Tag Archives: red peppers

Venison Empanadas

This recipe makes eight large empanadas—I’m freezing four for later—but you could easily make smaller, snack-sized empanadas. I used half venison and half ground beef in the filling, but you could substitute any other ground meat combination, or even a filling with no meat. Because you need a cool filling, you should make it early in the day or the day before, so it has time to cool before filling the dough—this also cuts down on the commotion of rolling and filling dough at dinnertime.

For the dough, I’m using the one from Martha Stewart’s “Basic Empanadas” recipe. I recommend this simple dough, which is buttery and tender and easy to handle, considering all the rolling and shaping you need to do. I recommend watching the video on the page, especially if you haven’t made this sort of a hand pie before. The one thing I did differently was to use the food processor instead of mixing by hand—even with that, the dough remained tender. I felt, though, that I had to add way more than the one cup of cold water in the recipe for the dough to come together, maybe as much as an extra half cup. The video tip to let the dough rest before rolling seemed like a good idea, keeping the dough from trying to shrink as you roll it. Here are the simple ingredients for that dough (follow instruction on the site):

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup cold water
  • egg wash for sealing and for brushing on tops


Venison Empanada Filling

  • Servings: enough for 8 large servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 lb ground venison
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup garlic, minced
  • 2-3 roasted red peppers, diced
  • about 6 canned plum tomatoes, diced, plus enough of the juice (maybe 1/2 cup) to moisten the meat
  • Spices:
    • 1/2 teaspoon crushed or ground dried juniper berries
    • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
    • 1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
    • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dried cilantro
  1. Brown the venison and beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Use oil if you think you need it, but the beef should provide plenty of fat. Remove any excess fat, so the final mixture is not greasy.
  2. Add the onions and garlic and cook until they begin to soften.
  3. Stir in spices, red peppers, and tomatoes. Bring to a low boil, then simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Remove to a large low dish, like a 13″ x 9″ baking dish. If you think the mixture is too wet, remove it from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Most of my liquid cooked off.
  4. Cool the filling, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to fill the empanadas.

Baking: The filled empanadas bake for 30 minutes at 400° on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Frozen ones will take about 40 minutes and do not need to be thawed first.

Pesto Bacon Tomato Pizza

Maybe you’re wondering why a person would plant so many tomatoes if only one person in the household will eat them and then exhibit anguish at having so many in the harvest. We asked those questions and plan to plant a more focused batch next year. Of course part of the problem is that the grower is the one who doesn’t like tomatoes; he just likes to watch plants grow. We’re working on this weird setup.

I used to make my own pizza all the time when my children were young, which led to a long period of bread making, but more about that in a later post. It has been a long time since I made my own yeast dough and I’m hoping it works out well today. This pizza is only going to use up two tomatoes, but still it seemed like another good use of them. One can eat only so much salsa.

Another oddity about us is that we are not very interested in any food with Italian tomato sauce. I guess we grew out of it, because we did used to eat things like lasagna or pasta and meatballs. Although we do eat the occasional pizza with red sauce, today’s will be green and red, with fresh tomatoes and red bell peppers for the red part and basil for the green, and I think my reluctant tomato grower will be okay with it, since the tomatoes will be cooked, as well as surrounded by cheeses and bacon.

Long ago, I only mixed dough by hand, and then at some point, I bought the Kitchen Aid stand mixer, which saves these old hands and arms a lot of work. Here are forty seconds of the dough being kneaded:

Pesto Bacon Tomato Pizza

  • Servings: 1 12-inch pizza
  • Difficulty: moderate
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If you read all the way to the end, you will see suggestions for making the same pizza with ready-made ingredients from the grocery store.

Basil-Red Pepper Pesto

1/2 cup basil leaves

2 roasted, peeled, and seeded red bell peppers (I used prepared peppers in a jar)

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Salt & pepper to taste (I did not add extra salt because of the salty Parmesan)

Optional: 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts ( I decided against using nuts)

  1. I blanched the basil leaves for 10 seconds in boiling water and then plunged them in ice water and dried them on paper towels. The blanching helps maintain a bright green color; however, they look a little wilted, and I didn’t get a good photo of them when they were still leafy.
  2. Add basil, peppers, garlic, and seasonings to the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped and blended. Add olive oil in a steady stream as the mixture continues to process until you have a fine consistency. Don’t over-process. This is less oil than in most pesto recipes, but you don’t want to have too much oil on the pizza. There will be fat from the bacon and cheese.
  3. Add the grated cheese and pulse to blend.
  4. The pesto can be made ahead.


1 12 oz. package of thick-sliced bacon

I cooked the bacon in the microwave between four paper towels, in order to minimize the fat that would be added to the pizza. Place four slices at a time between four paper towels (two on the top, two on the bottom). Microwave for 2-3 minutes until light brown. The method cooks pretty evenly and the paper absorbs most of the fat. When cool, chop in half-inch pieces. This can be done ahead.

Pizza Dough

1 package active dry yeast

3/4 cup lukewarm water

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups bread flour

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water for about 10-30 minutes or until foamy. You can add the sugar and salt to this mixture at the same time—I did.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast mixture, olive oil, and flour.
  3. With the dough hook, combine on low. When all the flour is combined, turn to medium and knead for at least ten minutes. The resulting dough will have a nice elasticity that is hard to achieve by hand, but you can certainly make this or any dough by hand.
  4. Round the dough up into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, in a warm place, covered with a pastry cloth or towel. I set mine on the top of the stove and turned the oven on to 200° because my oven vents onto the stove top, keeping the bowl (and the rest of the house) warm.
  5. I let the dough rise to double, twice. The first rise takes longer than the second one, maybe 45 minutes to an hour. The second rise takes only about a half hour.
    1. Some people only let pizza dough rise once; some people don’t let it rise at all.
    2. Some people let the dough ferment overnight or longer in the refrigerator, first.

Preparing the Pizza

Preheat oven to 450°

These instructions assume you are using a peel and baking stone.

Pizza dough (above)

1 cup prepared pesto (above)

6-8 slices bacon, cooked and chopped

8 oz fresh mozzarella

2-3 sliced tomatoes, seeded

1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan

  1. Have your baking stone on the lowest oven rack before preheating the oven.
  2. Cover the peel with a 50/50 combination of flour and cornmeal.
  3. On a damp counter or rolling mat, roll the dough into a circle, then pick it up and stretch as needed. If you are using a peel, you have to have the dough pretty much ready to top when you put it on the peel, because if you try to handle it too much there, it will stick and not want to slide onto your baking stone. If you are using a pizza pan, you can push the dough up to the edges in the pan.
  4. Place the stretched pizza dough on the peel and form edges without pressing the dough into the board. You can test that the dough will slide by shaking the peel a little. Once the pizza is put together, it must be able to slide off easily. You can do some slight stretching of the dough on the peel if you don’t press it into the board. If you have edges that are sticking, carefully lift them without disturbing the toppings and put a little flour underneath.
  5. Spread the pesto on the dough up to the edges.
  6. Add the chopped bacon next.
  7. Fresh mozzarella works best if small pieces are pinched off, because it is very soft and moist. If using regular low-moisture mozzarella, you can slice or grate it. Sprinkle mozzarella pieces over the pizza.
  8. Cover the top with sliced tomatoes. I seeded the whole tomatoes as much as possible before slicing to avoid a watery pizza.
  9. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan to taste.
  10. Brush the edges of the crust with olive oil.
  11. Slide pizza from peel to hot stone in oven. Aim well, because you won’t be able to move it after it hits the stone. Even if you are using a pizza pan, you can still bake it on the stone.
  12. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown.

All this said, you can make this pizza using ready-made ingredients: You can buy pizza dough in most grocery stores, now. You can get good pesto in a jar, as well as the red peppers I used. You can even get pre-cooked bacon and cheese that is already grated, so don’t run away thinking this is too much work. It is too much work and you can do it more easily and get the same flavors from ready-made ingredients.

Did it go over well? Yep.