Arepa-the Venezuelan "gordita"
Arepas are made from a pre-cooked corn meal that is generally available at Latin food stores in the U.S. It might be hard to find in other parts of the world outside of Colombia and Venezuela. The most popular brand in Venezuela is the Harina PAN, a bright yellow package that is easy to spot in the stores.
I do not measure the water that I add to the corn meal, but I would say that recipe should go something like this:
2 cups corn flour
1 tsp. salt
3? cups of warm water (I think it's about 1 1/2 cups of water per cup of corn meal)
I add the water and then continue to mix the dough for a few minutes since the corn meal tends to soak up the water...sometimes I get it too hard and have to add more water after it's 'set' and that's hard. Anyway, the mix should be somewhat easy to handle, not too sticky and wet, but not so hard that the sides crack when you form the arepas.
Make a ball with the dough, then gradually start flattening the ball to form a cake...I generally just grab a handful and make them all relatively the same size. Fry the arepas on a griddle with a little oil until browned and crispy on both sides.
Colombians eat their arepas with the meal like bread, but Venezuelans cut them open and stuff them with many different kinds of fillings, ranging from butter and cheese to scrambled eggs to beef, pork, or chicken. The arepa in the picture below is stuffed with shredded beef, called 'carne mechada'.
Boil beef (chicken, pork, or other meat could be substituted) and cool, then shred
--For seasoning, add salt, garlic, onion, etc.
Sauté chopped onion, garlic, cilantro, peppers, and tomato in oil
Add the meat and simmer; add a little bit of the beef broth if needed to keep the meat moist
For added seasonings, comino and/or adobo can be used.
Meat cooked this way is also great over rice or to accompany beans!
Venezuelan Potato Salad
Salt to taste
Optional ingredients: boiled eggs, onions, pickles, chopped cilantro
Boil the potatoes, carrots, and beets. Sometimes I just throw the potatoes and carrots in the pot together and then peel afterwards. Or, the carrots can be peeled and chopped and then boiled, but that's a bit more work... The beets can be boiled whole, but it doesn't take as long if they are cut up in several pieces. They do tend to lose their color, but adding a bit of lemon juice will help.
Peel and dice the potatoes, carrots, and beets. Add mayonnaise and salt. Sometimes I add garlic powder for extra flavor. I also like to grate onion and then add just the onion juice-it avoids the crunchy burst of onion, which Miguel doesn't care for. If you add the boiled eggs, onions, or pickles, chop first...
I really commend you if you are still reading!!!! This is turning out to be a loooong post...maybe I should have broken it up. Oh well. I did want to add a note about frying plantains...
Tajadas (fried sliced plantains)
Venezuelans love their fried plantains (plátano)! They eat them nearly every day. Generally, tajadas are made from ripe plantains. Just peel and slice at an angle, then fry in oil. I have found that the riper the plantain, the more greasy they get...the exception to that is when I've used coconut oil and then they don't seem to be as greasy. To avoid frying, sometimes I sauté the tajadas in butter or a little oil and that seems to work pretty well, too.
There are many ways to cook plantains. The green ones are best fried like chips, with salt. I also like to add green plantain chunks to soups, but I think that's an acquired taste... The riper ones can be boiled (with or without the peel-cut each plantain into several pieces), roasted on the grill or in a fire (with peel-poke holes to allow the steam to escape), peeled and baked in the oven (they can be cut open and lined with cheese or slathered in butter and brown sugar!), etc. I've even had a sort of lasagna once that had fried plantains instead of the noodles! We eat them raw (ripe, only!). :) I guess the possibilities are endless...