perhaps I should travel to each individual land to personally try each one and write then write a book about it? 💡📖🤫 

I certainly intend to sing empanada’s praises when I return home. In fact, I’ve already planned to host empanada fry’s for several family members and my bestie. 🥟🍽🥳 Even though empanadas may not exactly be commonplace in the USA, they have reached areas with larger populations such as New York City, New Jersey, San Antonio, Miami and Los Angeles. 

This empanada journey has made me hungry so let’s get back in the kitchen! I have prepared a sweet and savory style that can be enjoyed for dinner and dessert. Each recipe is cost effective and simply delicious! The pineapple barbecoa was inspired by my love of salt and sweet combos. The apple tarta is a stripped down adaptation of Delish’s apple pie empanadas. Tarta is also Spanish for pie and sounds as pretty as it tastes. I chose to bake instead of fry because I’m not that brave yet. 😯 See below for recipes. Thanks for reading and don’t hesitate to share your favorite empanada flavor profiles in the comments. I’m always looking for new foodie inspiration. Comer con gusto!✌️💜🍴

Pineapple barbecoa empanadas: yields 5

*You will need: 1 barbecoa seasoned pork chop cut into small cubes, 3 pineapple rings diced into tidbits, 1 egg wash, empanada wrappers 

To prepare: Marinate a small pack of pork chops with barbecoa seasoning packet, 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup of oil for a minimum of 5 hours. Bake pork chops at 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit) for 25 minutes. You can do this the day before and repurpose the leftovers. Once cool, cut the chop into small cubes. Place empanada wrapper on baking sheet and brush egg wash on one end. Place chop and pineapple pieces in the middle, fold over and seal with a fork. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes or until just brown on the top.

Tip: If you are feeling saucy, dip them in some spicy bbq for a little extra kick. 🥾 

Apple tarta: yields 3

You will need:1 Granny Smith Apple, 1 T butter, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 T of sugar, egg wash, 1 T of cinnamon sugar mixture, 1 pinch of salt, empanada wrappers (I omitted the vanilla after realizing that it was past it’s prime 🤦‍♀️)

To prepare: Peel, core and chop apple into bite sized pieces. Melt butter in pan and add apple, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Let mixture cook down for approximately ten minutes, stirring periodically. Set aside to cool, lay empanada wrappers on baking sheet and brush the bottom edge of one side with egg wash. Spoon apple filling in the middle, fold over and seal with a fork. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Place in freezer for about half an hour until firm. Remove, brush tops with egg wash and then dust with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes or  until reaching a golden hue. 

Tip: Top with dollop of cream (ice or whipped) if you’re feeling extra indulgent. They’re also fabulous with coffee for breakfast! 🍏🥟☕️ 

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Mood Ring Kitchen

I’m a self teaching home cook and aspiring foodie entrepreneur. I enjoy coming up with creative ways to prepare flavorful food such as snacks, desserts and everything in between. Cooking is a way for me to challenge myself and satisfy curiosities about different ingredients.

The hope is to produce something thoughtful, memorable or every once in a while maybe even wonderful. I enjoy following my “gut” and exploring new recipes that can be comforting, exciting and nourishing. Above all else, I enjoy exploring the emotions surrounding food and writing about those experiences. 😝👩‍🍳👩‍💻

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