Edible Bozeman

A Rainbow of Colombian Arepas

When I am feeling a bit nostalgic and craving for anything Colombian, I make arepas. Arepas are a sort of flatbread made with precooked cornmeal. They are easy to prepare, and people of all ages and backgrounds enjoy them any time of the day.

Arepas are a favorite at weddings and pop-up dinners, and it helps that they are naturally gluten-free and can be made using plant-only ingredients.

In Colombia, we enjoy arepas with toppings, fillings, or by themselves. Here I’ve included instructions for a lentil salad that pairs well with the arepas as a colorful centerpiece enhanced with a citrusy vinaigrette.

These recipes use pulp from vegetables and fruits to make colorful and tasteful arepas. My thought is, if you can make a pulp juice out of a fruit or vegetable, then you should be able to make an arepa with it, so feel free to experiment with your favorite colors and flavors. I use herbs and spices to enhance the flavor. I also love to use cheeses, like feta or Mexican blends, and even chocolate chips and raisins.

Like polenta, the arepa cornmeal—also known as arepa flour and not to be mistaken with masa harina used to make tortillas and tamales—is a refined flour made with large corn kernels. You can buy it in Bozeman at Town & Country Foods. Because all the vegetables and fruits have different water content, I either add more liquid or flour to obtain the right consistency. The result should be like making tortillas: The masa should be pliable enough to shape but not overly sticky. If you find your dough to be too sticky, simply sprinkle in a little more cornmeal.

MAKES 8–10 AREPAS
SERVING 2 PER PERSON

Carrot Arepas

1 cup shredded carrots
1¼ cups water
1¼ cups P.A.N. white cornmeal
1 tablespoon coconut oil, plant-based butter, or regular butter, melted
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Enjoy with thick-cut orange marmalade and mayonnaise.

Beet Arepas

1 cup grated red beets
1¼ cups water
1¼ cups P.A.N. white cornmeal
1 tablespoon coconut oil, plant-based butter, or regular butter, melted
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Enjoy with sour cream and horseradish.

Spinach Arepas

1 cup chopped spinach
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1¼ cups water
1¼ cups P.A.N. white cornmeal
1 tablespoon coconut oil, plant-based butter, or regular butter, melted
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

To make the Spinach, Beet, or Carrot Arepas:

Using a blender, combine the prepped vegetables (and basil, for the Spinach) with water and process until you obtain a thick pulp. Place the P.A.N. cornmeal in a medium bowl, then add the melted coconut oil or butter, any other ingredients, and the salt. Pour in the vegetable pulp and knead until it has a Play-Doh consistency. Let the masa rest for at least 5 minutes. Shape into 8–10 ping-pong-sized balls, and then flatten into ¼-inch disks.

There are a couple of ways to cook the arepas. You can sauté them in a pan with a bit of butter, coconut oil, or avocado oil at medium heat for about 5 minutes, flip them, and cook for another 5. Or, especially for larger quantities, I like to use the oven.

Heat oven to 400°F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and place arepas on the paper without overcrowding. I like to brush them on both sides with a bit of avocado oil or butter so they do not dry out. Bake for 15–20 minutes, then flip and bake for another 10. Cooking time depends on your oven, so make sure you check in the first time you make them. Transfer to a tray and enjoy warm with lentil salad and specified condiments for each flavor.

Coconut Arepas

These arepas remind me of our Arroz con Coco, Cartagena’s famous coconut rice. They make a great breakfast morsel or a healthy snack.

10 ounces coconut cream or milk (Thai Kitchen)
1¼ cups P.A.N. white cornmeal
¼ cup raisins
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground anise seed

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Because of the coconut milk’s fat content, you may find that the dough is a bit sticky. If so, add more cornmeal until you find you can shape it into ¼-inch disks as you did with the other arepas. Sauté or bake in the same manner.

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