Arepas (ah-RAY-pahs) are more common in South America, originating in Venezuela, where they are the national dish. They are delicious, mouth-watering little corn cakes with a slight crisp on the outside and a soft, steamy sweetness on the inside. In fact, these sumptuous snack cakes are getting so popular, New York City actually has an Arepa Bar (Caracas Arepas – with locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Roneria) which was featured on an episode of Bobby Flay’s show “Throwdown” (and the sister’s who opened the place won!). They can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night snacks, stuffed, topped, sauced and salsa’d. You are only limited by your imagination with these golden goodies.
This recipe was inspired by a cooking class we took in 2009 at Kitchen Window on vegetarian appetizers. I apologize that I do not remember the chef who taught the class. These are gluten-free, and vegetarian. The dough works well for our “Mexican” kitchen where we always have Masa Harina on hand. However, purists will tell you that true arepa dough is made from Harina P.A.N. which is pre-cooked cornmeal, instead of the corn flour of Masa Harina which is used to make tortillas. All you need to add to the Harina P.A.N. to make arepas is water and salt (and this would turn in to a vegan option).
Ingredients – Arepa dough
2 cup – fresh or frozen yellow corn kernels (we suggest not using canned corn as it has more moisture which can throw off the texture of the final product)
1/2 cup – milk, scalded – (can be any kind of milk, we use Skim only because that’s what we have on hand. To scald milk heat on medium until just before it gets a skin across the top)
1 cup – Masa flour (for tortillas) or extra-fine yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup or 4 oz – goat cheese, (preferably garlic herb) crumbled
3 TB – butter
The little bit of golden crisp = delicious!
Pinch of salt
Oil – (olive, canola, or vege) for the griddle or pan
Mixing it up
- Use a saucepan to heat butter, scalded milk, and corn until it simmers. Put it in to a food processor and coarsely grind the corn and put in mixing bowl. Corn mixture will still be chunky.
- Add Masa, cheese, and salt. Mix thoroughly by hand or with a spatula until the Masa is totally absorbed and the whole mixture is fairly smooth with the cheese evenly distributed. Drape a towel over the bowl and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
- Use a large melon baller or a small kitchen scoop to get some dough (about the size you would use for a cookie) and pat until flattened like a small pancake, about 2 – 3 inches across, smaller if appetizer, larger if main course. Put on to an oiled griddle or cast iron pan over a medium low heat until golden brown. About 3 minutes on each side. (TIP: do NOT every use soap on a cast iron pan. When you first purchase the pan treat it by rubbing it with salt and oil and heat up. Wipe off. Rub with more oil and heat again.)
Black Bean Salsa
One of the most colorful and fresh tasting salsas we make - even "cheating" with canned beans
2 cups cooked or 1 – 14 oz can Black beans (if you are making fresh beans, soak beans at least 3 hours before cooking or overnight if you have time. Soaking helps reduce bean-caused gas, and also helps them cook faster)
1/4 Cup – onion, either yellow, white or possibly green onions for a flavor twist
1/2 cup – Cilantro – chopped (you can put in less if you wish)
3 cloves of garlic – chopped fine
1 jalapeño pepper – minced (take out seeds and white interior ribs to reduce heat)
1/2 Bell pepper – any color – chopped (yellow is the “prettiest”)
2 med tomatoes (usually we use Roma) seeded and diced
Bright and colorful!
1/2 lime, juiced
Salt to taste
- Combine all ingredients and stir well. Best to make the salsa at least an hour ahead of time, cover and let sit in fridge so the flavors have a chance to mix.
Serving it up
Spoon a generous helping of Black Bean salsa on top of the hot of the griddle arepa. Drizzle with Mexican crema (or mix regular sour cream with a little milk to thin it out). Add roasted red peppers or chipotle pepper to sour cream and mix in a blender for an extra layer of flavor. Top with some chopped avocado if you have some laying around.
The finished product.