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Vegetarian Arepas with Avocado and Plantains

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For those nights when you get home hungry, stressed, and impatient, Hangry is here to help. Each Monday, Kendra Vaculin will share quick, exciting meals that anyone can make -- whether you're in your first apartment or feeding a hangry family.

Today: Classic Venezuelan street food that's sweet, savory, filling, and damn near perfect.

What’s the perfect food? Not your favorite food, but the most complete -- well-rounded or well-angled or very specifically satisfying in a way that makes it perfect. Do you know this off the top of your head? Do you have a gut reaction? Probably trust your gut, as that’s the place you’re feeding.

I can’t help but think of blueberry pancakes with bacon on the side whenever this query arises. To be perfect, to me, means sweet and salty, a carby base plus something I could get at the farmers market. I want substance and a range of textures. I like cooking that is pretty easy. I like eating that is a little messy, like broken berries bleeding purple across your plate and chin and tablecloth.

Arepas do this for me too. I am a late adopter of the Venezuelan staple, having been turned on to their corny stuffed magic only within the last two years, but these bad boys wasted no time becoming a major favorite. In restaurants I nearly always go the meat route -- shredded pork in a corn cake? Are you joking me? -- but at home, a vegetarian version is a breeze to bring together. The sweet of the plantain plus the heartiness of the beans plus the cool kick of guacamole equals damn close to perfect. All of that piled on top of what is basically a pancake, and I’m sorry, but game over.

Vegetarian Arepas with Avocado and Plantains

Makes 6 to 8 arepas

For the arepas:

2 cups masarepa, P.A.N. harina blanca, or any other pre-cooked cornmeal or corn flour
2 1/2 cups warm water
Pinch of salt
Vegetable oil for frying

For the filling:

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 plantains, cut into half width-wise and then into 1⁄4 inch strips
More vegetable oil
1 ripe avocado, chopped
1 small onion, diced (I like yellow but you do you)
1 jalepeño, seeded, cored and finely diced
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper

See the recipe (and save and print it) here.

What do you like to put in your arepas? Tell us in the comments!

Photos by Mark Weinberg

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Avocado, Bean, Plantain, Weeknight Cooking, Vegetarian, Dinner, Faster