In law school, I think a lot about guilt. We learn and analyze guilt on so many different levels, and think about proving guilt, disproving guilt, and the nature of guilt. Law school has changed the way I think of people, maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I see things in terms of lawsuits, guilt, and how solid my arguments to nail you to the proverbial wall. I judge things based on the gravity of the information I have in my possession… and I research to further analyze whether my judgment is sound. I judge. I judge a lot.
The other day, someone asked me, “What are your guilty pleasures?” And I thought… how could something that is pleasurable be guilty? Is it wrong? Are you doing something morally questionable? Why does something that make you happy a guilty thing? Because in my mind – pleasure is good. Feeling good is good. So… what is guilty about it? A lot of people talk about food like that… chocolate is their guilty pleasure… or cupcakes. Or ribs. But to me? Food is never guilty or bad or regrettable. I believe in eating all of the wonderful things in the world and enjoying every single bite… and then if you are worried about the calories? You go run it off… I don’t believe in low calorie. I don’t believe in fat-free. I don’t believe in sugar free. I don’t believe in skipping meals. I don’t believe in dieting to lose weight. I believe in loading up on all of the good things in life. Food, exercise, and laughs.
Anyway, a few years back, my sister and I saw some stellar reviews for an arepas bar in NYC. I was working in the Financial District at the time, so my sister collected by father and me from work and we went to the arepas bar. It was delicious. Granted, my dignified father, sister, and I were squished in a little hole in the wall restaurant table nailed against the wall… but the food was delicious. And I was instantly infatuated with the idea of making my own arepas. After doing my research, I bought a bag of masarepa flour and fixings. My family and I ate arepas for months afterward… it was one of those treats we would gather around the table to eat. It was fun. We’d hollow out the pillows of arepas and load them up with cheese, beans, and meat. It was messy, and inevitably the munchkin would stick her head through our arms and try to lick the table. It was so much fun, and so delicious.
So, now that I live alone and in a little apartment, arepas are few and far between. The frying oil permeates my apartment, and I dislike sitting eating what I consider family food by myself. The arepas we ate at the arepas bar were thick, and hollowed out to make room for fillings, but I make mine thin and crisp. It eliminates the hollowing out step, and then I top the arepas with toppings like canapes. I think this would be an amazing appetizer for a dinner party, the crisp little arepas are just phenomenal with melted cheese and beans. I think any topping would be phenomenal. Maybe some pulled pork, or chicken to make them heartier.
Arepas (Kaprise Kitchen Style)
- 1 cup of masarepa flour (this is different than masa harina!)
- 1 cup of boiling water
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 cup of black beans
- 1/2 cup of salsa (or homemade pico de gallo)
- 1/2 cup of shredded cheese (any kind! I used a pre-shredded mix from the grocery)
- hot sauce (Tabasco, Cholula, whatever floats your boat)
- 1/2 -1 cup of canola oil
- In a bowl, stir together masarepa and water until the water is absorbed. Cover the mixture for 10 minutes
- After the dough has rested a bit, wet your hands and form the dough into 2 tablespoon patties. Flatten them to about 1/4 inch thick. I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons per circle to make smaller and cuter arepas.
- Heat 1/2 cup of oil in a skillet
- Fry the arepas in the oil until golden, about 4 minutes per side.
- Allow the arepas to drain on paper towels, continue to fry the remaining arepas.
- Arrange the arepas on a cookie sheet
- Top with black beans and cheese
- Broil (on high) arepas until the cheese has melted
- Top with salsa and serve.
- The arepas keep well in the refrigerator (without salsa) for up to 3 days. You can simply reheat in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees.