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Recipe: Crema de Auyama | Venezuelan Cream of Squash Calabaza (Soup)

4 Jan Crema de Auyama | Venezuelan Cream of Squash Calabaza (Soup)

By now you must know how much I love soups and creams. I have given you the Apio Soup and the chicken soup recipes so far, but there are plenty more Venezuelan soup and cream recipes to come. Today I want to share with you another very popular Venezuelan creamy soup, the Crema de Auyama. The Auyama, pronounced awˈʝa.ma, is technically a fruit because it contains the seeds of the plant inside. However, most people consider it a vegetable. It most resembles the squash and pumpkin types. In Venezuela it is used in most soup preparations like Sancochos and it is also used on its own to create this cream. However, it is also used to create sweet recipes such as bread and cakes.

The Auyama is easy to cultivate and therefore it is sold in large quantities and at a cheaper price than other vegetables. It is rich in potassium, calcium, vitamin A, and fiber. It is also low in calories because it is mostly made out of water, but it is very tasty. It is believed that because it was easily cultivated, Europeans used it as fodder to feed their animals. Each plant can bear up to 8 fruits and it only takes 140 days to harvest. In Venezuela it is available all year long. However, the Auyama harvested in summer has a sandy-textured pulp and it works best for pasta fillings or cakes. On the other hand, the Auyama harvested in winter is the one that is best for creams and soups, because the pulp is more fibrous and pale, and it has more water content.

Here in the US, the type of pumpkin or squash that I believe to be the closest to the authentic Venezuelan Auyama is sold as Squash Calabaza. I have bought it at Publix and Sedano’s in big chunks (they cut it and sell each individual piece in cling wrap), I have also bought one at Wal-Mart sold as a whole (the whole Calabaza), but I think the ones that come cut in chunks are the ones that most resemble the Auyama taste. The Venezuelan Auyama belongs to the Curcubitaceae family, and the curcubita genre, in the varieties called máxima, moschata, mixta and pepo. Its size is large and it comes in different shapes and sizes, with skin that varies from green to yellow to orange, it can be either smooth or corrugated, and the pulp varies from pale yellow to bright yellow-orange. The taste also varies from very sweet to not so sweet. This is probably why it has been hard for me to find one that truly matches the Venezuelan Auyama taste.

This particular recipe is my sister’s very own recipe, so it is not a traditional recipe, but it is very close to it. My sister, Mariale Ojeda, a.k.a. The Soup Queen as we call her around here, is an expert at making delicious soups for me, the soup lover. This post was created by her, the recipe, the cooking and the photos are all hers. I have to say special thanks to her for all the soups she has been cooking for us lately and for this amazing recipe and post she created as a featured writer of Venezuelan Cooking.

Ingredients for Crema De Auyama

Ingredients for Crema De Auyama

What you need:
– 4 lbs. Auyama (Squash Calabaza)
– 6½ Cups Chicken Broth or Chicken Bouillon (enough to cover all the Auyama)
– 5 to 8 Stems of Cilantro
– 1 Teaspoon Minced Garlic
– ½ Chopped Onion
– 1/3 Sliced Bell Pepper
– ½ Stem Sliced Leek

Preparation:
1. Peel the Auyama and remove the seeds. Cut it in big chunks.

Cut The Auyama In Big Chunks

Cut The Auyama In Big Chunks

2. Place the chunks of Auyama in a large enough pot. Cover entirely with the chicken broth or chicken bouillon (1 bouillon cube per cup of water).

Cover With Chicken Broth

Cover With Chicken Broth\

3. Boil the Auyama at medium to high heat for about 13 minutes.
4. Add the cilantro and continue to boil for another 7 minutes.

Add Cilantro

Add Cilantro

5. Stir occasionally and remove accumulated foam from the top.
6. Meanwhile, cut the rest of the vegetables and heat up a pan with a little bit of olive oil.
7. Toss the veggies in the pan and sauté until brown, then set aside.

Sauté Veggies. Set Aside.

Sauté Veggies. Set Aside.

8. After about 20 minutes of boiling, test the Auyama by taking out a large piece and try to mash it with a fork, as if making mashed potatoes. If you can do this easily, then it’s done.

Test if the auyama is done

Test if the auyama is done

9. Add the sautéed vegetables to the Auyama pot, stir and remove pot from the heat. Let it cool down.

Add veggies to auyama

Add veggies to auyama

10. Once it has cooled down, grab all the solid pieces and place them in a blender or food processor.

Blend

Blend

11. Blend together and gradually add as much of the liquid remaining on the pot as necessary, to reach the right creamy consistency. What you are looking for is a creamy soup consistency.

Creamy consistency

Creamy consistency

12. Serve hot with your favorite garnish and topping, like my sister and I do. Some of our favorite toppings include Parmesan cheese, cream cheese, avocado, rice, croutons and cassava bread.

Crema de Auyama | Venezuelan Cream of Squash Calabaza (Soup)

Crema de Auyama | Venezuelan Cream of Squash Calabaza (Soup)

Note: You can make a big batch of this Squash Calabaza creamy soup and store it in the fridge for a couple of days, or you can store it in the freezer for up to a month. Reheat on the stove and not on the microwave for better results.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Ensalada de Gallina | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

14 Dec Recipe: Ensalada de Gallina | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

“Pollito chicken, gallina hen
lápiz pencil y pluma pen”

This is a short verse of a popular Spanish children’s song that helped us learn English when we were kids.  It was the first thing I thought of when researching today’s recipe and the history behind it.  The literal translation for this recipe is actually hen salad, not chicken salad.  The original recipe from the early 1940’s included hen, specifically.  However, as time passed and availability of chicken versus hen specifically became larger and more cost effective, the chicken replaced the hen in this traditional recipe.  Probably, due to hen being smaller and having less meat content and their meat also requires more time to cook thoroughly.  The difference between chicken and hen, if you don’t know, is that chicken refers to both the male and female versions, while hen refers only to the female chicken.  Nevertheless, the name of the recipe retained its original denomination: Ensalada de Gallina, Hen Salad.
The chicken salad is another important component in the Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Plate.  However, unlike the hallacas and the pan de jamón, the chicken salad is not exclusive to Christmas.  The chicken salad is prepared all year long, and it is quite versatile, taking the stage as a main dish, but also as a side, as a cracker topper or dip, and even as a filling inside arepas.  The chicken salad is also very popular in any birthday party or any other celebration or family gathering in Venezuela.  The best part of this recipe is that it is the easiest one to prepare out of all the Venezuelan Christmas recipes.  This is probably why it is usually prepared last, even on the same day of the Christmas dinner, which we usually celebrate on Christmas Eve.  It must be refrigerated, but it is best when consumed the same day or the day after, but not longer than that, since it can become bitter very quickly.
It is believed that this recipe originated in the most humble stoves in Caracas’ shacks.  When the leftovers of chicken stews such as the chicken, potatoes and carrots where mixed together with mayo to create this cold salad.  When the dish found its way to the wealthier parts of town, they gave it the name of Russian Salad in order for it to sound more sophisticated and fancy than hen salad.  They picked the name Russian Salad, because in fact our Venezuelan Hen / Chicken salad is very similar to the Russian Salad.  The Russian Salad was created around 1860 by an Italian chef in Moscow, and it originally contained deer meat.  With time, the original recipe was changed, but it had already crossed over to other countries, such as Ukraine, where green peas and chicken were cheaper and thus added on to the original recipe.

 Ensalada de Gallina  | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

Ensalada de Gallina | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

What you need:
For Cooking The Chicken
– 1½ lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
– 1 Lemon (Juice)
– Enough Water to Boil Chicken Breasts
– ¼ Onion
– 1Cilantro Stems
– 1 Green Onion Stems
– 1 Celery Stick
– 1 Chopped Garlic Clove
– 1 Leek Stick
– 1 Ají Dulce Venezolano (without seeds or veins)
– 1 Tablespoon Salt
For the Salad
– 2 Small To Medium Potatoes
– 2 Medium To Large Carrot Sticks
– 1 Red, Green or Yellow Apple (Peeled)
– ¼ Cup Canned Green/Sweet Peas (No Salt Added)
– ½ Onion (Optional)
– 1 Red Bell Pepper (Optional)
– 2 Celery Sticks (Optional)
– 2 Cilantro Stems
For The Sauce
– 1 Cup Mayo
– 2 Tablespoons Mustard
– 3 Tablespoons White Vinegar
– ½ Tablespoon White Pepper
– ½ Teaspoon Salt
– ½ Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce (Optional)
Preparation:
1. Clean the chicken breasts using the juice of one lemon and rinse thoroughly with water.

Rinse thoroughly with water

Rinse thoroughly with water

2. In a large enough pot, add the chicken, onion, cilantro, green onion, celery, leek, ají dulce Venezolano, and the salt.  You don’t have to worry about chopping these ingredients, they are being used to add flavor to the chicken.  Use enough water to cover all the ingredients and cook everything at medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is done.
3. Remove the chicken from the pot, drain and set aside to cool down.

Set aside to cool down

Set aside to cool down

4. Wash and peel the potatoes.  Cook the potatoes with enough water and a little bit of salt.  Boil for about 10 minutes.  You want them to be done, but still firm so they don’t get mushy while making the salad.

Cook the potatoes

Cook the potatoes

5. Wash and peel the carrots.  Cook the carrots separately with enough water and a little bit of salt. Boil for about 20 minutes.

Cook the carrots separately

Cook the carrots separately

6. Once the potatoes and carrots are done, cool them down in a big bowl with some cold water and ice.

Cool down the potatoes and carrots

Cool down the potatoes and carrots

7. Your chicken should be cooled down by now.  Shred the chicken breasts using your hands or two forks.

Shred the chicken breasts

Shred the chicken breasts

Shredded chicken breasts

Shredded chicken breasts

8. Begin to cut the potatoes, carrots, apple, celery, and bell pepper in small cubes. Finely chop the onion using a food processor.  Chop the cilantro as well.

Cut the potatoes in small cubes

Cut the potatoes in small cubes

Cut the carrots in small cubes

Cut the carrots in small cubes

Cut the apple in small cubes

Cut the apple in small cubes

Cut the celery in small cubes

Cut the celery in small cubes

Cut the red bell pepper in small cubes

Cut the red bell pepper in small cubes

Chop the cilantro

Chop the cilantro

Finely chop the onion

Finely chop the onion

9. In a large enough bowl, combine the chicken with the finely chopped onion.  Then add this to all the other ingredients chopped and cubed in the previous step, plus the green peas.

Combine the chicken with the finely chopped onion

Combine the chicken with the finely chopped onion

Combine

Combine

10. Add the mayo, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix all the ingredients together.  Adjust the salt and mayo if necessary to taste.

Add the sauce ingredients

Add the sauce ingredients

Mix well, but carefully

Mix well, but carefully

11. Decorate as you wish. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before eating.  Serve cold.

Recipe: Ensalada de Gallina  | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

Recipe: Ensalada de Gallina | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

Recipe: Ensalada de Gallina  | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

Recipe: Ensalada de Gallina | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

7 Dec Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. One thing I didn’t have in this blog is Venezuelan Christmas Recipes… until now. I have a very informative post about Venezuelan Christmas celebrations, traditions, dinner and gifts, but I did not have any actual Christmas recipes until now. I wanted to wait until I had a couple of them, so the recipes I will post this month will be all part of the Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Recipe collection, but I have been working on them since 2012. It was hard for me to cook all the recipes at once by myself, so I had to wait for guests like my sister who visited from Venezuela back in 2012, and my grandmother and even my great grandmother to help create and compile all the recipes.
This recipe is for the #2 most important Venezuelan Christmas Dinner component; Pan de Jamón. The first component is obviously the Hallaca, I am hoping to be able to cook some hallacas with the help of the rest of the family this year to be able to add a recipe for them to this collection. It is believed that the production of pan de jamón began in the 1900’s, and has gradually been incorporated in to the Christmas dinner traditions ever since. It is said that it was originally created in a Panadería (a Venezuelan Bakery/Deli/Café) in the capital city, Caracas. First, it was only made with ham filling, then some other fillings where added including walnuts, almonds and even capers, until it became the version that we know today.
The pan de jamón is usually bought at the panadería, however, there are some families who make them at home. So now I am sharing this recipe with you, so you can make it at home yourself, like I did with my sister. I would like to give her a special thank you for her help with this recipe and blog post back in Christmas 2012.

Ingredients for Pan de Jamón

Ingredients for Pan de Jamón

What you need:
For the Dough
– 2 Cups Milk (Room Temperature)
– 1 Teaspoon Sugar
– 1½ Tablespoon Yeast
– 8 Cups of All Purpose Flour
– 1 Stick of Butter (Soft but not melted)
– 1 Tablespoon Salt
– 3 Tablespoons Sugar
– 3 Eggs
For the Filling
– 2.2 lbs. of Boiled Ham (Sliced)
– ¼ Cup Raisins
– ½ Cup Pitted Green Olives
For the Glaze
– 2 Egg Yolks
– 2 Tablespoons Water
– 1 Teaspoon Salt

Preparation:
1. In a large enough mixing bowl, add the milk. Then, dissolve the teaspoon of sugar in the milk and then add the yeast but don’t stir it in. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest for about 20 minutes in an area with little to no airflow.

Mix Milk, Sugar and Yeast

Mix Milk, Sugar and Yeast

2. After the 20 minutes, add only 4 cups of the flour and mix it very well using your fingers.
3. Make a ball with the dough and leave it in the bowl, cover it with cling wrap and put a kitchen towel on top. Let it sit in an area with no airflow for about 2 hours, or until it doubles in size.

Knead dough and cover

Knead dough and cover

4. After 2 hours, add the rest of the flour and continue to mix it in very well with your fingers, kneading the dough with both hands.

Kneading

Kneading

5. If your dough is dry, you can add two tablespoons of cold milk and knead it in. If on the contrary, your dough is too wet, you can sprinkle more dough on top and continue to knead the dough until it is uniform and consistent.
6. Cover again, as before, and let it sit for another 4 hours.
7. Take the dough out of the fridge and sprinkle some more flour on your working table. Add the soft butter, the salt, the rest of the sugar and the eggs (one by one). Knead the dough with all the ingredients very well. Until you have a very well worked dough that is uniform and without clumps. At the end you can lift it up from the table as high as you can, and let it fall on the table repeatedly until the dough easily lifts of the table and doesn’t stick to your hands.

The dough is ready

The dough is ready

8. Divide the ball of dough in three equal parts. You can cut one small piece and set aside for decorations if you wish. Grab one part and extend it as a rectangle over your working table (be sure to sprinkle your working surface with more flour). Extend the dough using a rolling pin until the dough is about ¼ to ½ an inch.

Divide in 3 equal portions

Divide in 3 equal portions

One portion

One portion

Extend dough with rolling pin

Extend dough with rolling pin

9. Now its time to add the fillings. Begin with a layer of the ham. Add the raisins and olives. Make sure that they are well distributed. Remember to divide the olives and raisins in three equal parts for each bread. Be sure to leave an empty space of about ½ and inch border from the edge of your rectangle without any filling.

Adding the ham

Adding the ham

10. Grab one end of your dough rectangle and begin to roll the entire thing from one end to the other.

Rolling the bread

Rolling the bread

11. Close the ends with your fingertips. At this point you can use that little bit of dough for any decorations.

Close off the ends

Close off the ends

12. Grease a baking sheet with butter and place the bread on the sheet. Cover the bread with a kitchen towel and let it sit for another hour.
13. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
14. Place the bread in the oven (one at a time) for 30 minutes.
15. Take the bread out of the oven and using a brush, cover the top of the bread with the glaze mixture (mix all the glaze ingredients in a bowl).

Glaze

Glaze

16. Place the bread back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Mojo de Cilantro y Perejil | Venezuelan Cilantro & Parsley Mojo Sauce

17 Jul Mojo de Cilantro y Perejil | Venezuelan Cilantro & Parsley Mojo Sauce

This is another type of mojo, like the ones most restaurants have at the table, just like they have salt and pepper.  Personally, I prefer the cilantro and parsley mojo over the mojo isleño.  You can use any mojo as a topping for tostones, hallaquitas, yuca sancochada, yuca frita, parrilla, and empanadas.  You can also use this mojo as a topping for grilled fish, chicken, pork or steaks.

Ingredients Mojo Venezolano

Ingredients Mojo Venezolano

What you need:
– 1 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
– 1 to 2 Sweet Peppers (Ají Dulce)
– ½ Onion
– ½ Tomato
– ¼ Cup Cilantro Leaves
– ¼ Cup Parsley Leaves
– 1 Tbsp. Wine Vinegar
– 1 Tsp. Salt
– ½ Tsp. Pepper

Preparation:
1.  Do not wash the cilantro or the parsley at first.  Take the leaves and measure out first, not too tightly, and then proceed to wash them. (Note: It doesn’t matter if you use curly parsley or regular parsley)
2. Finely chop all the ingredients.

Finely Chop All Ingredients

Finely Chop All Ingredients

3. In a medium frying pan add the oil and begin to fry the onion and the sweet pepper for about 3 minutes.
4. Add the tomatoes, cilantro and parsley, and continue to fry for about 3 more minutes.  Remove from heat.

Fry All Ingredients

Fry All Ingredients

5. Add the wine vinegar, the salt and the pepper.  Try the mixture and add more salt to taste if necessary.

Mojo de Cilantro y Perejil | Venezuelan Cilantro & Parsley Mojo Sauce

Mojo de Cilantro y Perejil | Venezuelan Cilantro & Parsley Mojo Sauce

6.  Serve as a topping of your favorite recipes, such as fish, potatoes, meats, arepas, boiled yuca or hallaquitas.

Mojo de Cilantro y Perejil | Venezuelan Cilantro & Parsley Mojo Sauce

Mojo de Cilantro y Perejil | Venezuelan Cilantro & Parsley Mojo Sauce

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Mojo Isleño Venezolano | Venezuelan Mojo Sauce

5 Jun Venezuelan Mojo Isleño

When I lived in Venezuela, going out to have lunch or dinner at a restaurant wasn’t an everyday thing.  It was more of a luxury.  Middle class families, such as mine, did not eat at a restaurant very often.  But one thing I remember about the few times we ate out is the mojo, or what people think its called Venezuelan Green Sauce.  Mojos are a type of sauce that most restaurants have at the table like they have salt and pepper.  It’s a must.  They are on the table for you to use as you wish.  You can use it as a spread on your bread or hallaquitas, as a sauce for your meat, as a dressing for your potatoes or yuca, even for your soup.  You name it.  Most mojos are prepared with a mixture of herbs, vegetables, oil and vinegar.  Every restaurant has their own recipe and ingredients and some serve both a regular version, and a spicier version.  Personally I like to use mojos as a topping for tostones, hallaquitas, yuca sancochada, yuca frita, parrilla, and empanadas.

Venezuelan Mojo Isleño Ingredients

Venezuelan Mojo Isleño Ingredients

What you need:

– 1 ½ Medium Onions
– 8 Garlic Cloves
– 1 ½ Cups Cilantro Leaves (no stems)
– ½ Cup Parsley Leaves (no stems)
– 1 or 2 Ajíes Picantes (Chili Peppers or Red Chilies)
– 1/8 Cup Bread Crumbs
– ½ Cup Beef Stock
– ¼ Cup Vegetable Oil
– ¼ Cup Vinegar
– ¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper
– 1 Teaspoon Salt
– ½ Tablespoon Paprika

Preparation:
1.  Do not wash the parsley and cilantro at first.  Take the leaves and measure out first, not too tightly, and then proceed to wash them.

Venezuelan Mojo Isleño Ingredients

Venezuelan Mojo Isleño Ingredients

2.  Using a food processor, blend the onions, garlic (I suggest you mince it first), parsley, cilantro, chili peppers (without the veins or seeds).

Blend Ingredients

Blend Ingredients

Green Paste

Green Paste

3.  After you have blended all the ingredients very well and obtained sort of a green paste, mix in the breadcrumbs with a spoon.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs

4.  Place the mixture in a pot and add the beef stock, vegetable oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and paprika.
5.  Cook to a boil, and then continue cooking in high heat for about 12 minutes until it turns into a yellow-greenish color and a thick consistency.

Boil

Boil

6.  Serve as a topping for your favorite recipes, such as fish, potatoes, meats, arepas, boiled yuca or hallaquitas.

Venezuelan Mojo Isleño

Venezuelan Mojo Isleño

Venezuelan Mojo Isleño

Venezuelan Mojo Isleño

*Note:  My mojo looks very green, because I was unable to find the red chili peppers, so I used a green jalapeño instead.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Venezuelan Tequeños | Venezuelan Cheese Wrapped in Dough (Appetizers)

15 Sep Recipe: Venezuelan Tequeños | Venezuelan Cheese Wrapped in Dough (Appetizers)

There are a lot of great memories I have from my childhood in Venezuela.  Most of those come from the various family celebrations held at my grandparent’s house.  Birthday parties, graduation parties, mother’s day parties, anniversary parties, farewell parties, welcome parties, wedding parties and just-because parties.  Back then most of my family still lived in Venezuela, and those get-togethers could become quite packed.  First cousins, second cousins, third cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, parents, godparents, friends, friends-of-friends, family dentist, even our piano teacher was invited.  Back when things didn’t cost so much, too.  My grandparents went all out to celebrate each and every one of these special occasions.  I remember they even used to hire waiters, tables, tents, caterers, cooks, and even a band sometimes.  Back then, most parties were like that, even if it was just a birthday party, it could look like what now is only done for weddings.  And just like in all well organized and catered parties, they always served hors d’oeuvres, or as we call them in Venezuela; “pasapalos”.  This word is actually quite funny, at least to me.  It is actually two words in one, “pasa” and “palos”.  The literal translations are “pasa” = pass, and “palos” = sticks.  What they mean in Venezuelan slang is “pasa” = to pass, and “palos” = drinks (the alcoholic kind).  Therefore pasapalos is something to pass drinks, in this case, an appetizer or small hors d’oeuvre.

One thing is certain though; a true Venezuelan party is not complete without the star “pasapalo”.  And that, of course, is the Tequeño. (Pronounced te-ke-nyos)

According to an article printed in a Venezuelan newspaper (sorry, the clipping I received didn’t have the paper’s name on it), the creation of Tequeños is attributed to Josefina Báez.  Josefina was a young entrepreneurial Venezuelan woman who, at the age of 15, created the now famous Tequeños.  Josefina owned a catering business of sorts, where she would make and sell other delicious Venezuelan pastries to local ‘bodegas’ (small grocery stores).  Josefina would also prepare pastries to entertain guests, such as her older sisters’ boyfriends.  Josefina one day decided to use some leftover dough from her pastry-making of the day and rolled up some cheese inside of it, and then she fried it and served it to their guest as simple “cheese wraps”.  Sooner than later, her cheese wraps became famous around the small city where she lived.  The city’s name is “Los Teques”, which doesn’t have any real translation, since it is a proper noun.  Usually people native from Los Teques are called “Tequeños”.  Therefore, once the cheese wraps were famous in this small city, another pastry maker from Los Teques, Luisa Casado, decided to sell Josefina’s cheese wraps to clients in other cities, eventually making it to Caracas, the capital city.  Once the cheese wraps were known in Caracas, they became even more popular.  They started ordering them and serving them as hors d’oeuvres in all kinds events such as baptisms and weddings, and people would begin to call these cheese wraps by the name of the people who would bring them to the city; the “Tequeños”.

You may notice that I did not call this post “cheese sticks”, because these are NOT your regular cheese sticks, they are way better.  However, the key to making real Venezuelan Tequeños, and not some other plain boring “cheese stick”, is the cheese.  You must have authentic Venezuelan Queso Blanco.  And trust me, if you do not live near an authentic Venezuelan market, you may not find the right cheese, but you could try to sample different cheeses at a Latin market near you and try to find a similar cheese.  Basically, the cheese has to be white, not too salty, and it has to melt easily, but does not become completely liquified, and it is also not watery inside its package.  Whatever you do, do not make Tequeños with Mozzarella.  You will have a very bland and boring ‘cheese stick’.

Ingredients for Venezuelan Tequeños

Ingredients for Venezuelan Tequeños

What you need:
– 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
– 1 Egg
– 4-5 Tablespoons Cold Water
– 2 Teaspoons Salt
– 5 Tablespoons Butter
(Cold, Straight From The Fridge)
– 2 Tablespoons Sugar
(or more if you like the dough to be sweeter)
– 500 Grams of Queso Blanco Venezolano (There is a round Mexican one called Gallo Blanco that could work, and I found one called El Latino that was very good)
– Vegetable Oil (for frying)
– Paper Towels

Preparation:
1.  Cut the cheese in strips of about 2-3″ long and ½” thick. Save inside Tupperware in fridge for later.

Cut the cheese in strips

Cut the cheese in strips

Queso Blanco El Latino

Queso Blanco El Latino

2. In a big mixing bowl, add the flour, the sugar, and the salt.  Mix well.
3. Take the butter out of the fridge and cut in little pieces.  Then add the butter to the mix and begin to mix it using the tip of your fingers to mash the butter together with the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well until the mixture is as fine as possible.  It will probably feel like little grains of rice.

Cut the butter

Cut the butter

Mix the butter with the rest of the ingredients using your fingertips

Mix the butter with the rest of the ingredients using your fingertips

4.  Add the egg and begin to mix with a wooden spoon.

Add egg and mix well

Add egg and mix well

5. Add the water and continue mixing, until all ingredients are well blended together.
6.  Once you have more uniform dough, take it out of the bowl and begin to knead it over a flat surface (use flour on the surface).  Knead for at least 5 minutes, as you would bread dough.

Knead dough

Knead dough

7.  Once you have a soft and uniform dough, cover it with clear wrap paper and let it sit for about ½ and hour or more.

Let dough rest for half an hour or more

Let dough rest for half an hour or more

8.  Place some flour on a clean flat and hard surface, like your countertop or cutting board.  Spread the flour evenly over the entire working surface (so the dough won’t stick to it).
9.  Using a rolling pin, begin to flatten the dough.  It shouldn’t be too thin or too thick.  Perhaps just a bit thinner than a ¼ of an inch.

Flatten dough with rolling pin

Flatten dough with rolling pin

10. Once flattened, cut strips from the dough of about ½ an inch thick by 10 inches long.

Cut dough in strips

Cut dough in strips

11.  Roll the sticks of cheese with the strips of dough by placing one end of the cheese stick at an angle on one end of the dough, then closing the tip and rolling until the cheese is covered.  Making sure the cheese is fully covered and the ends are sealed (you can dab your finger tips in water to help you seal the dough).

Roll the cheese with the strips of dough

Roll the cheese with the strips of dough

Roll all the way to the end

Roll all the way to the end

Be careful at the end

Be careful at the end

The perfect Venezuelan Tequeño (Rolled by my Grandma, Ana)

The perfect Venezuelan Tequeño (Rolled by my Grandma, Ana)

A little tip from Grandma: Tap the tips against your working surface to flatten them and to help seal them. Cover with flour.

A little tip from Grandma: Tap the tips against your working surface to flatten them and to help seal them. Cover with flour.

12. You can place the tequeños on a baking sheet or Tupperware and also spread some dough on the bottom and top of each row of tequeños.

This recipe was supposed to yield for 50 Tequeños, but I don't know what happened to us.  Let me know if you make it, how many did you get. We got 30 Tequeños.

This recipe was supposed to yield for 50 Tequeños, but I don’t know what happened to us. Let me know if you make it, how many did you get. We got 30 Tequeños.

13. Cover them with plastic wrapping paper, or Tupperware cover and keep in the freezer until ready to fry.
14.  When ready to fry and serve your tequeños, make sure you have enough vegetable oil and that the oil is not too hot.  Then you fry them straight from the freezer and do so slowly until they are golden brown.  Don’t fry them for too long or the cheese will begin to melt its way out of the dough, and you don’t want that to happen.

Fry the Tequeños straight from the freezer.

Fry the Tequeños straight from the freezer.

15. Place the tequeños on paper towels to remove the excess oil and serve while still hot.

Recipe: Venezuelan Tequeños | Venezuelan Cheese Wrapped in Dough (Appetizers)

Recipe: Venezuelan Tequeños | Venezuelan Cheese Wrapped in Dough (Appetizers)

Recipe: Venezuelan Tequeños | Venezuelan Cheese Wrapped in Dough (Appetizers)

Recipe: Venezuelan Tequeños | Venezuelan Cheese Wrapped in Dough (Appetizers)

¡Gracias Tabue!
This post is very special to me, and I dedicate it to my grandmother
Ana C. Sandoval de Ojeda.
She makes THE BEST Tequeños EVER, and I thank her for coming to my house, and teaching me how to make them.  I owe this blog a photo of the both of us in my kitchen. Love you!

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Yuca Sancochada o Frita | Venezuelan Boiled or Fried Cassava

4 Apr

First and foremost, DO NOT EAT RAW YUCA!  Raw yuca contains two cyanogenic glucosides called linamarin and lotaustralin, which are decomposed by linamarase, thus liberating hydrogen cyanide.  I am no chemistry expert, but this stuff is highly toxic and you could become seriously ill and it could even be deadly.
So, now that I have scared you enough, lets talk about how yummy yucca is, if you dare to eat it, he he.  You have nothing to worry about, as long as you cook the yuca before you eat it.  In Venezuela we eat it all the time, and no one that I know of has ever died from eating yuca. So, seriously, don’t worry.  Just don’t eat it raw.
Yucca is a tuberous root, and in Venezuela we eat it in several different ways.  Yuca is served boiled as a side to our delicious parrillas, rotisserie chicken, or anything you can think of.  We also add it to soups.  We fry it to make delicious yuca fries.  We even prepare it differently to make casabe, a sort of yuca cracker.  So we use it much like you would a potato.  Boiled yuca is usually served hot with a little bit of butter, or a cilantro and parsley mojo, or Guasacaca (specially when eating at parrillas).  Fried yucca is usually served as a side much like French fries, with salt, but you could definitely dip it in a delicious Venezuelan Salsa Verde as well.

Cassava (yuca) roots, the Taínos' main crop

Boiled Yuca
What you need:

– 500 gr. yuca (about 1 large or 2 pieces)
– Enough water to cover the yuca
– Salt (to taste)
– Toppings (butter, cilantro and parsley mojo, guasacaca, salsa verde, etc).
Preparation:
1. Cut the tips of the yuca, then peel it and rinse it with water.

Cut, peel and rinse.

Cut, peel and rinse.

2. In a large enough pot, add the water and the yuca (make sure the water covers the yuca entirely).  Turn the stove to high heat until the water starts boiling and then continue to cook for about 30 minutes.

Boil the Yuca

Boil the Yuca

3. Add the salt and then continue to cook for about 15 to 30 more minutes or until the yuca is soft (test like a potato), or until it starts to open up.
4. Drain the yuca and serve hot.
5. You can serve it with butter, with salt, or with a cilantro and parsley mojo, salsa verde or guasacaca.

Yuca Sancochada | Boiled Yuca

Yuca Sancochada | Boiled Yuca

Fried Yuca
What you need:

– Same as above, plus oil for frying
Preparation:
1. Follow the instructions for Boiled Yuca.

Yuca Sancochada | Boiled Yuca

Yuca Sancochada | Boiled Yuca

2. Make sure you drain the yuca right away, and then let it cool completely. Or better yet, place it in your fridge for it to cool faster.
3. Cut the yuca into sticks.

Cut

Cut

4. Heat up enough frying oil and fry the yuca sticks until golden brown all over.
5. Serve hot and sprinkle with salt.
6. You can serve with a yummy dipping sauce like Venezuelan Salsa Verde or Guasacaca.

Yuca Frita | Fried Yuca

Yuca Frita | Fried Yuca

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Venezuelan Hallaquitas or Bollitos

28 Dec Venezuelan Hallaquitas or Bollitos

One of the most delicious side dishes in Venezuela are hallaquitas, or bollitos.  The name is still debatable.  Some people call them hallaquitas and some call them bollitos.  Either way they are delicious.  We usually serve them as a side dish, much like you would a baked potato, and then add some butter on top, or Guasacaca and enjoy.  This is a very common side dish to have with a good Parrilla Venezolana (Venezuelan Grilled Steak, much like your BBQs, but without BBQ sauce).  Another great dish to have hallaquitas with is rotisserie chicken.  Since we also accompany these dishes with Guasacaca, hallaquitas are the perfect side dish for those occasions.  They are also great if you incorporate other ingredients such as pork rind, chorizo or cheese inside them.  But the plain ones are great with some butter, Guasacaca, mojo isleño, mojo de cilantro, or chimichurri on top.

Ingredients

Ingredients

What you need:
– 8 to 10 Dried Corn Husks
– 1 Cup Harina P.A.N.
– ¾ Cup Water (for mixture)
– 1 Tablespoon Butter
– 1Teaspoon Salt
– ¼ Cup or 250 g. Chorizo, one link (optional)
– 5 Cups Water (for boiling)

Preparation:

1. Separate and clean the corn husks, then soak them in water for about 1 hour so they can be bent without breaking.  If you don’t have one hour to spare, you can just pre-boil them for about 5 minutes so they can be bent easily.

Separate and clean the corn husks

Separate and clean the corn husks

Soak for 1 hour

Soak for 1 hour

Or boil for 5 minutes

Or boil for 5 minutes

2. In a bowl mix in the Harina P.A.N., the ¾ Cup of water, the salt and the butter (softened or melted).

Prepare dough

Prepare dough

3. Once you have kneaded the mixture and it becomes homogeneous you can begin forming the hallaquitas.

Form Hallaquitas

Form Hallaquitas

4. Grab a handful of the dough (or separate in 4 equal parts), and roll it in your hands to form a cylindrical shape. (Here is where you can add chopped chorizo, cheese, pork rind, etc.).

Add optional chorizo, cheese, etc.

Add optional chorizo, cheese, etc.

5. Wrap each hallaquita with 2 or 3 corn husks so that the dough is well covered.  You can accomplish this by wrapping them on the widest side of the corn husk, and then folding down the rest of the corn husk on top of the hallaquita and tie it down either with another piece of corn husk, or with a rubber band right down the middle, and if you need to, you can add another rubber band or tie at the end.

Wrap with 1st corn husk

Wrap with 1st corn husk

Wrap with 2nd corn husk

Wrap with 2nd corn husk

Fold top

Fold top

Fold bottom

Fold bottom

Tie around center with rubber band

Tie around center with rubber band

Use two rubber bands if needed

Use two rubber bands if needed

6. Begin to boil enough water, and when it starts to boil add the hallaquitas.  Cook for 40 minutes on high heat.  You are supposed to know they are ready when they start to float, however mine floated as soon as I introduced them in the water.  So to be safe, just wait the 40 minutes.

Boil for 40 minutes

Boil for 40 minutes

7. Remove from pot and drain for about 3 minutes, and serve hot.  You can serve them with the corn husk, or without.

Drain and let cool

Drain and let cool

8. Serve as a side with butter, or chimichurri, or Guasacaca, or anything else you like.

Serve with husk

Serve with husk

Or without husk

Or without husk

Venezuelan Hallaquitas or Bollitos

Venezuelan Hallaquitas or Bollitos

*Makes about 4 to 5 hallaquitas.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Croquetas de Atún (Tuna Croquettes)

21 Dec
Ingredients for Tuna Croquettes

Ingredients for Tuna Croquettes

What you need:

– 12 oz. Tuna (1 large can, drained)
– 1 Tomato
– 1 Onion, medium or small
– 1 Garlic Clove, thinly chopped
– 1 Potato, medium to large
– 2 Eggs
– 1 Cup Bread Crumbs
– 2 to 4 Sprigs Cilantro or Parsley, thinly chopped
– 1 Tablespoon Adobo Seasoning
– 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
– 2 Cups Oil, for frying

Preparation:

1. Since the potato will take a bit to cook, start with the potato.   Peel the potato and rinse it, place in a large enough pot, cover it by one inch with enough water and boil until fork tender.   You can cut in smaller pieces to make this process go faster.

Boil the Potato

Boil the Potato

2. Now you are going to work on a “Sofrito”, or a combination of ingredients and condiments cut into very small pieces and sautéed together.   For this you are going to use the tomato, the onion, the cilantro (or parsley), and the garlic.   You can cut them all as small as possible, or you can even use a processor to chop them up for you.   Sauté all these ingredients in a large enough pan for about 5 minutes, or until the onions start to brown.

Prepare the Sofrito by Processing or Chopping the Ingredients

Prepare the Sofrito by Processing or Chopping the Ingredients

Then Stir-fry Them

Then Stir-fry Them

3. Drain the tuna and add it to the sofrito in the pan along with the adobo and Worcestershire sauce. Continue to sauté, until the tuna is browned and has mixed with all the other ingredients and all the flavors are absorbed.

Add Tuna

Add Tuna

4. At this point your potato should be done.   Remove the pot from the stove and drain the potato.   Add the potato into a mixing bowl and mash it.   Set aside for it to cool.

Mash the Potato

Mash the Potato

5. Now your tuna should be ready as well.   Remove from the stove, and add the tuna mixture to your mashed potato and mix well.   Set aside for it to cool down, because you will be handling this mixture with your hands and you don’t want it to be too hot.

Mix the Tuna with the Mashed Potato

Mix the Tuna with the Mashed Potato

6. Prepare an assembly line next to your stove and add the oil to a frying pan (or deep fryer if you have one), and begin to heat up the oil.

Prep Your Workspace

Prep Your Workspace

7. You should have the bowl with the mixture, a bowl filled with the eggs (scrambled), and a plate with the bread crumbs.
8. Grab some of the tuna/potato mix and roll it in your hands to form a croquette in the shape of a “smokie”, but don’t make them too thick or too thin.

Form Croquettes

Form Croquettes

9. Place the croquette in the egg bowl and coat with the eggs, then pass it through the bread crumbs and make sure to coat evenly.

Coat with Eggs

Coat with Eggs

Coat with Bread Crumbs

Coat with Bread Crumbs

10. Fry the croquettes until the outside is browned and crispy.   Set on paper towels to remove excess oil.

Fry Croquettes

Fry Croquettes

Remove Excess Oil

Remove Excess Oil

11. Serve as an appetizer with tartar sauce, mayo and/or limejuice.   Or serve as a main dish accompanied with rice and vegetables.

Serve with Lemon and Mayonaise

Serve with Lemon and Mayonaise

*Makes about 20 to 25 croquettes.

Croquetas de Atún | Venezuelan Tuna Croquettes

Croquetas de Atún | Venezuelan Tuna Croquettes

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Salchichitas Glaseadas (Venezuelan Smokies)

16 Nov

These are great to go with the Tortilla Española I posted last week.

Ingredients for Salchichitas Glaseadas

Ingredients for Salchichitas Glaseadas


Ingredients:

– 1 Package of Smokies (about 400 gr.)
– 2 Tablespoons butter
– 2 Tablespoons sugar
– 4 Tablespoons ketchup

Preparation:

1. In a frying pan, heat up the butter at medium/low heat.

Heat Up The Butter

Heat Up The Butter

2. Add the smokies and cook until they start to brown a bit (about 8 minutes). Stir them up with a wooden spoon so you don’t break them apart.

Add the Smokies

Add the Smokies

3. Drain the smokies using a colander, and remove the excess oil from the pan using a paper towel.
4. Add the smokies back in the pan, and add the sugar as well.
5. Turn to high heat and cook for about 3 minutes so that the sugar starts to caramelize.

Add Sugar and Caramelize

Add Sugar and Caramelize

6. Add the ketchup and turn the heat back down to medium, cook for about 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens and sticks to the smokies.
7. Serve hot.

Salchichitas Glaseadas (Venezuelan Smokies)

Salchichitas Glaseadas (Venezuelan Smokies)

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Tortilla Española…Venezolana! (Venezuelan Spanish Tortilla)

9 Nov

As I have mentioned before, Venezuelan food is influenced by many other cuisines around the world.   One of the most noticeable influences is Spanish cuisine (from Spain).   Most Venezuelans can track their ancestors to Spain, and have adapted some Spanish dishes passed down generation to generation, to make them their own.   Some of my relatives who have close Spanish roots have introduced me to delicious Spanish dishes like the Spanish Tortilla.   But don’t be confused by the name, this is no regular tortilla.   When I told my husband I would make him this Spanish Tortilla, he imagined a Mexican Tortilla… but it is more like an omelet, a giant omelet.   I remember eating Spanish Tortilla when invited over to my second cousin’s house for sleepovers.   My cousin’s grandma is a true Spaniard, so they knew what they were doing over there.   My other aunt’s grandmother also made me delicious Spanish Tortilla every time I came to visit.   I think she must have had a secret ingredient (LOVE) when she made her Spanish Tortilla, because it tasted amazing.   She was sweetest little lady, may she rest in piece.   My mom made this dish sometimes as well, and she accompanied it with Salchichitas, or what my husband explained to me are called smokies here in America (Recipe next week).   So here is my version of the Spanish Tortilla, which I made a bit more interesting by adding some Chorizo in it.

Ingredients for Spanish Tortilla

Ingredients for Spanish Tortilla

Ingredients:

– 2 Potatoes (medium)
– ½ Onion (medium)
– 3 to 4 Eggs
– 90 gr. Chorizo (about two links)
– ½ Teaspoon Salt
– ¼ Teaspoon Pepper
– Vegetable Oil (Enough for frying)

Preparation:

1. Peel the potatoes and then cut them in slices as thin as possible (as if you were going to make potato chips).   Cut the onions in the same manner, in strips, or simply Julienne the onion.

Cut the Potato in Thin Slices

Cut the Potato in Thin Slices

2. Place the potatoes and onions in a bowl, add the salt and mix together.

Mix Potatoes and Onions

Mix Potatoes and Onions

3. In the meantime, start heating up the oil in a large enough frying pan or wok.   Use enough oil to cover the entire bottom of the pan so that it just covers the potatoes and onions.
4. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and onions to the pan and begin to fry them.   The potatoes shouldn’t become golden brown, but it’s ok if they do just a bit.   You should move them around with a wooden spoon so that you don’t break them, but they get cooked evenly.   It takes about 10-12 minutes at medium heat for them to cook thoroughly.

Begin to Fry the Potatoes and Onions

Begin to Fry the Potatoes and Onions

5. In the meantime cut the chorizo in thin slices as well and set aside.

Cut the Chorizo

Cut the Chorizo

6. In a bowl, beat the eggs, only 3 at first.

Beat the Eggs

Beat the Eggs

7. When the potatoes and onions are done (potatoes should break in half easily when pinched with a fork), take them out and drain in a colander and let them cool down a bit.   Drain as much of the excess oil as possible.

Drain the Potatoes and Onions

Drain the Potatoes and Onions

8. Compare the size of the potatoes and onions mix to the beaten eggs, and then decide if you need to add the other egg.   There should be more potatoes and onions mix than eggs.   The size will depend on the size of your potatoes.
9. Add the potatoes and onions mix, as well as the chorizo slices and pepper to the beaten eggs.   Mix well and mash the potatoes just a bit, not too much.

Add Potatoes, Onions and Chorizo to Beaten Eggs

Add Potatoes, Onions and Chorizo to Beaten Eggs

10. Pre-heat the frying pan in which you will be cooking the tortilla.   It is better to have a smaller pan so that the tortilla will be thick, than to have a larger pan, because the tortilla will be too thin.   For this mixture I used a large frying pan to fry the potatoes and onions, and a smaller pan to cook the tortilla.   You should have a non-stick pan, but either way grease the pan with some oil or cooking spray before adding the mix to it.
11. Add the mixture to the frying pan and cook at medium/low heat.

Add Mixture to Frying Pan

Add Mixture to Frying Pan

12. When you can see that the bottom half is cooked thoroughly, by lifting one side carefully (or after about 8 minutes), you can proceed to the tricky part.   Grab a flat serving dish, larger than the circumference of the frying pan, pace it on top of the pan, and then carefully flip the tortilla on to the plate.   Clean the pan, and spray or coat with a bit more oil, then carefully slide the tortilla back into the pan to cook the other side.   Make sure to tuck in the edges so you get a clean round edge.

The Tricky Step

The Tricky Step

Flip Onto Plate and Slide Back Into Pan

Flip Onto Plate and Slide Back Into Pan

13. When the other side is ready, simply serve by flipping it into a serving dish.

Ready !!!

Ready !!!

Cut and Serve with Ketchup

Cut and Serve with Ketchup

Tips
– This is great to serve with a bit of ketchup and Salchichitas Glaseadas, or smokies.

... and Smokies

... and Smokies

*Makes about 4 servings.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Arepitas Dulces | Arepitas de Anís (Sweet Arepas)

2 Nov

Yes! that’s right… yet another post about Arepas.   By now you know why they are the most Venezuelan dish ever!   But these are different than the Arepas I have blogged about before.   These are sweet arepas… Sweet? You say… YES! Sweet.   They are delicious.   These were sort of a treat when I was growing up.   My mom only made them once in a while.   Of course regular arepas were made… regularly.   But these were special arepas!   She would make them for dinner and serve them with “Queso Blanco”, the same one I’ve been saying is good with Arepas, and Empanadas, and anything else you can think of.   These can be great for breakfast as well, or even as a snack, or pretty much whenever you feel like having one.   Like today, I just felt I had to try to make these myself, because I haven’t had them in years.

Key Ingredient

Key Ingredient

Now, most of the recipes you see out there for “Arepas Dulces” or “Arepas de Anís” have a very peculiar ingredient that is definitely hard to find.   I am talking about “Papelón”.   Papelón is also known as “Panela”, which is an unrefined whole cane sugar that comes in a solid block.   I didn’t even know what papelón was until I was trying to make these arepas, but since I couldn’t even find it; I called my mom and asked for her recipe, which doesn’t include this mysterious ingredient.   So here it is:

Ingredients for Arepitas Dulces

Ingredients for Arepitas Dulces


What you need:

– 1 Cup Harina PAN
– 1 Cup Water
– 1 ½ Tablespoon Sugar
– ½ Teaspoon Anise Seeds
– ¼ Teaspoon Salt
– Vegetable Oil (Enough for frying)

Preparation:

1. Add the Harina PAN into a bowl, add the anise seeds to the Harina PAN a mix with your hand so that the seeds are spread evenly throughout the mix.

Add Anise Seeds to Harina Pan

Add Anise Seeds to Harina Pan

2. Add the water, salt and sugar into a separate bowl, or measuring cup, and stir it, so that the salt and sugar dissolve in the water.   The water should taste sweet, but have sort of a salty kick to it.   I tried it; I just don’t know how to explain it in correct terms… sorry!

Add Sugar and Salt to Water

Add Sugar and Salt to Water

3. Add the water slowly to the mix and start kneading with your hands.

Add Water to Harina Pan

Add Water to Harina Pan

4. Once the dough is ready, let it sit for a minute, while you prepare for the next step.   The dough will be ready when it feels sort of like play dough, but it is firm and doesn’t crack.

Let the Dough Sit

Let the Dough Sit

5. On top of a cutting board, or simply your countertop, lay a large enough sheet of Cling Wrap, and have a bowl, round cookie cutter, or Tupperware of about a 3” diameter, as well as a large flat heavy plate set aside.
6. You are going to grab a handful of the dough, make a ball, set it in the middle of your cling wrap, cover it with the other half of the cling wrap or even grab another sheet of cling wrap if you wish.   Then press on it a bit with your hand, and then grab the large flat heavy plate and press on it until you flatten it to about ¼ of an inch thick.   Then with the cookie cutter or bowl cut out a 3” diameter circle from the dough.   Uncover the cling wrap and remove the circle and set aside (on top of another sheet of cling wrap) to fry them when they are all ready.   Remove the excess dough from the cling wrap and put back in your bowl of dough.   Continue to make these disks until you have no more dough left.

Ball of Dough

Ball of Dough

Flatten with Heavy Plate

Flatten with Heavy Plate

Disk of Dough

Disk of Dough

About 1/4 of an Inch Thick

About 1/4 of an Inch Thick

Cut Out Smaller Disk

Cut Out Smaller Disk

About 3" Diameter

About 3" Diameter

Remember They Should Be Thin

Remember They Should Be Thin

Cut Out As Many As You Can

Cut Out As Many As You Can

7. Heat up the frying oil and begin to fry your arepas.   Not too many at a time, just as many as fit in your frying pot, deep fryer, or Dutch oven, as you can without them touching each other.   But there should be enough oil to cover them completely.

Fry Until Golden Brown

Fry Until Golden Brown

8. As they fry, they will sit at the bottom, but quickly rise to the top.   They will also start to bubble, as in they will look like they are puffed up.   The skin should be crispy and separate from the dough inside.   When one side has done this, and started to brown, flip them.
9. They will be ready when they are brown/golden on both sides.
10. Lay on paper towels to remove the excess oil.
11. Serve hot with Queso Blanco (and a little butter if you wish).

Serve with Queso Blanco

Serve with Queso Blanco

12. To eat them, delicately using a knife, separate the skin on the side which is most puffed-up and stuff with cheese, add butter to the inside dough if you wish.

Venezuelan Arepitas Dulces / Arepitas de Anís

Venezuelan Arepitas Dulces / Arepitas de Anís

*Makes about 8 arepas of 3” diameter and ¼ of an inch thick (uncooked).

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Venezuelan Empanadas

19 Oct

Empanadas are like Venezuelan hot pockets or calzones.   We usually serve them as appetizers (small ones), or as a main dish with delicious fillings and dipping sauces.   Empanada fillings are as varied as Arepa fillings, and we use some of the same fillings that we use in Arepas as well.   The most common and easy to prepare are cheese empanadas, and they are the most popular amongst kids.   We also have exquisite ones like lobster, or Cazón (small shark), and common ones like ground beef, shredded chicken, shredded meat.   Then there are big ones like filled with Pabellón (Shredded beef, black beans and plantains), or combination ones like cheese and beef, or even ham and cheese.   One thing is for sure; you will like them no matter what is in them.   Another great thing about empanadas is that they are a great way to re-purpose your leftovers, and no one will complain about eating the same thing for lunch that they had the night before for dinner, because everyone loves empanadas.   So keep that in mind when you have leftovers, and you don’t want them to go to waste.

Ingredients for Venezuelan Empanadas

Ingredients for Venezuelan Empanadas

What You’ll Need:

– 1 Cup Harina PAN
– 1 ¼ Cup Water
– ½ Teaspoon Salt
– 1/3 Teaspoon Sugar
– Vegetable Oil (enough to fry all the empanadas)
– Your Empanada Fillings (Cheese, beef, chicken, pork, etc.)
– Clear Plastic Wrap (Cling Wrap)
– Bowls

Preparation

1. Just like the Arepas: Add the Harina PAN into a mixing bowl, then add the salt and the sugar to the water and stir it.   Now little by little add the water and knead and mix the dough using your hands.   You must knead the dough until the mix is soft, firm and has a uniform consistency without any grains.

Knead the Dough

Knead the Dough

2. Once the dough is ready, make a big ball out of it, and then split into 4 equal parts.

Split Into Equal Parts

Split Into Equal Parts

3. Set up your cooking space as shown in the picture below in order to have:
a) Your Dough
b) Your Fillings (I have beef and shredded Queso Blanco cheese here)
c) A bowl with warm water with a little bit of oil in it.
d) A bowl to shape your empanadas with
e) A large enough piece of Cling Wrap

Set Up Your Cooking Space

Set Up Your Cooking Space

4. Grab one of your four sections of dough and form a ball.

Form A Ball

Form A Ball

5. Begin to flatten the ball into a disk shape using the entire length of your hands, also use the water with oil to moisten your hands so that the dough doesn’t stick to them.
6. Flatten the ball until it is less than 0.25” thick.

Flatten

Flatten

Flatten More

Flatten More

Done

Done

7. Place about two to three tablespoons of your filling right below the center of the circle.

Add Filling

Add Filling

Add Any Filling

Add Any Filling

8. With both hands grab the top of the Cling Wrap and carefully fold the circle in two, so that you have a semicircle.

Fold Circle Into Semicircle

Fold Circle Into Semicircle

9. Press the Cling Wrap with your fingers over the top dough towards the bottom dough, in order to close the empanada.

Semicircle

Semicircle

Press Edged to Close Empanada

Press Edged to Close Empanada

10. Now use the extra empty bowl as shown to cut the excess dough and make the famous empanada moon-shape.

Use Empty Bowl

Use Empty Bowl

Cut Out Empanada Shape

Cut Out Empanada Shape

11. Open the Cling Wrap and remove the excess dough, which you can add to the remaining dough to make the rest of the empanadas.

Empanada Shape

Empanada Shape

Open Cling Wrap

Open Cling Wrap

Remove Excess Dough

Remove Excess Dough

Empanada Shape Done

The Perfect Empanada Shape

12. Carefully remove the empanada from the Cling Wrap, so you can make the rest of them.

Carefully Remove from Cling Wrap

Carefully Remove from Cling Wrap

Set Aside

Set Aside

13. You can begin to fry them immediately if you have someone else to help keep an eye on the ones in the pan, so you can continue making the other ones and not burn them.

Fry Empanadas

Fry Empanadas

14. Also, it is a good idea to mark them so you know which ones have which filling. In case someone doesn’t want one of the fillings. I use one dot for cheese, two dots for beef, and three dots for beef and cheese.   But you can use whatever you want.

Mark Your Empanadas

Mark Your Empanadas

15. Once you have all your empanadas ready, it’s time to fry them.

Fried Empanada and Remove Excess Oil with Paper Towels

Fried Empanada and Remove Excess Oil with Paper Towels

16. Once they are golden, take them out and lay them on paper towels to remove the excess oil.
17. Serve and enjoy.   Be careful, they are hot!

Venezuelan Empanadas

Venezuelan Empanadas

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Venezuelan Taco Night

31 Aug

Now that you have the recipes for Guasacaca, Salsa Verde and Fresh Salsa; you can have yourself a Venezuelan Taco Night.   Tacos are CLEARLY not Venezuelan.   They are Mexican, in case you didn’t know.   However, we Venezuelans do like tacos.   Unfortunately, we do not have Taco Bell in Venezuela, so most families just make their own.   My mom made the best tacos ever, and it was a treat for us.   We helped her by chopping up all the ingredients and setting up the table while she cooked the meat and the Guasacaca.   Afterwards, we played Monopoly or Telefunken (Venezuelan Card Game).   Since I don’t live in Venezuela and I like to share my Venezuelan traditions with others, I have started my own Venezuelan Taco Night tradition.   I usually invite a couple of friends over and we have some Tacos and Board Games.   So, here is the recipe, preparations, menu and everything you need to have your own Venezuelan Taco Night.

Old El Paso Taco Shells and Tortillas

Old El Paso Taco Shells and Tortillas


What you need (for about 4 adults + leftovers)

– 1 Box of 6 soft and 6 hard tacos (Old El Paso)
– 1 or 2 Bags of Tortilla Chips
– ½ Romaine Lettuce Head, chopped
– 4 Tomatoes, chopped
– 1 Cup of Mexican Cheese Blend (I like the Sorrento Brand)
– 1 Cup Sour Cream

Ingredients for Taco Beef

Ingredients for Taco Beef

Taco Beef
– 2 lbs. Ground Beef
– 1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
– 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
– 1 Tbsp. Adobo Seasoning
– 2 Baggies of Old el Paso Original Taco Seasoning

Guasacaca
Salsa Verde
Fresh Salsa

– Board Games

 

Preparation

1. Make sure you thaw the beef (I always seem to forget about this step).
2. You should condiment the beef with the soy sauce, the Worcestershire and the adobo seasoning. Mix well and let it sit.

Ground Beef

Ground Beef

3. You can go ahead and make the Salsa Verde and the Fresh Salsa, then refrigerate until everything else is ready.
4. You can also go ahead and chop all the ingredients for inside the Tacos, like the lettuce and tomatoes and place them in a bowl and inside the fridge, along with the cheese and sour cream.
5. Now go ahead and start browning the ground beef. Once it’s almost done, drain the beef, to get rid of all the oils and juices from the beef.   Now go ahead and follow the instructions on the Taco Seasoning, and add it to the beef.
6. Prepare the Guasacaca.
7. Heat up the soft and hard tacos as instructed on the box.   I usually heat up the hard tacos in my toaster-oven and “hang” them upside-down from the rack inside the oven.   This will open them up a bit.   But be careful not to “toast” them or burn them, just turn the toaster-oven on at the lowest setting for 2 minutes.   The soft tacos you can heat up 1 minute each on a pan at low temperature.   Or you can do it the lazy way and stick them all in the microwave for a minute or two.
8. Serve everything on the table and enjoy.

Venezuelan Tacos

Venezuelan Tacos

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Fresh Salsa

24 Aug

My mother-in-law makes the most delicious salsa I’ve ever had.   Salsa is not really a Venezuelan tradition, and neither is spicy food, just for your information.   However, her salsa is now part of my Taco Night menu (Coming Soon).

Fresh Salsa Ingredients

Fresh Salsa Ingredients


Ingredients

4 Cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
½ Cup Onion, chopped
2-4 Jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1-4 oz canned sweet corn
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Pinch of salt and Pepper
1 Baggy of Equal or Splenda

Preparation

Simply finely chop all ingredients, very small, (except the corn), and combine them in a bowl.   Add salt and pepper to taste and the baggy of sugar.   Serve at room temperature and store in the refrigerator.

Fresh Salsa

Fresh Salsa

 

*If it is too spicy for you, you can add some sugar (equal).

*I am “spicy-intolerant”, so when my mother-in-law added two Serrano peppers from her garden I thought I was going to die.   So maybe just one tiny little Serrano pepper, or half, would do just fine.

Fresh Salsa

Fresh Salsa

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Salsa Verde

17 Aug

So, one night my cousin tells me I have to try this “guasacaca”, and then she says it has no avocados.   This is why I am telling you we Venezuelans call every green sauce “Guasacaca”.   However, as I have explained before, this is not true.   I have already given you the recipe for Guasacaca, and this green sauce is not it.   For starters it has no avocados!

I know there are some similar green sauces that we Venezuelans call “Mojo” (Mo-ho).   This is also NOT a Mojo, because it contains mayonnaise.   Therefore I have nothing else to call it but green sauce (Salsa Verde).   Although, I my friend came up with a more clever name, she tasted it, then savored it, she thought about it, and then she said, “It’s like a Mexican Ranch”.

I have tried this Salsa Verde both on top of grilled skirt steak and inside tacos, and it is delicious with both.   I have yet to try it as a veggie dip, but I think it would be a good combination.

Ingredients for Salsa Verde

Ingredients for Salsa Verde


Ingredients

1/3 onion, large
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of vinegar
1 handful of parsley
1 handful of cilantro
4 or 5 dollops of mayonnaise
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons of olive oil

Ingredients for Salsa Verde

Ingredients for Salsa Verde

Preparation

Add all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend them well. Serve. You can keep the leftovers in the fridge for about a day. Also the sauce will thicken as it sits, but if not, you can add cornstarch to thicken it, without changing the taste.

Salsa Verde in the Food Processor

Salsa Verde in the Food Processor

Like the Guasacaca, you can serve this Salsa Verde atop your parrilla (steak), and also inside tacos.

* Makes about 1½ cups.

Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Venezuelan Guasacaca

10 Aug

This is my own version of the Venezuelan Guasacaca, which I created by modifying my mom’s recipe a bit more to my liking.   I don’t follow my own recipe every time, because I usually eyeball all the ingredients, or what we Venezuelans call “al ojo porciento”.   I usually put like double the amount of avocadoes, because well… I love avocados.   For this reason my Guasacaca never tastes the same, but every one seems to always love it.   I think the thing that makes or breaks a Guasacaca is the freshness of the ingredients.   I usually buy all the ingredients the same day or the day before I have to make it.   I also make it right before all the guests arrive… and sometimes even while the guests are arriving or already there (in true Venezuelan fashion… late).   I like getting the ingredients at a place where I know they have the freshest produce, like Whole Foods, Earth Fare, the Fresh Market and sometimes Publix.   However, you do take the risk of not finding perfectly ripe avocadoes the same day or the day before you are making your Guasacaca.   I guess you would have to know your local supermarkets very well.

Venezuelan Guasacaca Ingredients

Venezuelan Guasacaca Ingredients


Ingredients

4 whole large avocados
1 whole onion
1 whole bell pepper, you can mix yellow, red and green
2 sticks green onion, thinly sliced
2 whole tomatoes
1 handful of cilantro, thinly sliced
1-tablespoon vinegar
3-tablespoons olive oil, extra virgin
1-tablespoon salt
½-tablespoon pepper
1-tablespoon limejuice

Preparation

1. Cut ½ of one of the avocados in small squares and mix it in a bowl with the onion, bell peppers, green onion, tomatoes, parsley, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
2. Using an electrical blender or food processor, puree the other avocados including half a cup of the previous mix and then add all the mix in the blender on to the remaining mix in the bowl.
3. Use the remaining 1/4 of the first avocado to cut in slices and decorate. You can include small squares of tomatoes for decoration and one or two leafs of parsley also.

Venezuelan Guasacaca

Venezuelan Guasacaca

Tips

-You can use the avocado seeds and place them inside the Guasacaca once served to help keep it fresh (I have yet to test this theory).
– In order to buy the perfect avocados just press the thinnest part of the avocado (what I would call the top) with your thumb and it should feel soft, but not too soft.
– Sometimes I puree half of all the ingredients and thinly chop the other half, and then mix them all together.   That way you have all the flavors of all the ingredients in the pureed mix and also all the colors and slices in the diced part of the mix.
– Always add more olive oil and less vinegar.   If you add too much vinegar it will taste too strong.
– Don’t store the avocados in the fridge, because they will turn black pretty quickly.
– If you think the avocados won’t be ready by the time you need them… they say you can wrap them in newspaper and they will ripen quickly (and by “they”… I mean my mom).


A more Traditional Guasacaca Recipe:

– 1 large avocado
– 2 large onions, thinly chopped
– 2 green bell peppers, thinly chopped
– 4 green onion sticks, thinly chopped
– ½ cup of vinegar
– ½ cup of olive oil
– 1-teaspoon salt
– 1-teaspoon pepper
– 1 sprig of parsley, thinly chopped
– The entire juice of one lime

Preparation

You use only half of the avocado and dice it up in little cubes, then mix it with the rest of the thinly chopped ingredients like the onion, bell peppers, green onion, and parsley.   Then add all the other ingredients like the vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and limejuice. Then take the remaining avocado and blend it or process it, along with 3 tablespoons of the previous mix.   Finally, combine everything together.   You can garnish with a little bit of diced tomatoes on top.

Check out Venezuelan born Chef George Duran’s own Guasacaca Recipe and Video

¡Buen Provecho!

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