On Sundays, Island II, a new Dominican bar and grill, provides a menu of timeless Latino moments. Pulsing merengue blends with the soothing sound of conversations in Spanish. The air is laced with aromas of garlic shrimp and thick sancocho soup. At a back table, teenagers play game after game of dominoes.
The kitchen of this Fells Point restaurant belongs to Charo Rodriguez and her mother, Andrea Castro, who perform the traditional choreography of seasoned cooks. They gracefully pass one another, weaving back and forth, turning the flame up and down, sauteing, slicing, mashing.
If you go LatinoFest, a celebration of Hispanic arts, music and culture, runs from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday at Patterson Park. $5 for adults; children younger than 12 free with an adult. Proceeds benefit Education Based Latino Outreach. Call 410-783-5404 or visit latinofest.org.
Makes 12 empanadas
1 pound of beef chunks (any kind, with fat removed) (see note)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup pitted olives
1/4 cup capers
1/4 cup seedless raisins
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
12 pre-made empanada discs (see note) or a 15-ounce package of refrigerated piecrust circles
Season meat with salt and pepper. Spray a saute pan liberally with cooking spray, and saute garlic over medium heat, about 1 minute. Add meat and turn heat up until pan is very hot; cook meat until brown. Reduce heat to medium low; add wine.
Cook meat until completely done, 20 to 30 minutes. Deglaze the pan as needed with a bit of water as you cook. Before taking the meat from the fire, sprinkle the cornstarch in the pan to create a paste with the meat juices.
In a food processor, grind meat finely and mix with the onion, olives, capers, raisins and eggs.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Follow defrosting instructions on disc or piecrust package. (If using piecrusts, roll to thin the dough, then use a cookie cutter to cut out twelve 4- to 5-inch circles.) Fill each disc and fold delicately, pressing outer portions of disc with a fork to secure mixture.
Folded discs can be baked on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray for about 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. For flakier pastry, a mixture of egg whites can be spread on crust before baking. Serve warm.
(You also can add such elements as chopped spinach, cheese and chickpeas to change the flavor and texture of the mixture.)
Note: In lieu of beef chunks, you can use chicken or pork. Empanada discs are available at some supermarkets or specialty markets.
Adapted from a recipe by Lily Guzman
Per serving: 297 calories, 10 grams protein, 18 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 24 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 59 milligrams cholesterol, 1,011 milligrams sodium