Sunday, March 11, 2012

Greek Lamb and Olive Empanadas

Lately I've been feeling a bit jaded about food, which is odd, since food is one of my favorite parts of being alive. It just seems like I'm in a food rut, I have my go-to meals that I make at home and the things that I order when I eat out. I think I realized I had a problem when I had dinner with a friend at a local restaurant that I hadn't been to in over a year, and the server didn't even allow me to order, he just asked if I was having the Crepas Poblanas. I was. That's the only thing I ever order there, even when I went several times a month. Eventually I got to the point where I'd eaten them so many times, I didn't want to see another one, so I stopped going.

All that is just a rather long-winded way of saying that I need to re-invent food to keep it interesting to make and eat. I don't think I'm the only one that feels that way, look at molecular gastronomy, that's really pushing the way we think about food. Or all of the new fusion cuisines that are popping up - there is a Asian-Mexican food truck in Atlanta. I figure if they can make Korean BBQ tacos, there isn't any reason why I can't make Greek lamb and olive empanadas.

I have been playing around with recipe ideas ever since I saw that Lindsay Olives was sponsoring a scholarship to attend Eat, Write, Retreat, a food blogging conference I have mentioned here before. It is an incredible opportunity to meet other food bloggers, work on writing, photography and styling skills, and even get a personalized dossier with feedback on every aspect of your blog. The most important criteria of judging was creative use of olives, so I didn't want to just make a pasta dish or tapenade, even though I love using olives in both of those (my meatballs are amazing, in large part because they are FULL of chopped olives, which gives them incredible flavor!). But those have all been done before. I decided to think out of the box and combine two of my favorite kinds of food Greek and Mexican. I think they make a fabulous pair and my recipe turned out delicious!

UPDATE: Even though Lindsay olives did not pick me for the scholarship last year, I'm giving them a second chance to realize how tasty they are and am entering them in the Kitchen Play Lindsay Olives Wild Card Progressive Party 2013, fingers crossed I have better luck this time!

Greek Lamb and Lindsay Olive Empanadas
1 tbs olive oil
1 lb ground lamb
3 small cloves garlic, chopped
3.5 oz can of Lindsay California ripe pitted olives
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese
3 tbs chopped fresh oregano
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 pack refrigerated pie crusts
1 tbs olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 375 and remove pie crusts from the refrigerator. Heat 1 tbs olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add garlic. Let cook until just translucent, then add lamb. Cook until no pink remains, then remove from heat and using a slotted spoon transfer to a medium sized bowl, avoiding the fat in the bottom of the pan. Add olives, feta, oregano, and vinegar to the bowl and stir just to combine. Roll out pie crusts and cut them in half. Fill the bottom half of each pie crust semi-circle with one quarter of the meat mixture and fold top over. Crimp edges with a fork and brush tops with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Bake on a non-stick baking sheet until golden brown on top, approximately 15-17 minutes.

Greek "Salsa"
3/4 c medium diced cucumber
3/4 c medium chopped tomatoes
2.25 oz can Lindsay California sliced olives
1/2 c crumbled feta
1 tbs fresh oregano
1 tbs red wine vinegar

Combine all salsa ingredients and serve with the empanadas.

You can also serve these with tzatziki sauce in addition to, or instead of the Greek "salsa". I think next time when I make these, and there will be a next time, I may use phyllo dough instead of pie dough, to see how that changes the taste and texture. I'm also considering doing them in an appetizer size and frying them.

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