Goat Cheese-Plantain Empanadas

3 ripe plantains, unpeeled
1 ripe banana, unpeeled
1 small white onion, sliced and slices halved
1 tablespoon butter
8 ounces Texas or other fresh goat cheese
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil (not olive oil)

Note: The empanadas may be prepared ahead. Put them on a floured dishcloth and refrigerate, covered, until ready to fry.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice off ends of plantains and banana and cut a slit lengthwise in each peel. Cook on a baking sheet until flesh is soft and oozing out of the slit, 40 to 50 minutes (remove each from oven when it is cooked). Let cool, then peel.

Meanwhile, sauté sliced onion in butter until soft and dark golden brown, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool and mix with goat cheese.

In a food processor, purée plantains and banana, then add flour and salt and pulse until thoroughly mixed. Do not overwork dough. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

Divide dough into 12 equal portions and roll into balls. Lay a piece of plastic (part of a freezer bag works well) on a tortilla press, place a ball of dough in the center, and put another piece of plastic on top. Press the dough to form a circle about 4 inches in diameter (you may also press with your hands or roll out, using plastic to prevent sticking).

Spoon about a tablespoon of the goat cheese mixture on half of each dough circle and fold circle over, pressing edges together to seal. Place oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and fry empanadas, a few at a time, until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a 150-degree oven until all are done. Serve with oven-dried-tomato salsa. Serves 6.

Oven-Dried-Tomato Salsa

9 Roma tomatoes, halved
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
1 habanero chile, halved
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves (no big stems)

Note: The salsa may be prepared a day or more ahead, but add the cilantro at the last minute.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Rub tomatoes with a little of the olive oil and sprinkle with oregano, garlic, and salt. Put on a baking sheet, cut side up, and cook until semi-dry, 1 to 11/2 hours. They will still be rather moist, not shriveled like sun-dried tomatoes.

In a skillet, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat and sauté onion until golden brown. Remove from oil, place on a cutting board, and chop together with tomatoes. Return onion-tomato mixture to oil, add habanero, and gently sauté for 10 minutes. Remove and discard habanero. Stir cilantro leaves into salsa and cook over low heat just until they wilt. Serve warm or at room temperature as an accompaniment to empanadas. Serves 6.

From the December 2000 article Season’s Eatings.