Ash and I got together this weekend to get our hummus action on for Vegan MoFo and by now we have eaten a lot of hummus. We are both turning into chickpeas. In fact, yoga and chickpeas are combining in our minds and we are practicing chanasana (chickpea pose) quite frequently. You can too by curling up into a chickpea-shaped-ball and chilling out.
We’ve discovered that there’s a point that you get to during a vegan month of hummus, where you just need something else to eat your hummus with, other than carrot sticks or Mary’s crackers… So we made arepas!
Arepas are corn flatbreads from Latin American countries (mainly Columbia and Venezuala, but eaten all over). They are similar to pupusas (Salvadoran stuffed corn flatbreads), but they are cooked as a single patty, then split in half and turned into little savoury sandwiches. (Shout out to fellow Vegan MoFo participant Dawn at Veg-Am, who made sweet arepas this week; don’t you want to try her Brown Sugar Arepas with Peaches and Maple-Cayenne Pecans?)
For the most authentic and traditional arepas, corn is soaked, ground, boiled, ground, turned into dough, and then fried, grilled, or baked! For authentic and convenient arepas, you can by precooked corn flour: masarepa. Harina PAN is the most well-known brand name, and comes in yellow or white corn varieties (white corn is the most common).
I make “untraditional” and convenient arepas, using masa harina, the form of corn flour traditionally used for making tortillas, tamales, pupusas, and empanadas. Apparently lots of Latin American people do this too, so I’m in good arepa company. I just happened to have the masa harina around from making pupusas (and wanting to make tamales), so it was easy to use! Masa harina has a distinct flavour, different from the masarepa, because it has gone through the process of nixtamalization, where it is treated with lime (calcium hydroxide, not the citrus fruit) or wood ash. You know that “corn tortilla” taste? That comes from the very alkaline lime or ash.
Whether you choose masarepa or masa harina, if you are gluten-free you just want to check your brand — some “may contain wheat”.
I first discovered arepas through our friends Mike & Tanya, who made them for us as an impromptu dinner one night. We did them on their Big Green Egg charcoal barbecue (ohhhhhh I need one of these — it smokes and grills at the same time!) — and then ate them with lots of guacamole.
Seeing as we don’t have a BBQ, I do my arepas on the stovetop. I use our new (wedding present) cast iron skillet, but a non-stick pan, or grill pan would work great! I’m intrigued by baking them as well, and would like to do a batch in the oven. I think making a big batch for a party would work really well in the oven!
We’ve made arepas multiple times in the last few weeks, just because they are so delicious, easy, and fast! And they’re naturally gluten-free flatbreads that are ready in less than 10 minutes. Love it.
I’ve halved the recipe a few times when it was just Mr. KitchenOperas and I eating arepas, but discovered that extra arepas keep really well in the fridge, wrapped up (I used freezer paper), and then reheated in the toaster oven the next day. I halved them while they were still warm (before packing them away in the fridge), and it was really easy to have another arepa-fest the next day.
Making arepas is pretty simple, even if you’re not very good with dough… you don’t even have to get out your rolling pin. All you do is mix together the masa, water, and salt:
Turn those balls into discs, and then fry, grill or bake them:
Arepas are great topped with all sorts of things, like:
- black beans, avocado and vegan cheddar
- vegan jackfruit and chipotle from I Eat Grass
- raw walnut taco filling from Give a Chuck
- Tofu Scramble with Coconut Bacon from Vegan Yack Attack
And as we discovered, they are awesome with our new hümmi (stay tuned tomorrow and Wednesday for our new flavours that are arepa-perfect!):
Makes 6-8 arepas, enough for 4 people along with a side salad
- 2 c. masa harina
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1 3/4c. water
- vegetable oil for cooking
In a large mixing bowl, combine masa and salt. Add the water, and mix well with your fingers until the mixture forms a ball of dough.
At this point you can let the dough sit for 10 minutes (I have skipped this step and not noticed a difference).
Form the dough into 6-8 balls of dough. Flatten out each ball into a disc. I tend to like them “English muffin-sized” — they don’t puff up at all when you cook them so the size you make the dough discs will be the size of your finished arepa.
Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan. Heat the pan over medium heat, and add the arepa discs. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, until each surface has brown spots.
Slice in half and serve warm, topped with delicious things.