Five Senses Palate/Sujhey Beisser
Beet Arepas with Chorizo Filling
For Venezuelans, one of the symbols most recognized as part of our nationality is the Arepa. The versatile cornbread is served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, filled with various cheeses, meats, and vegetables. In this very column, I have already shared a couple of my favorite traditional arepa recipes.
The migration of Venezuelans worldwide in the last decade has done a lot to expand our culture to many cities and small towns around the world. Venezuelans, wherever they go — they make arepas.
Ten years ago, the Arepa — a word that comes from our indigenous ancestors — was not well known outside of Latin American culture. Still, today this small circle of corn flour is known all over the world. For a decade, Venezuelans have been celebrating International Arepa Day on the second Saturday of September.
In celebration of Arepa Day and Hispanic Heritage Month, here is a fun twist using locally grown beets to create the beautiful hue on our traditional Arepa. Let's get cooking!
(For Arepas: makes 3-4 small arepas)
2 Cups Precooked Corn Flour - Preferably Harina P.A.N.
2 medium beets
A splash of cooking oil
Salt to taste
Preheat the oven at 400F - wash the beets and wrap them in a sheet of foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake until tender, about 35 minutes. Peel the beets when they are cool enough for the touch. In a blender, add the beets with a half cup of water and blend on high until you obtain a thick puree.
In a medium bowl, add beet puree, a splash of oil, and season with salt. Add cornflower gradually while stirring with your fingers. You can use a plastic glove for this step; beets will stain your hands. You'll notice the cornflower absorbs the liquid quickly; work with your hand to form a dough that is soft and pliable, make sure there are no lumps. Grab enough dough to make a ball of the size of a golf ball, start flattening the ball using the
palm of your hands. Place the disk on one hand and use your other palm to shape the edges in a circular motion. Wet your hands while shaping to get rid of any cracks on the disk. Place on a flat surface covered with plastic wrap.
To cook using a flat iron, put it on a high heat stovetop. When it is hot, add a splash of cooking oil, using a paper towel to disperse the oil to cover the entire surface. It should smoke, that's ok. Place the arepas carefully in the hot iron, leaving space between the disks. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until arepas come off easily. Flip to the other side using a spatula. Cook until both sides are crunchy and have dark spots. An excellent way to know if arepas are cooked inside is by sound. Yeap! Slap the top a couple of times with your fingers; if it sounds hollow, they are ready; if there is no hollow sound, they may need a bit more cooking.
(For the chorizo filling)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tomato, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 Spanish chorizo sausages, halved lengthwise and then sliced
Salt to taste