Have I mentioned my undying love for guacamole?
Like how I put it on pretty much anything, dream of it night and day, and go into avocado withdrawal if I haven't had some in 72 hours?
Ok, I'm over-exaggerating a tad, but I have eaten a lot of the stuff so far in my time on earth, and I think this gives me enough clout to bring you a recipe entitled
freshest ingredients + best blend of spices + ripest avocados = PERFECT GUACAMOLE
The secret ingredient here is the worcestershire sauce. It's salty/tangy/savory and compliments the creamy avocado like a dream. The other ingredients aren't surprising. Find some ripe avocados, fresh tomatoes, and a lemon or lime. Add chopped onion and garlic according to your taste and plenty of salt and pepper. Then you're done and can proceed with the more important task of dipping anything and everything in it and slathering it on every available surface.
They require a special type of pre-cooked cornmeal called masarepa, which you should be able to find in the hispanic section of your grocery store. You can serve arepas any way you like. In Columbia, they're served as a base for toppings, as I used them here, but in Venezuela, they're split open like a pita pocket and filled with goodness.
Arepas are surprisingly easy to make. Add roughly equal parts water and the special cornmeal, along with a little salt and olive oil. The spinach is totally optional, but I added it because I just can't help myself.
Extra nutrients = winning
I fried them like pancakes in a little bit of olive oil in a large skillet until the outsides were golden brown. They finish in the oven for 10 minutes to ensure the center is fully cooked and the outside crisp.
I wish I could say I first tried arepas while backpacking through South America, but the truth is, the first time I had arepas was in a hospital room.
My dad had a heart attack in November and was in the hospital for a couple days. He's fine now, but it was scary at the time.
He'd been in the hospital since the night before, and all day long we'd been waiting for a procedure to be done, the results of which would either be good or bad. I was worried about my dad, and health problems/hospitals happen to be a trigger for my own anxiety, so I was not in a good place. I practiced a lot of deep yoga breathing and held Adam's hand. We finally received good news in the early evening, and my sister and her boyfriend decided to pick up some food for dinner. The highest-rated place near the hospital was an arepas restaurant. They got a variety for us to share, along with a big container of guacamole.
We made a circle around my dad's hospital bed and ate the warm areapas in crinkly aluminum foil, feeling our hunger return for the first time all day. It was a comforting, ordinary thing in the midst of a disorienting time. Of course, the exact type food we were eating didn't really matter. It could have been burgers, or wraps, or hospital cafeteria food, but the moment itself was a testament of the power of food to heal and bring people together.
Arepas, I think, will always remind me of that.
Ingredients:2 ripe avocados
1 small tomato, chopped
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
juice from half a lemon
1/3 of a red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Directions:Mash avocados with a fork. Combine with remaining ingredients. If making ahead, cover tightly with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge.
Spicy Black Beans1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce, chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp cumin
Directions:In a small saucepan, combine beans, chipotle pepper, chicken broth and cumin. Cook on medium-low heat for anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour.
Roasted Zucchini & Onions
Ingredients:3-4 small zucchini, chopped
1 red onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
Directions:Preheat oven to 425.
Arranged zucchini, onion, and garlic on 2 cookie sheets. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and chili powder. Drizzle with olive oil. Use your hands to evenly distribute the oil and spices.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring halfway through to prevent burning.
Ingredients:1 6 ounce bag baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups masarepa (pre-cooked cornmeal)
1 1/2 cups warm water, plus more if needed
1 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
1-2 tbsps of olive oil or butter for frying
Directions:Preheat oven to 350.
Throw chopped spinach and a teaspoon of water into a sauce pan. Heat for 2-3 minutes or until spinach is just wilted. Add spinach to a large bowl.
Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water over spinach. Add olive oil and salt and combine. Pour in masarepa and use your fingers to incorporate. At this point, try to form a ball of dough with your hands. If the edges crack, add more water. (I added about an extra 1/4 cup) Once the dough is round and smooth, cover and let rest for 5 minutes.
Heat 1-2 tbsps of butter or oil in a large skillet. Using your hands or a flat surface, shape arepas into circles 4-5 inches across and 1/2 inch thick. Place onto hot skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes per side or until golden brown. Placed finished areas on cookie sheet, continuing until all are cooked. (This recipe makes 5-6 arepas.)
Bake arepas on the cookie sheet at 350 for 10-15 minutes.
Fresh tomato, crumbled cotija or feta cheese, shredded cabbage, chicken (here's my favorite recipe for shredded chicken for tacos)
Use a serrated knife to cut arepas in half. Top with black beans, zucchini & onions, perfect guacamole, crumbled cheese, or any other desired toppings.
**There are a lot of moving parts with this recipe. I recommend making the guacamole first and then sticking it in the fridge. Next up are the beans and roasted veggies. Start the beans on the stove top and then throw the veggies in the oven. You can cover the beans and keep them on low heat, and when the veggies are done, place them in a bowl and cover with aluminum foil. You'll want to make the arepas last so you can eat them when they're crispy and piping hot. **
Basic Arepa recipe adapted from Serious Eats
Just for fun, here's a Bobby Flay Throw Down video to show the arepa making process.