During my trip to Spain, Walter and I visited the north of Spain – San Sebastián, Bilbao, Santander – mostly part of Basque Country. I was a little apprehensive at first because even though I have always heard it is super beautiful, the Basque Country does not have the best reputation of safety.
I am here to attest that I never, ever felt unsafe while traveling in the Basque Country of Spain. The coast of the Cantabric Sea is beautiful and is something that needs to be enjoyed and visited by all. We wish we had more time to stay and visit with even more leisure than we actually did.
One of the fascinating things about this region is it’s in the path of the Camino de Santiago – the Saint James Trail. The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage made by the followers and believers of St. James. People walk from Roncesvalles in Navarra to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia to visit and honor the remains of the Apostle St. James, buried at the Cathedral. People take about 1 month to walk the whole trail, about 800kms, staying in posadas or places specially designated for the pilgrims.
Walter and I were taken by the Camino and its pilgrims. The scallop shell is the symbol of the Camino and you can see tiles marking the way in many of the cities we visited. Partly because of the religious significance and partly because the adventure and our love for Spain and travel, Walter and I decided we would definitely make the Camino de Santiago, specially on a Holy Compostellan Year , which is whenever July 25 falls on a Sunday. I just learned this will be NEXT YEAR, in 2010.
On this year, I was told you’re given a “passport” that is stamped at several intervals to testify you’re indeed a pilgrim doing the trail. When you arrive at the Cathedral in Santiago, you get the final stamp and your country of origin is mentioned during the daily mass at noon to bless and celebrate the pilgrims. I really want to do that!!!!
And what does this have to do with food, you might be asking yourself? Isn’t this a blog about vegetarian food???
When watching my other favorite Spanish cooking and traveling show, Spain on the Road Again with Mario Batali and Gwenyth Paltrow, they mentioned how these Empanadas Gallegas were super popular by the pilgrims because they are very portable, they are very nutritious, they keep well without refrigeration and best of all delicious. I just have always seen them in the Spanish panaderías here in Puerto Rico since forever, but have not had one in many years because they’re made mostly with tuna or chorizo…
So in honor of our upcoming trip to the Camino de Santiago, here’s my interpretation of an Empanada Gallega…
GALICIAN EMPANADA / EMPANADA GALLEGA
1 sheet of puffed pastry, thawed on the counter for 30 minutes or in the fridge overnight 1 medium onion, sliced thinly About ½ cup of TuNo soy-based product 1 tsp of tomato paste 1 garlic clove, minced About 3 tbs of white wine or apple cider vinegar 1 tsp of Spanish pimentón 5-6 Spanish olives stuffed with pimientos – sliced 1 bay leaf Spanish Olive oil Salt and Pepper to taste About 1 tbs of whole wheat breadcrumbs 1 tbs of buttermilk or butter Some bench flour – whole wheat preferably…
- Pre-heat oven to 375 F.
- In a small skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, onions and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes until the onions start to soften and become a bit translucent. Add the bay leaf to season.
- Add the crumbled pieces of TuNo and let it cook all together. TuNo usually comes frozen, but you will not need to defrost it for this application. Just let it defrost and melt in the pan with the onions.
- Add the tomato paste, pimentón and the vinegar to the pan and let it combine well. Add the olives and season with salt and pepper. Let it cook for a few minutes and turn the stove off. Set it aside to cool off for while you work with the dough.
- I cover the baking sheet of my toaster oven using a layer of aluminum foil and then parchment to ease up on the cleaning.
- The puffed pastry usually comes folded in thirds, I don’t even bother to unfold it… dust it with a little bit of whole-wheat flour, cut it into two halves and flatten it out using a rolling pin. Roll the two halves of puff pastry one a bit larger than the other… Place the larger half onto the baking sheet lined with parchment.
- Add the breadcrumbs to the onion/TuNo mixture and remove the bay leaf. Transfer the mixture carefully onto the puff pastry leaving about a ½ inch border all the way around. Try to flatten the mixture a bit to make it an even layer.
- Cover the filling with the smaller layer of rolled pastry. Bring the edges of the puff pastry together folding one onto the other and securing by pinching with the tines of a fork.
- Brush the top layer of pastry with the melted butter or buttermilk, whichever you have on hand. Make 2 slits on the top for the steam to escape.
- Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and smells delicious.
- Take it out of the oven carefully and out of the baking sheet to cool off a bit into a cutting board.
I just hope we can find a vegetarian version of this empanada like this along the Santiago Trail… what do you think??
Getting a peak inside the filling… yum!