Arepas have been on the table at practically every step of my introduction to Colombian cuisine, and I’m pretty solidly hooked. They are crispy corn cakes that can either be stuffed, or topped with practically anything. You think fusion tacos are awesome? Swap the tortilla for an arepa, and raise your meal to the next level.
This particular topping of black beans, cheese, and avocado is simple, delicious, and still reminds me of a summer when Dani and I used to walk a few blocks from class to get our fix at Arepa Mia inside of Sweet Auburn Market.
This arepa dough is easy to make, and in-law approved. Add fine cornmeal (“P.A.N.” is the brand I used) salt, pepper, paprika and cheese. Mix with warm water until an even, stable dough forms, make small (about 1 inch) dough balls, then flatten on a pre-floured pataconera. Transfer to a floured sheet pan and cover until ready to cook.
Put a heavy pan on medium-high heat, and cook the arepas until browned and crispy on both sides, then transfer to a stack of paper towels, and keep warm. You’ve already conquered the “hard” part.
Now that you have a canvas, you need some paint. Whip up some hogao, a ubiquitous Colombian condiment of sautéed tomatoes, onions, garlic, and peppers. I could have blended everything into a sauce, but I had a feeling that the larger cut would look more interesting. You decide…
You just have to caramelize the hogao until the onions turn translucent, and the peppers soften– then season with lime juice, cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper. You’ll probably end up with extra, and there’s good news: hogao is pretty stable in the fridge for at least a few days, so it can be your go-to condiment while supplies last. And believe me–it tastes good on practically anything (savory).
Once all the components were ready, I defied my hunger and tried to work out how to plate it all–like this bowl very conspicuously missing an arepa…Maybe I just forgot it–or maybe I ate it before I took the picture… Either way, you’re about to eat really well, and soon you’ll see why I am a proudly converted Yorùbá-American Barranquillero.
4 Cups Black Beans
3 Cups Cotija Cheese
2 Cups Extra Fine Corn Meal
4 Cloves of Garlic, minced
3 Cups Roma Tomatoes, seeded and minced
2 Cups Bell Pepper, minced
1/2 Onion, minced
1 Avocado, sliced thinly
2 Sprigs of Thyme,
1 Cup Cilantro, chopped
2 Cups Warm Water
2 Tbs Paprika
1 Tbs Cumin
1 Tbs Garlic Powder
1 Tbs Capers, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
- Stew black beans with onions, garlic, thyme, cilantro, and season to taste. Stir occasionally, and simmer until ready to serve.
- In a separate pot, sautee tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, capers, and cilantro until the tomatoes soften. Taste for seasoning. This is a Colombian condiment called hogao that you’ll serve with the arepas.
- Transfer corn meal to a large mixing bowl, and season with 1 Tbs of salt, pepper, paprika and 2 Tbs of cheese. Slowly add warm water, and whisk into a semi-firm dough.
- Form dough balls in your desired size, then flatten to half-inch thick cakes. Add 2 Tbs of vegetable oil to a heavy pan on medium-high heat. Pan fry until golden on both sides.
- Plate arepas with beans, cheese, avocado, hogao, and lime.