Arepas ~ Venezuelan Corn Flour Flatbreads

by Lynne on February 13, 2015

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All of us, at one time or another, have had food made from ground corn, be it cornbread, corn tortillas, tortilla chips, tamales or polenta. In my pantry there is a new kid on the block called pre-cooked white maize meal or “harina de maiz blanco precocida”, which is what I used to make my arepas. The first time I made them, it was a totally new tasting experience for me. Nothing like cornbread or corn tortillas. Arepas taste like corn on the cob, ground up and fried in patties. Crispy on the outside, soft and fresh corn flavored on the inside.

Arepas are unleavened flatbreads made from masarepa, a precooked corn flour prominent in the cuisines of Venezuela and Columbia. They are eaten daily in those countries either with accompaniments such as cheese and avocado, toppings, or split to make sandwiches. Popular fillings are shredded skirt steak and cheese, chicken salad with avocado, pulled pork, chicken and cheddar, or black beans and cotija cheese. I filled mine with picadillo, red onion and avocado, and another day with fried egg, bacon, red onion and tomato. No matter what you fill them with, that fresh corn flavor shines through.

Just so you know:

Cornmeal, used for cornbread and polenta, is ground dried corn, which may or may not have the hull and germ removed. It is not pre-cooked.

Masa (hominy), used for tortillas and tamales, is dried corn that is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually slaked lime or wood ash, a process called nixtalmalization. It is then hulled, and can be eaten as hominy. Or dried and ground, becoming masa harina, which can be made into a dough by adding water.

Masarapa (maize flour) is made from corn kernels that are cooked in water, peeled and dried, then ground into meal or flour. The most popular brands are Harina P.A.N. in Venezuela and Areparina in Columbia.

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Look for the words “harina de maiz refinada precocida” or “refined pre-cooked white maize meal” on the package. I found my P.A.N. corn flour at Super A Foods, which has 12 locations around the Los Angeles area. I began by googling “Mexican and Latin American markets Torrance.” Then I called several before I located one that had it.

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The corn flour is mixed with salt and water to form a dough. It is rolled into a log and cut into 8 pieces.

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Each piece is rolled into a ball and flattened into a disc about ¾-inch thick. The discs are cooked, covered, in a little oil, until golden brown, then turned over and the second side browned. This method works just beautifully.

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After the arepas cooled a little, they were delicious with just cold butter. Or you could slit them in half and fill with your favorite sandwich fixings. I didn’t cut them in half all the way through, but sliced the bottom half only on the inside, maintaining the closed edge. After filling my arepa with Picadillo, which is ground pork in a tomato-y sauce with green olives and raisins, plus sliced red onion and avocado, I half-wrapped the whole thing in parchment paper to make sure nothing fell out. Oh man, it was sooooo good.

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Waldorf Turkey Salad

by Lynne on February 4, 2015

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Following Thanksgiving I had some great turkey leftovers. After the obligatory turkey, butter, salt and sourdough sandwich, which I look forward to every year, I needed to find something new and different to use them up. I also had a lot of celery left from making the stuffing. I had apples and pecans on hand. Well, what else, but a Waldorf Salad! I’m not a wholehearted fan of mayo, so I mixed it with some whipping cream to sweeten it up a little. I was so happy with the crunchy, meaty, sweet with raisins and dried cranberries concoction I came up with, that I will be making this with deli roast chicken the next time I have some.

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