As a sure sign of summer, I’m making Deborah’s Empanadas with Greens and Olives. These little turnovers use up bounteous CSA greens from turnip tops to chard.
I like to use Deborah’s Yeasted Tart Dough with Olive Oil, dividing it into small circles instead of the big one for a galette. The filling smells good cooking: sautéed onions, garlic, red pepper flakes and bay leaf and greens. Mix in a little Fontana or Gruyere and an egg, and plop the filling on each circle stretching the dough to cover. Pinch to seal into the traditional crescent shape.
They’re portable little pockets of savory food and rarely seem a regular meal to me – they taste of travel.
We often take empanadas on hikes – they keep their shape and taste good at backpack temperature. And they remind me of walking a piece of the coastal trail in Cornwall, dropping down from headlands on a rainy September day to find a perfect English pub (and a red phone booth, just when you needed both) serving flakey pastries filled with potatoes and meat, with “veg” version also available.
This time I’m making them for the book group I’ve belonged to since my first spring here. Rather than reading the same book – we read what we read and report (the founding mother’s unusual concept).
We also bring vegetarian dishes to share, which come together as feasts in spite of no planning ahead of time. People make complex things when they have time and simplify when they don’t. I always wonder if we will end up with just desserts (never have). We taste new things: coconut rice, an interesting masala, black beans and rhubarb together.
Love of books is the only complete commonality. People have dropped away and new ones joined, but once a month some seven or eight gather at a different one of our houses.
Food first. Around dining tables we tuck in and tell catch-up stories – what’s happened in the past month. For a while we set a timer – but now we go efficiently around the table laughing and learning about one another (unless special events require longer tales – a thrilling later-life romance, trips, or children’s weddings).
Book talk happens in living rooms – coffee tables piled with books, a couple of Kindles, and after-dinner teacups. I’m fondest of the quick reports – I like to know what people are reading and why, but dislike too much detail, summations of whole plots.
For months I read the new translation of “Anna Karenina” – with a few pages at night, it takes a deliciously long time to read a Tolstoy tome. It doesn’t make for fireworks at book report time.
But book group isn’t about fireworks – it’s about sharing love of reading and food. It’s travel in a way – appropriate for empanadas – armchair travel like you do with books and people.