Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pepper, Bean and Cheese Arepas

Pepper, Bean and Cheese Arepas
Last night, the vegetarian and I were looking forward to venturing up to Harlem for some soul food from Melba's, but, unfortunately, they were totally booked. How disappointing! (Luckily we called first.) 

Since we had promised ourselves a culinary adventure, ordering in was certainly not an option. I decided instead to cook--something easy, tasty and interesting that we could both make together. Inspiration began with one of my favorite cooking tomes, The Best International Recipe, a collection of (very detailed) International recipes by Cook's Illustrated Magazine (who are also the exceedingly helpful and knowledgeable folks behind America's Test Kitchen. I stumbled upon the section on arepas, Venezuelan stuffed corn cakes, and quickly decided that was what we would make. Since I'd never made arepas before, I followed the recipe to the T and was thrilled by how easy and delicious they turned out. If you've only ever had mozzarepas at street fairs, you're missing out!

But one of the best things about arepas is that they're really little sandwiches that you split open like English muffins and stuff with whatever you desire. So it was with the filling that I could play around. I chose beans and cheese, a traditional Venezuelan filling called domino. But I didn't want it to be too heavy and I wanted to incorporate a little sweetness, so I added some bell peppers. Ta-da! Because I used canned beans, the filling didn't require any cooking, making this ideal for a casual weeknight meal. Enjoy!

Pepper Bean and Cheese Corn Cake Filling
(adapted from The Best International Recipe)

  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 4 ounces Monterey jack, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 tablespoon Himalayan salt
  • 1/4 tablespoon pepper, freshly ground
  • 8 freshly made arepas
Pour beans into a large bowl. Mash well with a potato masher (with his superior arm strength, this was the
Pepper, Bean and Cheese Filling
    vegetarian's job). When beans are mashed into a paste, add bell pepper, cheese, cilantro, onions, lime juice, chili powder, salt and pepper. Set aside while you make arepas. As soon as the arepas are out of the oven, pry them open using two forks and a knife and stuff each one with about 3 tablespoons of filling. The warm arepas melt the cheese beautifully. Any leftover filling can be heated for another meal.

    Make it a meal: Why tie yourself down to one cuisine? Serve this with bok choy instead of a salad. To drink? I recommend beer: John John Dead Guy, to be precise. And for dessert. raspberries. Bon appetit!

    Links to other bean and corn noshes:

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