semicircles and banana-black bean empanadas

A few days ago, I went for a walk with my son. We took the usual route that starts from our house and circles around the block past the backyard chicken coop, then up the steep hill packed with more houses and two cemeteries, down to the road’s end.

We walked by the grazing horses and sleeping dogs before coming to the corner house with a sprawling green field where a collection of with lawnmowers, tractors, snowmobiles, and more machinery that I couldn’t begin to name is a spectacle, machines permanently fixed in nature.

Before we reached the end of the field, we saw what appeared to be a father and son in the middle of the road. The boy looked to be around the age of twelve, and a little on the small side. He rode a blue bike, the number of gears equal to his estimated age, with a hand-written “free” sign taped to the frame.

The boy bent low into the “U” shaped handlebars and kept riding in shakily drawn loops like he was new to the sport. The tires seemed close to flat even with his feather-light frame, and the frame may have been stubborn to turn. All the while the father stood back, arms crossed. The boy slowed enough that he caught the bike so he could tinker with chain.

“I can’t fix it,” the father said.

The boy nodded his head and pushed the bike back to where he found it, leaning against the gutted white jeep at the edge of the green field.

This story played in my head over and over, long after we walked up and down the hill to our house. It reminds me to enjoy all the small details that compose the day, like taking a walk with my son and then rolling out dough together to make homemade empanadas for dinner. These are the stories we keep.

Banana Black Bean Sweet Potato Empanadas

Banana – Black Bean Empanadas
Yield 4 – 6 servings as an entree


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup cooked black beans
2 bananas, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1 small cooked sweet potato (about 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups white spelt flour (divided)
1/2 cup corn flour
1/2 tablespoon raw sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup light olive oil
1/4 cup cold vodka or tequila (the alcohol burns off during baking, it creates a tender and workable dough)
1/4 cup cold water

3 tablespoons olive oil (for baking empanadas)

To make Filling: Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onion about 5 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Add beans and garlic, reduce heat to medium, and cook 3 minutes. Stir in bananas, sweet potaotes, cumin, cayenne, and cook about 3 minutes, or until bananas and sweet potatoes begin to break down and spices are fragrant. Using back of fork, mash bean filling to coarse paste. Stir in cilantro and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste and allow mixture to cool.

To make Crust: Process 3/4 cup white spelt flour and 1/2 cup corn flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add olive oil and process until homogenous and resembles wet sand, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 3/4 cup white spelt flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into large bowl.

Sprinkle vodka or tequila and water over mixture. Using hands, mix dough until it comes together in a sticky ball. Divide dough in half, then divide each half into 6 equal pieces. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.

To Assemble: Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions, place 1 baking sheet on each rack, and preheat oven to 400 F. While baking sheets are preheating, remove dough from refrigerator. Roll each dough piece out on lightly floured work surface into 6-inch round (1/4-inch thick), covering each dough round with plastic wrap while rolling remaining dough. Fill each round with 2 tablespoons filling, and brush edges of dough with water. Fold dough circle in half, press to close, and crimp edges with fork to seal.

To Bake: Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over surface of each hot baking sheet, then return to oven for 2 minutes. Brush tops and bottoms of empanadas with remaining tablespoon oil. Place 6 empanadas on each baking sheet and cook until well browned and crisp, about 20 minutes, rotating baking sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Cool empanadas on wire rack 10 minutes and serve.

Banana Black Bean Sweet Potato Empanadas (cut)

(This recipe is inspired by Diane Brown Savahge’s “Banana–Black Bean Empanadas” found in Bon Appetit, Nov 2004; “Banana and Black Bean Empanadas” found in Vegetarian Times, March 1, 2009; and Cook’s Illustrated’s “Beef Empanadas” from the May & June 2010 issue).


  1. tea says

    I love the thoughts you shared about remembering the small moments. And the recipe looks yummy!! :)

  2. Lazaro Cooks! says

    Fantastic empanadas. Lovely story. Hope you have a blessed Mother's Day with your family.


  3. Pecados da mesa says

    Hummmmmm delicia!
    Muito bonito!
    Idéia original!
    Obrigado! Thank you!
    Beijo! BRAZIL!


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