I’m a huge fan of all things corn: grits, corn on the cob, polenta, you name it. Maybe it’s my Southern heritage, but there’s something earthy, simple, and comforting about corn products (well, with the exception of corn syrup…).
Recently our friend Javier turned us on to homemade tortillas. I always thought that they would be impossible to make, but with a tortilla press, they really are quite easy, and he walked us through the process several times. Even so, I don’t always feel like dragging out the tortilla press, and I’m still working on making them the perfect thickness.
Last night, after much travel, I looked in our fridge and found there was little there. I managed to scrounge together a bean stew, but we both felt like something corny on the side, like cornbread. Unfortunately, a lack of milk and eggs made that impossible, but we did have some masa harina. I figured one of my favorite recipe search engines, foodily.com, could help me find something to make out of our lone bag of masa harina.
Fortunately, we were in luck–one of the first recipes that came up was for arepas–a Venezuelan sort of corn flatbread or thick tortilla. And the ingredients?: masa harina, water, and salt. How easy is that? I first came across arepas in college, when I lived in New York City for a term, not too far from Caracas Arepas Bar where they stuffed the corn circles with delicious meat and vegetarian fillings. They were cheap, nourishing, and delicious, so it was great to come across a recipe for them. We also don’t eat a lot of bread in the house, but I sometimes crave some vehicle for the many vegetarian bean dips or stews that we so often eat, and so these seemed liked a perfect thing to introduce into our repertoire.
Within about 15 minutes from start to finish, we had a plate full of hot arepas to accompany our bean stew. We had them plain, and for me, slathered with butter, but they would be great stuffed or topped with avocado and lime, ceviche, refried beans and toppings, or grilled meat or seafood. I was impressed at how quickly these came together and I think they will become a staple in our home.
adapted from Big Girls Small Kitchen, makes 8 small arepas
- 1 1/2 C. masa harina
- 1 tsp. salt
- about 1 1/3 C. water
- oil or cooking spray
Using a fork or a whisk, combine the masa harina and salt well. Add in about 1 C. of the water to the masa harina and salt mixture and combine with hands. Add enough water until the dough comes together and is about the texture of playdough. Divide the dough in half, and divide each half into fourths, rolling them in your hands to make 8 little balls of dough. Flatten each of the 8 dough balls into flat discs. Heat a cast iron skillet on the stove and add a thin film of oil or cooking spray. When the pan is hot, add the dough discs in batches. Flatten the discs with a spatula. Cook over medium high for about 5 minutes on the first side, or until golden and with black spots across the bottom. Flip, flatten the discs again, and cook for about 5 minutes or until both sides are perfectly charred. Serve immediately while hot, or keep them warm in a warm oven.