Living here in Texas, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and becoming friends with several people from South America, particularly from Venezuela and Columbia. I know it’s hard to generalize about entire countries or continents for that matter, but my South American friends are the warmest, kindest and loveliest people. They are very dear to me.
It breaks my heart to think how worried my Venezuelan friends must be right now with the political turmoil taking place in their home country. Many of them have been sharing information, news and videos on Facebook about these struggles. Another friend participated in a rally in our suburb to bring awareness to the situation. I want them to know my heart is with them and I hope the violence ends soon.
So tonight I make arepas for my friends.
Arepa is a flat bread made from pre-soaked corn meal. It is a food staple in both Venezuela and Columbia. Something that is eaten at most meals and it’s my impression they are a childhood favorite in the same way we think of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich here in the U.S. Because if you mention arepas to one of my friends, they will say something like: “Ahhhhhh arepas.”
Arepas are fairly easy to make — only three ingredients: corn meal, water and salt — but you have to have P.A.N. corn meal, it’s a must. This is a pre-soaked white maize meal. They carry it at my local grocery store. If you can’t find it at yours, try a hispanic market. The recipe for arepas is on the back of the bag. Love that.
You just mix the three ingredients together until you get a nice dough you can work with. Then you shape the dough into individual round flat breads. I know there is an art to shaping these, I just do the best I can to keep them round and try to avoid cracks around the edges. I make mine on the thicker side, so they can be sliced once cooked in the Venezuelan tradition. Columbian style arepas are prepared a little thinner.
I cook the bread on a cast-iron griddle until it is lightly brown on both sides and cooked on the inside. I like to serve them with black or refried beans, grilled vegetables and avocado. My kids like to eat them plain with some butter on top or filled with some cheese (you can use vegan cheese for that). 😉
2 cups filtered water
2 cups P.A.N. corn meal
1 tsp sea salt
Pour water into a large mixing bowl, add salt and slowly add the corn meal. Stir ingredients together until a dough forms. Knead until smooth.
Take ping pong size balls of dough and shape into flat bread about 1/2 inch thick.
Heat griddle on medium high heat. Coat lightly with coconut oil. Cook arepas until lightly brown on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side. Can be served whole or sliced with fillings.