Sunday, July 30, 2006

Arepa con Salsa

Continuing with the southern theme mentioned here and here, I will dip further south with this entry. As previously mentioned, I do not make much Mexican (or South American) food. I love its spice and freshness, but hold a few restaurants close to my heart that have mastered it better than I ever could (although I have a promised empanada recipe eventually making its way towards me from a family friend). About 1 year ago, one of those restaurants closed.

Pollos y Mas was an amazing family-run Columbian hole-in-the-wall. Serving up steak or whole chickens with ginormous sides of beans, rice, plantains and whole sliced avocado (my favorite) for astonishingly low prices (around $8). My roommates at the time ordered from the restaurant weekly and as I entered the apartment the sweet savory smell of rotisserie chicken would get me salivating in no time.

D and I found the scent overpowering as we walked by one night and were pulled in for dinner. We started the meal with an arepa con queso. Ordered without knowing what we would get-- I knew that D liked his corn and I liked my cheese. A thick, bright yellow corn pancake was brought to us covered with a snow white cheese. Upon tasting, the cheese’s light-saltiness complemented the sweet corn arepa perfectly. No sooner were D and I hooked than Pollos y Mas closed down, our arepa lost forever-- Or so we thought.

A few months back as D and I meandered slowly over the refrigerated section of our local grocery, we noticed what seemed to be a cousin of the arepa once had. By no means freshly made like the Pollos y Mas one, it would do for our purpose. Settled in nearby were various packets of queso fresco. Grabbing up a pack of each, we attempted to replicate our first tasting of the arepa at home. We started simple, as it was at Pollos y Mas, a thick corn patty covered in cheese, toasted warm until the cheese produced hints of melting. How could something so simple taste so decadent?

In the months to come, D and I expanded our arepa tastings. Sometimes with fresh tomato or avocado sliced on top, other times with salsa, and when we were really hungry, a poached egg, would cap it—always with the queso fresco. The recent heat wave has kept us out of the kitchen and yearning for quick food solutions. The arepa with queso fresco and other accoutrements has been our go-to to the delight of us and others.

Today was no different as D attempted to hold back his excitement when he suggested the arepa for lunch. Because I knew we had a few other fresh ingredients to accompany the meal, I agreed. I must say, this was the best salsa accompaniment yet and why it was deserving of a picture.

Note: Arepa and queso fresco are available at many groceries where usual South American products are available. Look in the refrigerated section.

Serving Size= 2 persons. Active time= 10 minutes.
* 2 corn Arepa
* ¼ cup queso fresco, sliced long to cover arepa
* 1 large vine-ripe tomato, diced
* 1 small Spanish onion, diced
* 1 ripe avocado, diced
* 1- 15oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
* ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
* 1 fresh red Serrano pepper, chopped
* juice of 1 lime

1) Arrange queso fresco over arepa and place in toaster oven on medium heat. (D likes to do 2 rounds of toasting on medium because the queso fresco just begins to lose form.)
2) While arepa toast, prepare the salsa. In a medium bowl place the tomato, onion, avocado, black beans, cilantro, pepper and lime juice. Mix and serve over arepa.
NOTE: A tasty addition to this is a poached egg.

Head on over to Sweetnick's for Tuesday's ARF roundup!

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