Empanadillas developed from the Arab savory pastries called sanbusak. They have a variety of fillings, but the most common is tomatoes, peppers, and tuna. Some cooks add chopped hard-boiled eggs or pine nuts. The pies can be fried or baked. They are good to serve at parties, as they can be picked up with the fingers. They are best eaten warm but are also good cold.
Make the dough
Mix the oil, water or white wine, and salt in a bowl, beating with a fork. Gradually work in enough flour to make a soft, smooth, malleable dough that does not stick to the bowl or to your hands; begin by stirring the flour in with a fork, then work it in with your hands and knead briefly. You can use the dough right away or keep it for as long as a day, covered in plastic wrap, but keep it at room temperature, not in the refrigerator.
Make the filling
Fry the onion in the oil in a large skillet until very soft, stirring often. Add the tomatoes and cook over medium heat until the liquid has disappeared and you can see the oil sizzling. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the tuna, shredding it with your fingers, the roasted pepper, olives, and parsley. Mix well, and let cool.
Make the empanadillas
Divide the dough into 4 or 6 pieces (it is easier to roll out small amounts). Roll each piece out as thinly as you can and cut into rounds with a 4-inch pastry cutter (or use a small saucer as a guide); you do not need to flour the surface or the rolling pin, as the dough is oily and will not stick. Reserve the scraps and roll them into a ball, then roll out again and cut into rounds; do not waste any dough. Fill each batch of pastry rounds as you cut them. Brush the edges with some of the egg yolk, put a generous tablespoon of filling in the middle, bring two opposite sides of the pastry up to meet over the filling, making a half-moon-shaped pie, and pinch the edges together, then lay the pie down and press the edges with the tines of a fork to seal it.
Place the empanadillas on a baking sheet lined with foil lightly greased with oil. Brush the tops with the remaining egg yolk, and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.
Photo: Jason Lowe