Arepas on the griddle

Arepas

Easy to make, Venezuelan Food

Spanish Version

One of the main Venezuelan dishes is the arepa, a corn “bread”, done since prehistorical times by the natives, the history of the arepa date from the 800 to 400 b.C, some corn fossils and utensils used to make them has been found.

The original process require dried corn kernels, de hulled, cooked, milled and kneaded, which required a lot of cooking time, however, thanks to the industrial revolution in 1959 a group of visionaries simplified this process with the creation of the precooked corn flour, a product obtained from the corn flakes used for the brewing process.

There is versions of the arepas as homes in Venezuela, there are sweet and savory, empty and filled, this first recipe has the basic arepa dough.

Some of The benefits of the arepas are the high glycemic index, which keeps the blood sugar levels very stable, being a corn product is riched with tocopherols and phytosterols which helps to reduce cholesterol levels in blod, it’s a gluten free or low gluten, depending on the corn flour producers.

It can be found in over 32 countries around the world under the brand P.A.N. made out of two maize varieties yellow or white corn.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of precooked corn flour
1 1/4 cups of water
1 teaspoon corn oil
1/8 teaspoon salt

PREPARATION

In a bowl dissolve the salt into the water.

Gradually add the flour and mix it with the fingers to dissolve any lumps, adding enough to make a soft dough that holds its shape without cracking when molded.

Leave to rest for 5 minutes, then add the oil and work it in with your hands, if needed add more corn flour or water to keep the dough to the proper consistency.

Divide the dough in two portions, shape them into a 4-inch diameter patties, about 1 inch thick. Transfer to a plate.

Lightly oil a large nonstick skillet or griddle and heat over medium heat.
In batches, place the arepas in the griddle. Cook until the underside is golden brown, about 4 minutes, the patties must be loose from the griddle. Turn and brown the other side.

When the arepas are browned, transfer them directly to the oven rack (without any baking sheet) and bake until the surfaces of the arepas have formed a taut skin, when they are done you can tap them with the fingers and hear a hollow sound. Return arepas to the plate and let them cool a little bit.

Serve warm and pick something to fill them like ham or cheese, and enjoy!

 

 

Ají dulce venezolano

Ají dulce

Ingredients, Venezuelan Food

Spanish Version

The “ají dulce” represents one of the main flavors in the Venezuelan cuisine, it’s a pepper variety that is mostly found in the Caribbean and part of South America. In Venezuela it’s cultivated in different regions obtaining different varieties.

This aji dulce belong to the Capsicum family, and existing different species on this genre, C. annuum, C. frutescens and C. chinense, which have adapted to the regional conditions; originally cultivated at the east of the country and traveling from there to the mid west.

So the varieties are mostly known from their regional origins:

Eastern Aji dulce (aji dulce oriental) a variety of the Capsicum chinense

From the east you can find the “Aji pepón”, which is a variety with close to none heat, balloon shaped with green colors at early stages and red, purple or yellow when ripe.

You may also find the “ají Rosa”, belonging from the surroundings of Maturín city, it’s the most popular one, with longer shape thicker, rugged skin and red when ripe, from the apex grow the edges resembling a rose flower.

From Cumaná city you may find the “Jobito”, named for its resemble to the “yellow mombin” fruit which is named in Spanish jobo. It’s smaller, rounded and with thicker and smooth skin that turns yellow when ripe.

From the Mid west flat lands you will find the “Ají dulce llanero” or “llanerón”, a variety of the Capsicum annuum. Which is grown at the Venezuelan Flat lands, presenting longer fruits with orange or red colors when ripe, it’s taste is intense and fragrant and it may contain some heat, however when the plant has too much heat must be discarded.
 

The heat on the sweet peppers.

The sweet peppers, aswell most of the capsicum family, has a substance that produces heat called Capsaicin which is the defense mechanism that the plant uses agains the plages, on all the peppers there is always some level of this component, but as it content increase will present fruits with more heat, turning the sweet peppers into chili peppers.

Normally the capsaicin it’s presented at the placenta, which is the place that contains the seeds and removing that part of the fruit you can extract most of the capsaicin, I normally cut the top, the seeds and the endocarp (the opaque internal membrane) leavin the pulp exposed and ready to use.

Health benefits.

The aji ducles contain many bio active substances, the most known is the capsaicin, that stimulates the blood circulation, helps to regulate temperature and has anestesic properties. The aji dulce has an significant caloric content (for each 100 grams, calories 46, fat: 6 g, Protein: 19g), it contains water, fiber and vitamins C, E, A, B1, B2, B3, B6, it also possess minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and calcium, and also folic acid, carotene and beta-carotene.

The Venezuelan chef Helena Ibarra, confesses to writer Mayte Navarro that one of the secrets to the preparation of the (Venezuelan) “sofrito criollo” is to have in mind that the ingredients at different, so the cooking time can’t be the same between the garlic and the aji dulce, so they must be cooked separately. “The are sautéed by separate and then bridged together, this way the aji dulce keeps it’s perfume and it’s not contaminated by the garlic”.

 

Sources (all in Spanish)

Agrotecnologia Tropical Cultivo del Ají Dulce – Ing. Fernando Hernández – 

Mayte Navarro, El Ají, Article for diario el universal May 5th 2012 

Juan C. Ohep G. La producción de ají dulce en el Oriente del país, Fonaiap divulga No.18 mayo 1985

 

plated Tequeños

Tequeñón and Watermelon Juice – Taste of my childhood

Venezuelan Food

Spanish Version

Going through my childhood flavors I clearly remember the weekend’s breakfast off the house, my mother took me to this joint and I always choose a “tequeñon” with watermelon juice.

There are a few articles about its origin but there is no unanimity or document that can prove its birth and everything is just based on interpretations or anecdotes without no historical support. According to the professor Rafael Cartay, el tequeño is “an appetizer or a deep fried finger food with a cylindrical shape made out with a white semi-hard cheese stick wrapped in a weath flour dough. That is believed to be invented at Los Teques.

By the XIX century, Los Teques was a very exclusive area for vacations to the most wealthy families in Caracas, and since it beginnings the Tequeño was served as a side dish or finger food. In Venezuela there is no party with no tequeños, so people call them “the party kings”.

According to the Venezuelan food writer Miro Popic, the Teques’ story is not quite like that. He found out that professor Jose Rafael Lovera found a neighborhood in Caracas, called “barrio el teque” where once they caught a burglar and when he was confronted he said he was buying some cheese pastries, that could have become the “tequeños”.

Popic have also found a story about it being created in the Zulia state, a western state in Venezuela mostly dairy producers, by an Italian immigrant named Franco. This story might have sense because a tequeño is a deep fried cheese stick covered in dough, and with all the dairy farms and the deep frying culture of people from there, it can actually be certain. They said they used a white fresh cheese called “queso de matera” or flower pot cheese that has enough consistency to stand high temperatures and keep the structure.

So here it is, there is many origins for the same one, but anyway, it’s a very tasty snack.

INGREDIENTS

1/3 cup corn oil
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of milk
2 1/2 cups of all propose flour
2 lbs of white cheese such as farmers cheese.
Sufficient oil for deep frying

PREPARATION

In a saucepan mix all the liquid ingredients and warm it up and beat until create an emulsion without boiling.

In a big bowl sift the four and shape a vulcano in the middle.

Pour the warm liquid in the middle of the flour and fold it until having a uniform dough, knead it a couple of mitutes and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile cut the chese into 1/2 inch by 3 inches for small tequeños and 1 by 6 inches for larger ones.

Assembly

Once the dough is rested, extend it with a rolling pin until getting it very thin (1/16 inch). Then cut it into 2 inches stripes for the larger ones and 1/2″ for the snack size ones.

To assembly them put the cheese stick and fold it over with the dough, once folded in both sides cut the stripe and cover all the stick in a spiral so there is no cheese uncovered.

Once done set aside on a platter covered with flour and move to the next one, the tequeños can be done ahead and frozen up to a month.

Cooking

In a frying pan heat the oil and fry the tequeños until golden, set aside on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil.

If you want to bake them introduce them in the preheated oven on 350 °F until golden for 15-20 minutes, then carefully let them rest for a few minutes and enjoy.

Reina pepiada arepa

Reina pepiada

Venezuelan Food
Talking of Venezuelan food without mention the arepa, just has no sense.
The arepa is the excellence food for the Venezuelan, it’s used at any time as main course, side dish or even sweet snack. The consumption it’s calculated at 3,5 arepas/day/Venezuelan, reason why there exist a lot of recipes for preparations and fillings.
The “reina pepiada” it’s a classic on the Venezuelan areperas (a food joint mostly driven by the consumption of  arepas with a variety of fillings), it’s been said they was named in honor of a beauty queen of the 50’s. In my case I remember my first retina pepiada at one “arepera” at the “el rosal” neighborhood in Caracas, when I was 8 years old on one of those long entertainment days with my mother, the recipe seems simple, a chicken salad arepa with avocado, but it’s the complexity of the salad what makes it unique and delicious.
 
One of the things that allow me to share this recipe is that the main ingredient for the preparation of the arepas, the precooked corn flour, can be found in more than 32 countries in the world under the brand P.A.N., so there is no excuses to do them.
INGREDIENTS
Filling

  • 2  skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 12 oz)
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley minced
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup seeded and smally dice dried bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1 scallion, white and green parts, finely chopped

Arepas

  • 3 1/2 cups lukewarm water.
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups precooked corn flour (I use white corn P.A.N. corn flour)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon corn oil, plus more for the griddle
PREPARACIÓN

Filling

Place the chicken breasts and onion in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1 inch, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil over medium heat, once boiling reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the saucepan and let cool completely so can be handled by hand and then tear it into shreds.
Mash the avocado, mayonnaise, and vinegar together in a medium bowl with a fork until smooth. Stir in the cilantro, parsley, jalapeno, and garlic, then add the chicken, red pepper, red onion, and scallion and mix together. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add more vinegar to give the filling a pleasant, but not sour, tang. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Arepas
In a bowl dissolve the salt into the  3 cups lukewarm water. Gradually add 3 cups precooked corn flour, mixing with your fingers to dissolve any lumps, adding enough to make a soft dough that holds its shape without cracking when molded.
Set dough aside to rest for 5 minutes then add the oil and work it in with your hands, if needed add more corn flour or water to keep the dough to the proper consistency.
Divide the dough into 6 equal portions, shape them into a 4-inch diameter patties, about 1 inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet.Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Lightly oil a large nonstick skillet or griddle and heat over medium heat.In batches, place the arepas in the griddle.
Cook until the underside is golden brown, about 4 minutes, the patties must be loose from the griddle.
Turn and brown the other side. Return arepas to the baking sheet.
When all of the arepas are browned, transfer them directly to the oven rack (without the baking sheet). Bake until the surfaces of the arepas have formed a taut skin, return the arepas to the baking sheet and let them cool a little bit.
Split each arepa in half and fill with the chicken mixture. Serve warm.