Tag Archives: Venezuelan Food

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: Crema de Apio Venezolano | Venezuelan “Celery Root” Soup

28 Mar

In order for me to tell you about “Apio”, pronounced (ä’ pē-ō), I must tell you about my long journey to find it.  This post is 5-6 years in the making, and one of the reasons I started this blog!
When I was a kid, I used to eat Apio in various different Venezuelan dishes.  At my grandmother’s house they usually served a little bit of Apio Cream (just a thicker creamier soup), as an appetizer before lunch.  My mom sometimes served Apio Creamy Soup as a light dinner.  Apio could be found in big pieces, like you would find carrots or potatoes in a light chicken soup preparation.  My other grandmother used it in her preparation of Sancocho de Pescado (like a fish stew of some sort), in big chunks.  We also ate it in Chupe de Gallina, another chicken soup, but very hearty. I also recall it served as a pure (like mashed potatoes, but of Apio), in some fancy restaurants.  So it’s safe to say, I loved Apio!
Fast-forward a few years… and all of a sudden… I forgot about Apio! I moved to the US, where nobody knows about Apio, and I guess it just slipped my mind. Until, I had a crazy craving for some delicious Apio Soup. So I ask myself, what is apio in English? What does Apio translate to? I “Googled it”. As it turns out, apio means celery. Simple enough. All I have to find is Creamy Celery Soup. Guess what? Campbell’s makes Cream of Celery, so I should probably just go buy one at the store. So I did. I came home with my can of soup, and I cooked it on the stove, and was a bit puzzled about the green color, but hey, the can says Cream of Celery, so it must be right… I try it… YUCK!!!! This isn’t APIO!!!! Of course NOT! Dummy!!!
I go back to the drawing board… Google, that is.  Oh, of course! Apio IS celery, yes, but that is what we in Venezuela call “Apio españa”, Spanish (from Spain) Apio. Ok, my bad! Now I realize I am looking for something else. I call my mom, my aunt, my cousin, my sister, my grandma, my other grandma, and pretty much everyone I know to ask about Apio. I had never seen the raw product, I only saw the cooked product, and so I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like. The general description was “It looks like a potato, but more like a stick of carrot, and with weird limbs coming out of it, like ginger, but it is yellow on the inside”. WHAT? So I begin my search for this Apio. I bought something that sort of matched the description of what they told me, which was called Parsnip. I went home and cooked it. It wasn’t it. I bought Turnip. That wasn’t it either. Finally, after researching all over the Internet, I find out what it was. It is called Celery Root here in America. But guess what? They don’t sell it anywhere. So I asked around all the markets I could find, until I finally found “Celery Root” at a new organic market that had opened up. YES! Finally I get to make my Apio Soup. I buy it, I send pictures to everyone to make sure it is the right one, and they said it was. I make the soup, IT’S NOT IT!!! At least it didn’t taste like it to me, and it wasn’t really yellow, it was more like beige.
I came down to South Florida to visit my family and I asked for my cousin to cook me some Apio. We went to the local Hispanic Super Market, where they sold Celery Root, BUT it was labeled “Celery Root: Apio Venezolano”. So I knew it HAD to be the right thing. And of course, my cousin cooked it for me, and it WAS the right kind of Apio. But then I knew I could only find it either in South Florida or in Venezuela.
Now here I am, after 5 years, back in Florida.  Of course, my first post HAS to be about Apio, because I went to the Hispanic Market called Sedano’s and I found my “Apio Venezolano”.  I bought it, I brought it home, I peeled it (it was yellow, how it’s supposed to be), then I cooked it, it smelled like apio, then I tasted it, and… IT WAS APIO!!!
So, I know only a few of you, those lucky enough to find the real Apio Venezolano, are going to be able to make this recipe. However, I must say the Parsnip version was pretty close to it.  Also, this recipe is good for any kind of tuber vegetable or almost any vegetable for that matter.

Celery Root: Apio Venezolano

Celery Root: Apio Venezolano

What you need:
– 500 grams of Apio Venezolano (about 2 to 3 big pieces)
– 4 ¼ cups of Chicken Broth
– Salt
Optional:
– Queso Blanco (Yet another hard to find ingredient)
– 2 tbsp. butter
– ¼ Onion
– Cilantro
– Basil
– Leeks
– Cream Cheese
Preparation:
1. Peel the Apio. Use a knife first for the tougher parts, and then you can use a regular potato peeler for the rest.

Peel the Apio Carefully

Peel the Apio Carefully

2. Cut the Apio in half, so that it fits in the pot and the water covers it. This step is optional.
3. Cook the Apio and the Chicken Broth in high heat for about 25 minutes, or until the Apio is soft. Just like you would if you where boiling potatoes.

Cook the Apio

Cook the Apio

4. At this point you can add the optional ingredients for extra flavor, such as the onion (in big pieces so its easy to remove later), the cilantro, the basil and the leeks.

Optional: Cilantro

Optional: Cilantro

5. Once the Apio is done, remove the optional ingredients (or you can leave them if you wish), and remove the Apio from the broth.

Remove Apio from Broth

Remove Apio from Broth

6. Puree the Apio using a food processor (and optional ingredients if you wish), and then slowly add the stock little by little until you reach the desired consistency. This is supposed to be a “cream of apio” soup, but if you puree the apio first, and then add the broth bit by bit, mixing well, you can stop adding broth when you have reached the desired consistency, so you don’t have a soup that is too thick or too thin. You can also add the optional butter here to help it reach the desired consistency.

Puree the Apio

Puree the Apio

7. Return the mixture to the pot and cook on low heat for another 10 minutes or so. You can add the remaining broth if it starts to thicken too much.

Pureed Apio

Pureed Apio

8. Serve with optional cubes of Queso Blanco, or toast, or Cream Cheese, or all three. I myself like to have the cream cheese on the table and just scoop some into my soup and eat a little piece with each spoonful. Delicious!

Optional: Queso Blanco

Optional: Queso Blanco

Crema de Apio Venezolano

Crema de Apio Venezolano

Venezuelan Cream of Celery Root

Venezuelan Cream of Celery Root

¡Buen Provecho!

Just for reference of what apio ISN’T, here are the pictures of the first attempt of Celery Root bought at a local organic market. NOT Venezuelan Apio for sure!

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

More on Apio
Other names I have found for Venezuelan Apio include Celeriac and Arracacha, but I haven’t confirmed these myself.
Also, Apio could be a good substitute for Potatoes in all kinds of preparations, because it has less calories (nutritional facts coming soon).

10,000 Tasters (Visits)

24 Mar

WOW…

When I posted the “1,000 Tasters” post I never thought I’d be posting a “10,000 Tasters” so soon.  But here we are, and I am so thankful for the great feedback I’ve received on my blog so far.  I initially began this post as an inspiration to myself, and to help others who where in the same situation as I was.  Away from home, and trying to cook Venezuelan recipes on my own, the way my mom and grandmothers used to.

It has been fun to read what other people think about the blog and the stories of each recipe and the adventures in finding authentic Venezuelan food and flavors.  All these responses, questions, comments, re-blogs and likes make want to keep writing for others.  I love preparing, editing, writing and sharing these recipes with everyone and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Please keep stoping by, responding, asking, commenting, re-blogging and liking my posts, because it inspires me to cook and write about it more often.

Thank you again for all the visitors. And as always, you may leave a response in this blog if you have any recipe request, question or comment.

¡Buen Provecho!

–Update

19 Mar

Dear followers,

I have not posted any more recipes in a long time. I recently have moved from Montgomery, Alabama back to the greater Fort Lauderdale area in South Florida. Although this has been a time-consuming and kind of chaotic event that has interfered with my availability to write new posts for the blog, there is some good news.  The good thing about living here in South Florida is the fact that now I can find all kinds of Venezuelan ingredients and products that where very difficult to find in Montgomery, Alabama.

So, I can’t promise I will have time in my new life here in South Florida to post a new recipe every Wednesday, but I will try my best to do so… And I will also include information and my personal ratings on local Venezuelan restaurants and stores that you can visit if you are ever in this area.

Hope to write a new post soon.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Layered Salad

25 Jan

This salad is great to serve as a side with the Venezuelan Pasticho Recipe I posted last week.  I’m not usually big on salads that have fruit or nuts, but when my cousin made this one for me I was hooked and now I like to eat it all the time.

What you need:
– Romaine Lettuce
– Baby Green Mix
– Apples
– Tomatoes
– Hearts of Palm
– Avocados
– Goat Cheese
– Almonds
– Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onions Vinagrette.

Preparation:

1.  Chop the lettuce and baby greens if necessary, to bite sized pieces.
2.  Chop the tomatoes and apples.
3.  Slice the hearts of palm and avocados.
4.  On a large enough serving dish place a layer of romaine lettuce, then a layer of baby greens mix, a layer of apples, a layer of tomatoes, a layer of avocadoes, a layer of hearts of palm, a layer of crumbled goat cheese, and a layer of almonds.
5. Serve with Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onions dressing on the side.

Layered Salad

Layered Salad

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Pasticho Venezolano | Venezuelan Lasagna

18 Jan

One of my favorite dishes is Pasticho Venezolano. The beef, the pasta, and the cheese… what’s not to like?  Venezuelan Pasticho is a little different than your regular lasagna.  The main difference is that Venezuelan Pasticho doesn’t include ricotta cheese, and to me that is PERFECT, because I don’t care for ricotta.  Our Pasticho is plain and simple, but that is what I love about it, you can appreciate all the flavor of the seasoned ground beef, the mozzarella and the pasta without any one of them overpowering the other, like ricotta does.  We do make it creamier and more interesting by adding layers of béchamel sauce. YUM!

What you need:
– 1 or 2 boxes of lasagna pasta
– Grated Parmesan Cheese
– Sliced Mozzarella Cheese
Beef Filling
– 1 lb. Ground Beef
– ½ Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
– ½ Tablespoon Soy Sauce
– ½ Tablespoon Adobo
– 1 Tablespoon Butter
– 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
– 1 Onion
– 1 Garlic Clove
– 1 28 oz can of cut tomatoes, peeled
– 2 Tablespoons Red or White Wine
– 1 Teaspoon Salt
– ½ Teaspoon Pepper
– 1 Teaspoon Oregano
– 1 Tablespoon Cilantro
– 1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
– 1 Teaspoon Basil
Béchamel Sauce
– 2 Tablespoon Butter
– 2 Tablespoon Flour
– 1 1/3 Cup Milk, hot
– 1/8 Teaspoon Salt
– 1/8 Teaspoon Pepper

Preparation:
Beef Filling
1.  Spice up the ground beef with the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and adobo.  Set aside.

Add Condiments to Ground Beef

Add Condiments to Ground Beef

2.  Add the butter and olive oil in a pan and heat it up just a bit until butter is melted.  Then add the onion and garlic, finely chopped, and cook until golden brown.  About 4 minutes.

Heat up Butter and Olive Oil

Heat up Butter and Olive Oil

Add Finely Chopped Onion

Add Finely Chopped Onion

Add Garlic

Add Garlic

3.  On a separate pan begin to brown the ground beef.  Remember to drain the excess oil when done.

Brown Ground Beef

Brown Ground Beef

4.  Blend the tomatoes using a blender or food processor.
5. Add the tomatoes, wine, salt, pepper, oregano, and finely chopped cilantro to the onions and garlic.
6.  Combine the meat with the tomato mixture.

Combine Beef With Tomato Mix

Combine Beef With Tomato Mix

7.  Add the tomato paste (diluted in water as directed on the can), and then add the basil as well.
8.  Continue to cook at low heat, covered, for a while until the sauce reduces and thickens.  If it is too dry, you can add more tomato paste, but don’t add water or the sauce will bee too thin.

Cook at Low Heat

Cook at Low Heat

Béchamel Sauce
9.  In a small pot, heat up the butter.
10.  Add the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Lower the heat.
11.  Beating with a whisk, begin to slowly add the hot milk.
12.  Add salt and pepper, and a touch of nutmeg if you wish.
13.  Cook until it thickens and set aside.

Béchamel Sauce

Béchamel Sauce

Cooking the Pasta
14.  Follow the instructions on the box of the pasta.
15.  Some pasta boxes state that you can cook them directly in the oven.  I prefer to boil the pasta first, even if the box says you do not need to do so.  Boil the pasta as you would any other pasta.  Boil enough water, add a bit of salt and olive oil, then add the pasta into the pot and cook until tender.  You can leave the pasta “al dente” so that they can finish cooking up in the oven.
16.  Lay the pasta flat on a baking sheet, separated so they wont stick to one another.

Lay Pasta Flat

Lay Pasta Flat

Making the Pasticho
17.  Preheat the oven at 350º.
18.  Grease a 19” x 13” Pyrex with butter.

Greasy Pyrex with Butter

Greasy Pyrex with Butter

19.  Begin by making a layer of pasta so that there are no spaces left between them at the bottom of the Pyrex.

Begin with a layer of pasta

Begin with a layer of pasta

20.  Add Béchamel sauce on top of the pasta.

Béchamel Sauce goes on top of pasta

Béchamel Sauce goes on top of pasta

21.  Add a layer of the beef filling.
22.  Add a layer of Parmesan cheese.  You can add a layer of ham if you wish.

Layer of Beef, and then Layer of Parmesan Cheese

Layer of Beef, and then Layer of Parmesan Cheese

23.  Repeat: Layer of pasta, layer of béchamel sauce, layer of beef filling, but now add a layer of Mozzarella.

Repeat: Pasta, Béchamel Sauce, Beef, but now add Mozzarella

Repeat: Pasta, Béchamel Sauce, Beef, but now add Mozzarella24. Repeat until you have used all the beef filling. 25. The last layer would be one layer of pasta, béchamel sauce and Parmesan cheese. You can also add bits of butter here and there, about a tablespoon all over. 26. Place in the oven until the top layers are golden. Make sure you check it so it does not burn. Since we boiled the pasta, it is already cooked. What you are looking for is for all the layers of cheese to melt and for it to all be compacted together. So it could be done in 10 to 30 minutes depending on your oven.Bake until cheese is melted and top layer is golden

27.  Serve with tostones, garlic breadsticks and salad (Great Salad recipe coming up next week).

Pasticho Venezolano | Venezuelan Pasticho

Pasticho Venezolano | Venezuelan Pasticho

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Camburcitos Dulces | Venezuelan Sweet Bananas

11 Jan

This recipe is somewhat like the Sweet Plantains recipe, but with a few tweaks.  It is perfect to do when you have a couple of Bananas about to go bad.  They are really tasty.  You could also use as a topping for some toast or even pound cake.

Ingredients

Ingredients

What you need:
– 2 to 4 Bananas
– 1 to 2 Tablespoons Butter
– 1 to 2 Tablespoons Sugar

Preparation:
1. Begin by peeling and cutting your Bananas as you wish.  The smaller you cut them the mushier they will be.  If you are using as a topping you may want them smaller, if you are eating alone you might prefer just cutting them in half.
2. In a frying pan add the butter and melt it.  Then add the Bananas and sugar.

Cut Bananas, Melt Butter, Cook with Sugar Until Caramelized

Cut Bananas, Melt Butter, Cook with Sugar Until Caramelized

3. Cook in medium heat until Bananas shrink and caramelize.
4. Serve hot.

Camburcitos Dulces | Venezuelan Sweet Bananas

Camburcitos Dulces | Venezuelan Sweet Bananas

¡Buen Provecho!

Navidad Venezolana | Venezuelan Christmas

4 Jan

One of the things I miss the most about Venezuela is our Christmas.  We Venezuelans have a very celebratory spirit.  You just give us an excuse, and we’ll make a party out of it.  So Christmas is definitely a good excuse for a GRAND celebration.  Usually, the entire family gathers in one place and we have a full house of 30+ people for Christmas.  When I was a kid it usually took place at my great-grandparent’s house, where all the aunts, uncles, grandparents, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, cousins, and even dogs and cats where invited.  They had a pretty big house where they could fit and feed all those people.  I was young and had several cousins my age that I had fun with.  But there were too many guests to bring a present for each, so we usually did a gift exchange in which you give one gift to someone (picket out randomly) and then you got one gift from someone else, so basically like a Secret Santa, but sometimes it wasn’t a secret.  However, within each individual family, the mom and dad exchanged gifts, and the kids all got gifts from everyone and also from Santa!

As I grew older, my great-grandparents passed away, and most of my family immigrated to the United States.  Pretty soon, it was mostly my grandparents, my parents, my sister and I.  Sometimes we spent it with my mom’s side of the family too, which is also pretty large (20 + people).  One time I event went with my dad’s entire family to spend Christmas in Puerto Rico.  Now, I have family in Venezuela, and in Florida, so the possibilities of getting everyone together for Christmas are slim.  But one thing that was definitely present in every single Christmas, no matter who was there, who wasn’t and where we were, was the food!

“La Cena Navideña” (The Christmas Dinner) is something that has to be present during Christmas and New Years Eve in order for it to be considered a real celebration.  No Venezuelan home can be called a Venezuelan home without the traditional Christmas dinner during Christmas, no matter where they live.  Venezuelans celebrate Christmas during Christmas Eve, on December 24th.  Dinner starts late, around 9-11 pm, in true Venezuelan fashion.  Then people exchange gifts (like our gift exchange), and then adults have drinks, talk and dance, while the kids play and try to stay awake to see if they can get a close look at Santa.  The same goes for New Years Eve, where the Christmas Dinner is also present.  Another important Venezuelan Christmas tradition we can never forget about is our Christmas music.  Gaitas, Aguinaldos and Villancicos serve as the perfect soundtrack to a true Venezuelan Christmas.  Gaitas are the most popular music genre during Christmas, originated as church songs, and later becoming popular outside church and during Christmas season.  Aguinaldos and Villancicos are based on Spanish Christmas carols and old carols.

La Cena Navideña Venezolana | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner

The Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Table is the greatest example of the miscegenation of Venezuelan Food.  The different dishes served at a Venezuelan Christmas Dinner are the result of the many different culinary traditions that converged and intermingled in our country, as a reflection of the miscegenation of the country during colonization.  The Hallaca is the main component of the Venezuelan Christmas Dinner, joined by Pernil de Cochino, Ensalada de Gallina, Pan de Jamón, and Dulce de Lechoza (Ham, Chicken Salad, Ham Bread, and Papaya Delicacy).

La Cena Navideña Venezolana | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner

La Cena Navideña Venezolana | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner

La Hallaca/Hayaca
Pronounced Ah-jac-kah, is the most important component for a true Venezuelan Christmas Dinner.  The origins of the word, the spelling, and the origins of the actual dish have been in dispute for quite some time, so I will give you the versions that I like the most.  As far as the spelling goes, I like Hallaca better.  As far as the origin of the name, I like to believe the word Hayaca comes from the Guaraní dialect, in which “ayua” or “ayuar” means to mix or stir something together, and “ayuaca” is the mixed ‘thing’ that you get.  Then this became “ayaca”, latter “Hayaca”, and finally “Hallaca”.  And as far as the origin of the dish itself goes, I like the story that back in the colonial times, the aristocrats descendants of our Spanish conquerors would enjoy great banquets and the leftovers would be either donated to the slaves or basically taken by them, and then mixed all together, wrapped in corn flour and plantain leafs and boiled.  And once the aristocrats discovered this amazing dish, it was incorporated into their fancy banquets and became our popular Hallaca.  The popular dish that makes an appearance only during Christmas, and brings our families together even for the preparation, which can take up to 2 days and at the very least two people to make at least 50 Hallacas.  The preparation itself is a reason to come together and celebrate, and create an assembly line with positions assigned, like the chopper, the cook, the dough kneader, the wrapper, and the knot maker.

Unfortunately for me (and you), this year I didn’t have a Venezuelan Christmas, and I didn’t have any Hallacas.  So I do not have a personal recipe to share with you.  I can only hope, and promise you, that next Christmas I am surrounded by enough family members to help me make my own Hallacas, and the rest of the Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Menu, so I can share my very own recipe.  I do however, have a GREAT collection of photographs of the complicated process of making Hallacas, that my awesome uncle Fernando took for me, while my beautiful aunt Gaby (the designated Hallaca maker and personal gourmet inspiration and influence) was making Hallacas this year.  And also a couple of links of good Hallaca recipes:

– From Adriana Lopez and Pica Pica with VIDEOS and complete Recipe Booklet!

– From one of my favorite sites Hispanic Kitchen.

And now the photos!

Venezuelan Hallacas Ingredients

Venezuelan Hallacas Ingredients

Venezuelan Hallacas Ingredients

Venezuelan Hallacas Ingredients

Venezuelan Hallacas Ingredients

Venezuelan Hallacas Ingredients

Venezuelan Hallacas Ingredients

Venezuelan Hallacas Ingredients

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: El Guiso | The Stew & El Aceite Onotado | Annatto Oil

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: El Guiso | The Stew & El Aceite Onotado | Annatto Oil

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: La Prensa | The Press

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: La Prensa | The Press

My beautiful Aunty Gaby super ready to make Hallacas

My beautiful Aunty Gaby super ready to make Hallacas

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: La Masa | The Dough

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: La Masa | The Dough

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: Las Hojas de Plátano | The Plantain Leaves

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: Las Hojas de Plátano | The Plantain Leaves

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: Prepping the Dough

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: Prepping the Dough

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: Adding the Filling

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: Adding the Filling

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: Wrapping the Hallaca

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: Wrapping the Hallaca

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: Tying & Cooking

The Making of Venezuelan Hallacas: Tying & Cooking

*A very special thank you to Gaby Ojeda and Fernando Sucre for the beautiful images, that still make my mouth water! (I LOVE YOU GUYS)… and guardenme mi Hallaca!

¡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: Pabellón Criollo

14 Dec Pabellón Criollo Venezolano

The “Pabellón Criollo”, it the most traditional Venezuelan dish after the Arepas.  Pabellón is a word for “pavilion”, but it can also mean the national flag, an ensign, or even a tent.   The Pabellón Criollo, the traditional Venezuelan dish is made up of shredded (or pulled) beef, black beans, rice and fried plantains, as the most basic version of it.   Some people, depending on the part of the country, also add a plain arepa on the side, some avocadoes, some delicious grated white cheese and even a fried egg.  When fried plantains are added, it is known as the “Pabellón con Baranda”.

This dish is our national dish, but it originated in Caracas, the capital city.  People believe this dish is closely related to Venezuelan history and our miscegenation.  This is reflected on the colors of each main component in the dish, black beans, white rice and brown beef.  These three colors symbolize the union of the three races: African, European and indigenous.

We can find Pabellón Criollo in any part of the country, and we even use it to fill our empanadas and arepas.  But we only use the black beans, beef, and plantains to fill those.

Recipes for main components:

Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded/Pulled Beef)
Caraotas Negras (Venezuelan Black Beans)
Arroz Blanco (Venezuelan White Rice)
Tajadas (Venezuelan Fried Plantains)

Preparation:

1. Make sure you soak the black beans overnight!
2. Prepare the shredded/pulled beef first, as this will take the longest to cook (4 hours).
3. When the beef has been cooking for about 1½ to 2 hours already, begin to cook the black beans (this will take 2 hours).
4. Proceed to remove the beef from the boiling water.  Shred/pull the beef and continue cooking as directed on the recipe (adding the sofrito and stir frying it).
5. Proceed to finish the black beans recipe as well.
6. Set the beef and beans aside, and begin cooking the rice.
7. Make the plantains while the rice is cooking.
8. Finish the rice and the plantains.
9. Serve all together.

Pabellón Criollo Venezolano

Pabellón Criollo Venezolano

Pabellón con Baranda

Pabellón con Baranda

Tip

– For a fancier presentation of this delicious dish, you can create a Pabellón Criollo tower:

1. Place an oiled pastry ring in the middle of the plate.
2. Add a layer of rice, a layer of black beans, and a layer of beef in equal parts (about one third of the rings height).
3. Top with plantain circles, alternated with cheese or avocado.
4. Decorate with herbs.

Pabellón Criollo Tower

Pabellón Criollo Tower

Pabellón Criollo Fancy

Pabellón Criollo Fancy

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded/Pulled Beef)

7 Dec

Venezuelan Carne Mechada, Carne Esmechada, or Carne Desmechada, is what you know as shredded or pulled beef.   Some people call it “Ropa Vieja”, which literally translates to “Old Clothes”.   Some others call it “Vaca Frita”, which literally translates to “Fried Cow”.   But we simply call it Carne Mechada, which literally translates to Shredded or Pulled Beef.   This is the main component in the most traditional Venezuelan dish, the Pabellón Criollo.   However, Carne Mechada is also used to stuff arepas, empanadas, pastelitos, and even Cachapas.

What you need:

Ingredients to Boil the Steak

Ingredients to Boil the Steak

To boil the beef
– 2 lbs. Flank Steak
– 8 Cups of Water (or enough to cover the beef)
– Salt (to taste)
– 1 Stick Green Onion
– 1 Peppermint or Spearmint Leaf
– 1 or 2 Sprigs of Parsley
– 1 or 2 Sticks of Celery
– ½ Onion
– ½ Red Bell Pepper

Ingredients for the Sofrito

Ingredients for the Sofrito

Sofrito
– 3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
– 1 ½ Onions
– 1 ½ Bell Peppers
– 1 Garlic Clove
– 3 ½ “Ajíes Dulces” (Sweet Habanero or Yellow Lantern Chili Pepper)
– 2 Tomatoes
– ½ Teaspoon Pepper
– 1 or 2 Sprigs of Cilantro
– 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce

Preparation:

1. Cut the Flank Steak in 2 or 4 pieces so they fit in your pot.

Flank Steak / Falda

Flank Steak / Falda

Cut Steak into 4 Parts

Cut Steak into 4 Parts

2. In a large enough pot, place the Flank Steak and cover with enough water.
3. Add the salt, green onion, peppermint, parsley, celery, onion and bell pepper.
4. Cover and cook for about 4 hours at medium heat until the steak softens.

Cook for About 4 Hours

Cook for About 4 Hours

5. Remove from heat, take the steak out of the pot, place in a baking sheet and let it cool for a little bit (You can use the remaining beef stock for other preparations).
6. Once the beef is cool enough to handle, start shredding or pulling it.   Be sure to pick out the fat and hard parts of the beef at this point.

Shred / Pull Beef

Shred / Pull Beef

7. In a large enough pot, add the oil, and sauté the rest of the onion, the bell pepper the garlic and ajíes cut in Juliennes, for about 5 minutes.

Sauté Ingredients for the Sofrito

Sauté Ingredients for the Sofrito

8. Add the beef to this sauté mixture and continue to sauté for about 3 minutes.

Add the Beef to the Sofrito

Add the Beef to the Sofrito

9. Add the tomatoes, the pepper, the cilantro, and the soy sauce.
10. Taste everything to make sure you don’t need more salt or soy sauce.
11. Cook at low heat for about 15 minutes.   You may also add a bit of the beef stock and cook at medium heat until the liquid is reduced.

Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded/Pulled Beef)

Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded/Pulled Beef)

*Makes 4 servings.

¡Buen Provecho!

Cool Tool Thursday

1 Dec

Today’s Kitchen Tool is:

El Tostador de Arepas | Tostiarepas | Arepa Toaster

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Yet another great Venezuelan cooking tool.  I have written about it before, but I thought this ingenious tool should be featured on a Cool Tool Thursday post as well.   The Tostiarepa was invented not too long ago, and it was a relief for all Venezuelan areperas (arepa makers), including my mom.  Arepas usually take a bit long if you make them using the original technique and the budare (another Cool Tool featured here).  However, this great new invention was created with the purpose of making arepas cook a lot faster and easier.  You might think that this tool is too specific, because it was literally created with only one purpose in mind.  However, for us Venezuelans who eat an Arepa at least once a day, this is an essential tool in the kitchen.

The first Tostiarepa were made out of aluminum and you still needed to use the stove to heat them up on one side, and then turn it and heat up the other side.  Latter, came the electrical Tostiarepa, which you only have to plug, fill, wait 7 minutes, and done!

A lot of companies that specialize in kitchen appliances make their own version of this arepa maker, arepa toaster, Tostiarepa, tosty arepa, tostador de arepas, or whatever you wish to call it.  Some of these brands include Brentwood, Bene Casa, Miallegro, Oster and of course Imusa.  And you can find these in stores like Amazon.com, Overstock.com, Sears and Target.  Some even have different sizes of Tostiarepas to make either 2, 4, or even 6 arepas at once.

Recipe: Caraotas Negras (Venezuelan Black Beans)

30 Nov

Venezuelan Black Beans are nothing like your typical Mexican Black Beans.   For starters, they are not spicy at all.   We usually serve them as a side, but we also eat them in soups, as a filling for our famous Arepas, refried, mixed in with white rice, with Queso Blanco on top, and even with sugar on top.   However, they are always present in the traditional Venezuelan Dish, Pabellón Criollo.

Ingredients

Ingredients

What you need:

– 5 Cups of Water
– 1 Cup of Black Beans (washed and strained)
– ½ Red Bell Pepper
– ½ Teaspoon Salt
– 1 Teaspoon of Oil
– ½ Onion
– 1 ½ “Ajíes Dulces” (Sweet Habanero or Yellow Lantern Chilli)
– ½ Garlic Head
– ½ Tablespoon Cumin

Preparation:

1. Make sure to pick out “bad” Black Beans and little rocks or other impurities from your cup of Black Beans and wash them as well.

Black Beans

Black Beans

Pick Out "Bad" Beans

Pick Out "Bad" Beans

2. In a large enough pot, add the cup of Black Beans and add the water to them.
3. Let them soak for a maximum of 12 hours and a minimum of 5 hours. (I highlight this step so you remember you have to do this the night before.

Soak Overnight

Soak Overnight

4. In the same pot that they have been soaking (if you soaked in a pot, not a bowl like I did), add the bell pepper and cook at a medium heat, covered, for about an hour and a half or until they become soften. Add the salt.

Add Bell Peppers

Add Bell Peppers

Cook

Cook

5. In a different pan make the “sofrito” by frying the onion, the ajíes and the garlic with the oil until they turn brown (about 5 minutes).
6. Add the cumin, stir, and remove from the heat.
7. Add the “sofrito” to the pot where the Black Beans are cooking and reduce the heat.   Let this cook for another 10 minutes, or until the liquid has almost completely evaporated (depending if you will be serving them as a side or as a soup).   However, it is recommended to leave a bit of the liquid so they taste better.

Caraotas Negras (Venezuelan Black Beans)

Caraotas Negras (Venezuelan Black Beans)

Tips

– If you wish to refry your leftover black beans, simply sauté them with one or two tablespoons of oil until they become dry and shinny.   Top with Queso Blanco.

*Makes 4 servings.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Arroz Blanco Venezolano (Venezuelan White Rice)

23 Nov

White rice is white rice, right? Wrong! This cereal is common in all countries and cultures, but each one eats it differently.   My favorite is any kind of Asian rice preparation, because I like the mushy-sushi style rice.   However, that is not usually how Venezuelans prepare it or prefer it.   Rice is one of the most consumed products in Venezuela, because it is the cereal with the most protein content and the least fat content.   It also absorbs flavors of other ingredients pretty easily so most people use it often in all their dishes and preparations.   The most common type is the white long grain type, and it is usually served as a side in beef, chicken and fish dishes, as well as inside soups, and we even make a drink out of it, Chicha.

Ingredients for Venezuelan White Rice

Ingredients for Venezuelan White Rice

What you need:

– 1 Cup White Rice
– 2 Cups Water
– ½ Teaspoon Salt
– 1 Teaspoon Oil
– 1 Garlic Clove (minced)
– ½ Medium Onion diced in two
– 1/8 Green Bell Pepper in strips
– 1/8 Red Bell Pepper in strips

Preparation:

1. You can prepare the rice in two different ways.

Option 1:

– Add the water, salt, oil, garlic, onion, and bell peppers in a large enough pot.   Cook in high heat until the water is boiling, and then add the rice.   Stir everything together and let it cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the water has almost completely evaporated.

Option 2 (Pictured):

– Add the salt, oil, garlic, onion, bell peppers and rice into a large enough pot.   Stir-fry all the ingredients on high heat, and then as they brown, add the water.   Bring to a boil, and then cook until the water has almost completely evaporated.

Stir-Fry Rice with Salt, Oil, Garlic, Onion and Bell Peppers

Stir-Fry Rice with Salt, Oil, Garlic, Onion and Bell Peppers

*I usually prefer option 2.

Bring to A Boil

Bring to A Boil

2. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the rice is soft, dry and loose/fluffy.

Remove Bell Peppers and Onions

Remove Bell Peppers and Onions

3. Remove the pot from the heat, and remove all the big pieces of onion and bell peppers.
4. Serve with butter on top and enjoy.

Press On To Container

Press On To Container

Flip On To Plate

Flip On To Plate

Slowly Remove Container

Slowly Remove Container

Venezuelan White Rice

Venezuelan White Rice

Tips

– Always stir rice with a fork and not a wooden spoon, because the wooden spoon will make it stick to itself, and it will end up being sushi/mushy rice.
– For the perfect rice consistency you can add a little bit of limejuice or a little bit of white vinegar.
– My dad used to serve us little “mountains” of rice.   Just grab a small enough bowl or container, then wet it or grease it with butter, press the rice onto the bowl, and flip it on the dish you are going to serve it.   You can also decorate with little herbs on top.

Some Venezuelan Brands of White Rice include Arroz Mary and Arroz Santa Ana.

¡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 Churros

26 Oct

One of the warmest memories of my childhood are crispy hot churros.   It was custom for my family to have Sunday lunches at our Grandparents’ house, and sometimes even go for a treat afterwards.   My grandparents live near a cute little park called Parque Agustín Codazzi in the Prados del Este development in Caracas, Venezuela… and sometimes I was good enough to be taken to the park after visiting the grandparents.   But as we would drive towards the park and try to find a parking space, I was exited to go to the park, sure… but mostly I was scanning the place for a big white truck… the “Churros Truck”.   Sometimes it wasn’t there, but when it was, we were sure to get some churros to-go, before we left the park.   It was just so exiting to wait in line (because there was always a line) and grab your brown baggy of delicious goodness.   They were the best churros in the world to me.   Then as time went by and people saw a potential business venture in these churros, several shops started popping up here and there, a fast-food version of churros (like Churro Mania).   They came in different shapes and sizes, and even toppings. But to me there is nothing like the Churros from the white truck at the Codazzi Park.   So here I am telling my husband this story and I decide I have to make some myself, because now the Codazzi Park isn’t exactly right around the corner.

Ingredients for Venezuelan Churros

Ingredients for Venezuelan Churros

What you need:

– 1 1/8 Cup water
– 2 Tablespoons butter
– 3/4 Teaspoon salt
– 1 Cup flour
– 1 ½ Eggs
– Vegetable oil (enough for frying)
– ½ Cup sugar
– Pastry Bag with the largest star-shaped tip you have
– Toppings: Chocolate Fudge, Condensed Milk, Dulce de Leche (optional)
– Brown Paper Bag

Preparation:

1. In a large saucepan add the water, the butter and the salt.   Bring the mixture to a simmer just so that the butter melts and the ingredients are mixed in well.
2. Reduce the heat to low, add the flour and mix in well using a wooden spoon.   The mixture will begin to form a ball and it should break away from the sides of the saucepan.
3. Let the mixture cool for 15 to 20 minutes.

Let It Cool Down

Let It Cool Down

4. In the meantime, you can begin to heat up enough oil either in a deep fryer or large enough saucepan at about 350ºF.
5. Add the eggs one by one to the dough and mix in well with an electrical mixer with a dough attachment for about 5 minutes (or mix by hand with wooden spoon).
6. Spoon the dough into the pastry bag, and squeeze out the churros right into the oil.   You can make them as long as you wish, but not too long that they don’t fit in your frying container.   I made them about 3” long, but they are usually about 6” long.

Spoon Mixture Into Pastry Bag

Spoon Mixture Into Pastry Bag

7. Use kitchen scissors or a knife to cut between churros as they come out of the pastry bag.   Cook until golden, about 6 minutes.   But don’t do the entire batch at once; do as many as they fit in your fryer without being to close to one another so they don’t stick to each other.

Squeeze Right Into The Oil

Squeeze Right Into The Oil

8. In order to coat them with sugar you can do two different methods.   One is to put the sugar inside a brown paper bag, and as soon as they come out of the fryer, place them in the bag and shake the bag.   The other is (the one I tried here, because I did not have a paper bag handy) to place a layer of sugar on a paper towel and toss them on top as they come out of the fryer and roll them on top of the sugar, or just sprinkle sugar on top.   They will get coated with sugar either way.

Coat With Sugar

Coat With Sugar

9. You can eat them just like that, with the sugar. Or you can get creative and add some delicious toppings like Chocolate Fudge, Condensed Milk or Dulce de Leche.

Add Toppings

Add Toppings

Venezuelan Churros with Chocolate Topping

Venezuelan Churros with Chocolate Topping

Venezuelan Churros with Dulce De Leche Topping

Venezuelan Churros with Dulce De Leche Topping

Venezuelan Churros with Condensed Milk Topping

Venezuelan Churros with Condensed Milk Topping

Tips

– If you like this recipe (and so do your kids) I suggest you get a “Churrera” or a churro making machine or gun. It will make it a lot easier. Some even have the capability to have the topping on the inside of the churro.

Old School Churrera - Photo By Cesar Astudillo (Flickr)

Old School Churrera - Photo By Cesar Astudillo (Flickr)

Churro Pastry Gun from La Tienda

Churro Pastry Gun from La Tienda

*This recipe makes about 20-25 churros.
*Also, please forgive my “mini-churros” pictured here. I did not have a large enough tip for my pastry bag.

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