I was feeling inspired and motivated after a recent holiday trip to Colombia where I was re-introduced to their national dish — arepas. In Colombia and Venezuela arepas are served for breakfast, lunch, dinners, snacks and even desserts. These little gems are so versatile, tasty and easy to make that once you try them they will become a staple in your diet. You can eat arepas plain or with butter and a drizzle of honey. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that this staple food was made into a sandwich and stuffed with a variety of ingredients. Use your imagination and creativity with this dish. The sky is your only limit!
Popular belief might be to exclude foods like BBQ pulled pork from the diet but this a classic example that less is more. What do I mean by that? Simply that it only takes about 3 ounces of pork per serving to deliver great flavor and satiety whereas in America our heapings are much larger. This adequate amount of pork BBQ, combined with the dense corn-base arepas and slaw provide the nutrients and satisfaction for any hungry appetite.
Recipe for Arepas:
2 cups arepa flour (precooked cornmeal)**
2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Optional fillings (shredded cooked chicken or pork, black beans with cheese and lime, corn salad with onion and fresh herbs)
Lime wedges for topping
**Ingredient Info: Arepa flour is precooked corn flour, PAN is a common brand used to make arepas and is sold as masarepa or harina precocida. It can be found in Latin markets and some supermarkets. This is not to be confused with masa harina which is a specific corn flour used for making tortillas.
First, combine arepa flour and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and slowly add the water. With a wooden spoon gradually stir wet and dry ingredients together until lumps disappear. Let rest 5 minutes to hydrate. Knead dough a few times in bowl, then divide into 7 or 8 pieces. Roll each piece on a work surface into a ball, then gently flatten to about ½ inch thick.
Second, heat 1 Tbsp. oil/butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 4 arepas, cover, and cook until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Uncover, flip, and cook (keep uncovered) until other side is golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Transfer arepas to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil/butter and dough.
For the BBQ Pulled Pork stuffing I used Trader Joe’s pre-packaged brand which is a great short cut if you want to serve these arepas on a week night or for a larger gathering.
I also used Costco’s pre-packaged sweet kale vegetable salad kit for the slaw. Just toss the slaw with your favorite dressing and use to finish off your arepas.
Starmont Pinot Noir 2012
I picked a Pinot Noir to pair with this dish as it balances out the tartness and tang of the BBQ as well as the dressing on the slaw.
Pinot Noir is known to be one of the most challenging grapes to grow and harvest. I don’t drink a lot of Pinot Noir because the ones I really like tend to be out of my price range. Every once in a while I find a Pinot Noir that hits all the right notes and is reasonably priced. This Starmont Pinot does just that. At $19.99 a bottle from Trader Joe’s, this wine is worth a try. With notes of cherry, rose petal, tealeaf and bright red fruit this wine dances on the palate and fills your mouth with deliciousness. It is light and elegant making for a wine that will disappear before you get enough. I wasn’t disappointed!