Poor Mark Bittman received a lashing from a number of outspoken readers when he took on the humble arepa last month, and apparently slaughtered it. So I was thrilled when my friend Jessica brought pumpkin arepas to my dinner party last Saturday. Having received guidance from her Colombian boyfriend, she understood the important distinction Mr. Bittman missed: cornmeal is no stand in for PAN, the pre-cooked corn flour that is essential to the arepa.
Here is her recipe:
Arepas de Yessica
1. In large bowl, w/ clean little hands, mix together:
-1 cup of PAN*
-1/2 cup steamed and cooled butternut squash or pumpkin (depending on the amount of water, you might need to add or drain a little bit. If too crumbly, add a few drops of water-should be sticky at first, but form a pretty solid clump as you mix in your hands.)
2. Roll into one cylinder w/ flat edges. Slice in half first, then slice each new cylinder in 4-6 discs (width of a CD case) [note: you can use an empty soup can or simple cookie cutter to make them as perfectly round as Jessica's.]
3. If you have a tortilla press, you’ll get an even width without destroying the perfect arepa you just formed ;) If you don’t have one, slice thinner and toast. [Again, try improvising with a heavy cutting board to flatten.]
4. Toast each side on medium heat until golden crisp, but make sure the inside stays moist and somewhat creamy. A pan with holes works great!
Serve warm, add butter on top, salt and pepper to taste. Wonderful with ripe avocado, and/or queso fresco. For a sweet version, lavender honey on queso.
*PAN: corn flour that can be found at Casa Lucas on 24th (in San Francisco)