Savory Garlic Arepas
I am an addict. I admit it. More specifically, I am an arepa addict. I kind of knew this to be true while I was still living in Puerto Rico, but my recent move back to the mainland, has confirmed it. I have been going through serious arepa withdrawal, and my visit to la isla this past April only strengthened that need.
Arepas are not a traditional Puerto Rican food item, but that is where I discovered them. My tio is married to a Colombian woman named Rosa, who shortly after I got to PR, stole my heart with those toasty little corn cakes. She would serve them for breakfast with a dish called pericos (whisked eggs with tomato, onion, and oil) and homemade hot chocolate (using Colombian chocolate bars of course)!
Later, as I started leaning towards a more vegan diet, Rosa rolled with me. She would separate a portion of the tomato and onion mixture so that I may make a tofu scramble instead of the traditional egg dish. She also began coating the arepa pan with olive oil instead of butter. And finally, the hot chocolate was easily adjusted to use almond milk instead of the regular kind.
As my love for arepas grew, so did my excitement about experimenting with their flavor. I absolutely love Indian food and really love naan – garlic and onion naan to be exact. I don’t know how or why but shortly after hopping on the arepa bandwagon I thought these would be amazing with some ajo molido mixed into the dough. So, in true Nuyorican style, I took a bag of masarepa home and started cooking. Now, a few things should be mentioned here – arepa molding is a true art. Admittedly, it is not one I have mastered yet. I do the best I can, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to make a perfectly round arepa like Rosa. In fact, she laughs at me every time I try to make one in her presence. But, I push forward because I don’t care how they look, as long as they taste good! The results? Freakin’ delicious! Uneven circles and all! Most recently I’ve thrown in crushed red pepper flakes to accompany the garlic. It gave the arepas a subtle yet tasty kick. I paired my little obsessions with my homemade carrot ginger soup – and boy did I have fun dipping!
Alright folks, here’s the arepa recipe. Proceed with caution. Warning: they are not only addictive, they are super easy to make (making them even more addictive)! Buen Provecho.
Ingredients and Method
- 2 cups of masarepa (white corn meal)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 3 cups of warm water
- 3 or 4 cloves of freshly minced garlic or 2 tablespoons of pre-minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
- Olive or sunflower oil for the pan
Note: Water should be warm, NOT hot. You will have to put your hands in that corn meal to mold it all together. Hot water and skin…they’re not friends.
- Mix all dry ingredients together.
- Add in water and garlic.
- Mix and form the dough with your hands. Let the dough stand for a few minutes.
- Form the dough into patties. I enjoy making them about the size of my palm, although you can experiment with bigger and fatter versions.
- Coat a skillet with oil and place it on medium heat. Arepas don’t expand, so pack as many as you’d like on the skillet.
- Cook arepas until brown on each side. They should be soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.
- Serve with soups, egg/tofu stir fries, or eat as a snack topped with hummus or jelly.