Falafel Arepas

Arepas take two. I’ve been experimenting with this yummy Venezuelan staple food for a while. After a few initial failed attempts, I finally have them down pat. You HAVE TO use pre-cooked white cornmeal (I used the wrong kind of corn flour in an earlier post.) There are several brands of arepa flour out there, but the most common one I’ve seen around is Harina PAN. It can probably be found in the ethnic food section in the grocery store. They’re super easy to make and go well with anything, and can be used in place of pita (if gluten-free is your thing.) I decided to fill them with falafel to make a savory East-meets-West kind of pocket with a Latin twist. Topped with a creamy cashew nut sauce, these little guys were really flavorful!

Baked falafel balls (makes about 9 balls)

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained (about 1 can)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375º. Put all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until a thick paste is formed. Roll into 1-inch balls and put onto an oiled baking dish, slightly flattening them. Cook for 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through. They should be crispy and browned.

Arepa pockets (makes about 6)

  • 1 cup Harina PAN flour
  • 1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix the flour with your hands until all the water is absorbed. Roll into 2-inch balls and flatten between your palms. Grill until golden brown on both sides (I use a George Foreman grill for convenience.) Allow to cool, then cut a slit halfway through to make a pocket.

Cashew cream sauce (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 1/4 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp cashew butter
  • 3 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • salt, black pepper, paprika, and a pinch of nutmeg

Process everything up until smooth.

Serve with sliced red cabbage and chopped tomato.

¡Buen Provecho!

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Hummus Arepas

I’ve been thinking about making arepas for a while. One of my fave restaurants in New York is Caracas Arepa bar, and every time I go there, I think, “This can’t be so hard to make!” And living in Bushwick, there’s no lack of corn flour in the bodegas around here. So I bought a bag and decided to finally give it a go. Despite a couple speed bumps along the way, they’re pretty simple to make and turned out better than expected for my first try. And so cheap! A 4.5 pound bag of masa corn flour only costs $2.99. I used good old hummus for the filling, my go-to staple food whenever I’m running low on funds and need something nutritious and filling for the week. To top it off I added some spinach and tomatoes from my favorite veggie market in the neighborhood, Angel’s Fruit Market on Knickerbocker and Willoughby. They have the best and cheapest produce I’ve found so far. So overall, pretty cheap meal!

For the hummus:

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (I used dry beans, soaked overnight and boiled for about 30min)
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup warm water (or cooking water from chickpeas if you still have it lying around)

Process everything up and set aside.

For the arepas, I used this recipe for the dough and used this corn masa mix.

What I found was that I should have flattened the balls out more than the recipe called for because I had to cook them in the oven for twice as long and then eventually I realized they weren’t cooking on the inside and had to cut them in half and leave them in the oven another 15 minutes.

Finally, spread some hummus on each side of the arepa, add some fresh spinach and sliced tomoatoes, and eat like a sandwich.

In the end they turned out delicious. I’m even thinking of having a plain one tomorrow with some vegan butter for breakfast!