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MOROCCAN-STYLE QUINOA with DRIED FRUITS and NUTS

Serves 6

1 cup raw quinoa, thoroughly rinsed
13/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 dried apricots cut into slivers
1/4 cup diced dried figs (any kind) or dried cranberries
1/4 cup golden seedless raisins
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
1/4 cup pistachio nuts
1 tablespoon superfine sugar, for garnish
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Place quinoa in a 2-quart saucepan, add water, and mix in salt and saffron threads. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, and simmer for 12 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all the liquid. Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork, cover, and let rest for 5 minutes.
3. In a large skillet, heat canola oil and butter over medium heat. Add the apricots, figs, rai­sins, almonds, and pistachios; cook, stirring occasionally, until the raisins plump up, about 30–45 minutes, depending on how dry raisins are. Add to quinoa, mix well, and transfer to an ovenproof shallow baking dish. Note: If making ahead of time, cool, cover, and refriger­ate until needed, then remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature before mov­ing on to the next step.
4. Bake in the middle of a preheated oven for 20 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat, transfer to a serving dish, and pile quinoa into a cone-shaped mound. Mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle in stripes down the mound.

 
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BEEF TACOS

Makes 12 tacos (6 servings)

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 small green pepper, finely chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
8 ounces boiling red potatoes, cooked and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
12 corn tortillas
Vegetable oil spray

GARNISHES
2 cups shredded lettuce
1/2 cup sliced onions rinsed with hot water
2 medium tomatoes, cut in thin wedges
2 avocados peeled and cut into thin wedges
1 5-ounce package fresh shredded cheese

1.  In a 10-inch skillet, heal oil over medium heat. Add onion and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until transparent. Add ground beef and brown lightly, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon until it is lightly colored. Add potatoes, tomatoes, chili powder, sugar, salt and pepper and cook over low heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes, adding a little water if it dries out, mixture should be thick.
2.  While meat is cooking start frying the tortillas. Heat a griddle or large frying pan, brush with a little oil and heat tortillas on both sides until softened. Stack them on a plate as they are done, cover with aluminum foil and keep in a warming oven until all tortillas are done.
3.  To serve place a couple of heaping tablespoons of filling on each tortilla, fold it and stack side by side on a platter. Let guests help themselves to the garnishes.

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SOPA PARAGUAYA

Mbaipy Avatí

The Guarani name for this specialty is Mbaipy Abatí, which means Dry Corn Polenta, and Sopa Paraguaya in Spanish. The only explanation I have as to why this torte or cornbread is called sopa (soup) in Paraguay is that the corn mixture that goes into the oven is almost soupy.  Sopa Paraguaya is the most popular specialty in Paraguay. It is the traditional dish served at weddings, holidays and special occasions. On Good Friday, especially in the rural areas, it is the standard fare in every home. The classic Sopa Paraguaya does not have fresh corn in it; although some cooks add it for a lighter texture and flavor. There is also a version called Sopa Paraguaya Rellena, filled with a savory mix made with meat or chicken. The cheese generally used in Paraguay is a fresh cheese that is not available in this country.  The usual substitute is a combination of farmer’s cheese or ricotta with any Mexican white cheese.

2 medium onions chopped, about 2 cups
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 egg yolks
4 ounces Chihuahua cheese, shredded
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup cooked corn kernels, coarsely chopped in blender or food processor
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tablespoon vinegar)
1-1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
4 egg whites

1.  In a small saucepan combine onion, water and salt; bring it to a boil and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2.  In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream butter. While beating add yolks, one at a time; mix in cheese and corn. Fold in onions with its liquid and then cornmeal, a third at a time alternating with buttermilk.
3.  Beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks, then carefully fold into cornmeal mixture. Transfer to a well- buttered and floured 2-1/2 quart casserole or rectangular baking pan and bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes, cut into squares and serve. This torte is at its best when eaten right out of the oven, but it is also good reheated. I usually freeze the leftovers and reheat in the microwave. This cornbread is great for breakfast with a good cup of coffee.
4. Top with a dollop of cream and fruit of choice.

NOTE:  More Paraguayan recipes can be found in The South American Table, By Maria Baez Kijac.

 
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BUTTER CRESCENTS

Serves 4-5 Dozen

1/2 lb. unsalted butter at room temperature
6 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons cold water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sifted all‑purpose flour
1 cup ground pecans or walnuts
Confectioners' sugar

In an electric mixer cream butter and sugar, stir in water, vanilla extract, then flour. Shape about 1 teaspoon of the dough into small crescents, about 1/2 inch thick. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets in a preheated 250 F oven for 30 minutes. Cool for a couple of minutes and while still warm roll in the extra confectioners' sugar. Cool in racks.

 
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HOT CHOCOLATE WITH CHIPOTLE

Serves 2

My version of this holiday classic uses only 1-1/2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate per cup of milk, but for chocoholics I use 2 ounces chocolate and no sugar, with a small amount of chili powder to give a little kick. You can use 2 % milk, whole milk, or like some versions I’ve seen, half and half. Let your conscience be your guide.

2 cups milk
3-4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut up in small pieces
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream, optional

1.  In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, mix milk, chocolate pieces and chili powder. Bring to a boil over very low heat, whisking often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.  When the chocolate  has completely melted, increase the heat to medium and bring to a quick boil, whisking all the time. After a couple of minutes, foam will start rising. Remove pan from the heat before foam reaches the top of the saucepan and continue beating.  When the foam has gone down, put the saucepan back on the heat and continue whisking for a couple of minutes When it foams again, remove from the heat, continue beating, if you are lucky, you will be able to get the foam to stay. Mexican cooks are famous for serving their hot chocolate with a lot of foam. Stir in vanilla extract.
2.  Ladle into small coffee cups or mugs if you are serving 8-ounce portions. Add a dollop of whipped cream, if desired, and serve immediately. As the chocolate cools, it will thicken. Depending on what else you are serving, a 4-ounce portion may be enough, as this chocolate is quite rich, especially if you use 2 ounces of chocolate per cup and whole milk. Good opportunity to use your demitasse cups.

 
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MARINATED SHRIMP & HEARTS OF PALM CEVICHE

Serves 6

One of the most popular ceviches in Ecuador is ceviche de camarones, usually made with shrimp or langostinos (prawns). Also popular is the ceviche de hongos and the ceviche de palmito. Sometimes I combine two of these ingredients like in this case, to give an extra dimension. Ceviches in Ecuador are always served with maíz tostado (toasted dry corn) or popcorn, plantain chips and French bread on the side, along with a bowl of ají (hot sauce), for those who like their food more fiery. This citrus marinade can be used as a basis for different types of ceviches, such as Mushroom Ceviches, Hearts of Palm Ceviches or others that use shrimp with a mixture of vegetables.  

12-ounces medium or large frozen, raw peeled shrimp
1 14-ounce can hearts of palm

Citrus Marinade:
2 large ripe fresh tomatoes, about 1 pound  (or 1 cup tomato juice)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (or to taste)
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
1/2 recipe Cebollas Encurtidas (see below)

Garnishes:
1/2 recipe Cebollas Encurtidas
Sprigs of parsley
French bread
Popcorn
Plantain chips (optional)
Hot sauce

1.  To cook the shrimp, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add shrimp, remove from the heat, let stand for a few seconds until shrimp turns pink and starts to curl. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and make the shrimp crunchy. Cut each shrimp in half across and transfer to a covered plastic or glass container. Refrigerate until needed.
2.  Drain hearts of palm, rinse and cut each piece into 8 rounds Reserve with the shrimp.
3. Cook tomatoes in 1/2 cup boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, skin, seed and puree in a blender or food processor. Pass through a sieve.
4.  In a glass bowl mix tomato puree, lemon and orange juice, ketchup, olive oil, salt, black pepper and hot pepper sauce. Taste and add a little lemon or orange juice to balance flavor, if needed. None of these flavors should be too pronounced and you might have to add a little sugar if tomatoes are too acidic. More hot sauce is provided on the side for people who like hot ceviches. Marinade can be made the day before and kept refrigerated. Two to four hours before serving mix cilantro, cebollas, shrimp and hearts of palm with the marinade, taste and add salt or sugar if needed. Chill.
5.  Serve in small bowls or stem glasses, garnished with a teaspoon of the remaining onions and a sprig of parsley. Bowls of popcorn and hot sauce are served on the side to be added to the ceviche by the guests. French bread and optional plantain chips are also served in bowls.

MARINATED ONIONS:
Cebollas Encurtidas
Red onions prepared this way are a must for Ecuadorian ceviches. Prepare them about 4 hours before serving. You will need half of them to add to the ceviche 2 hours before serving.
1 medium red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 cup boiling water
1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper

Pour boiling water over onions and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Toss with lemon juice, salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate until needed. This should be done about 3 hours ahead too give time to the onions to turn pink.

 
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EMPANADAS DE HONGOS (Mushroom Turnovers)

Serves 12

This was one of my mother’s favorite first courses for dinner parties. Of course, the puff pastry was always made at home. I remember my younger sister Ximena loved to make puff pastry, I think she was 10 years old when she learned how to make this dough. These empanadas were also a favorite of my cooking class students, and they are always a treat for family and friends, whether they are made in the large size for lunch or the hors d’oeuvre size. The bonus—they freeze beautifully. To accommodate today’s busy schedules, I often rely on ready-made puff pastry, as in this version of the dish.

Filling:
1 pound fresh mushrooms
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped scallions, use 2-inch of the green
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons day old bread crumbs
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves or dill
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 packages frozen Pepperidge Farm Pastry Shells, thawed
Egg wash made with 1 egg beaten with 1tablespoon water

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and scallions and sauté until all juices from the mushrooms have evaporated. Add cream, and cook until reduced enough to just coat the mushrooms. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, toss with bread crumbs and parsley or dill. Cool and mix with cheese.
Assemble the turnovers. Remove 1 pastry shell and roll it out on lightly floured work surface into a 5" to 6" circle. Place 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling in the center of the circle and lightly the moisten the edge of the half of the circle with the egg mixture. Fold the round in half and press firmly to seal the edges. Crimp the edge with a fork dipped in flour, and pierce the top with the fork to allow steam to escape. Repeat with the remaining shells and filling, then refrigerate for 10 minutes before baking. Bake in the upper third of a preheated 375°F oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for a few minutes and serve.

 
 
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PRISTIÑOS DE NOCHE BUENA (Crullers)

Serves 6

These fritters are the classic Christmas dessert in Ecuador. Similar fritters are found in other Latin American countries under different names such as sopapillas, picarones, depending on the country. Some are made with yeast instead of baking powder and are mixed with pureed squash.  

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter or shortening, room temperature, cut up in 4 pieces
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 tablespoon anise liqueur

Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in the bowl of the food processor, and pulse to mix. Add butter, pulse until it looks like coarse meal. Add eggs and liqueur, and process until it forms a ball. (If preparing by hand mix the flour with baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix with butter, eggs and liqueur, kneading until dough forms bubbles.) Cover dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Roll dough into a cylinder, cut in two, then cut each half cylinder into eight pieces. Roll each piece into a strip about 2 x 6 inches. With scissors, make diagonal cuts on one side about halfway across the strip—about four cuts. Press ends together to form a wreath.

Heat about 1-inch of oil in a frying pan to 360°F. Drop 2 or 3 wreaths at a time and fry swishing the oil with a large slotted spoon over the wreaths. Fry on both sides until golden, then drain on paper towels. They are best served right away with Miel de Panela (recipe follows). Otherwise serve them at room temperature.

MIEL DE PANELA (Brown Sugar Syrup)
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar or ground panela
1/2 cup water
2 whole cloves
1 small cinnamon stick
2 strips lemon peel

      Place all ingredients in a heavy 4-quart saucepan and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it forms a heavy syrup. Strain through a medium sieve, and serve, or cool and refrigerate. It lasts for several months refrigerated. Makes 16 pastries

Adapted from “The South American Table” published in 2003 by Harvard Common Press.

 
 
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CORN TORTE

Serves 6

This Paraguayan corn torte is one of the classic examples of what one can do with corn.  I especially like this rendition because of its versatility!  It can be used as a main course for a meatless meal, as part of a buffet, or as a side dish for any kind of fish or meat.  Either way, it is always a winner!

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup of corn meal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 pound fresh corn kernels, or frozen, thawed
1/2 cup 2% reduced fat milk
3 egg yolks
8 ounces white cheddar cheese, shredded
3 egg whites

1.  In a small frying pan heat butter and oil over medium low heat.  Add onions and sauté until soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so they don’t brown.  Let cool to lukewarm.
2.  In a large bowl mix corn meal, salt, sugar and baking powder, set aside.
3.  In a blender or food processor puree corn with milk.  Mix with egg yolks for a few seconds and add to dry ingredients together with the cheese.  Mix well.
4.  In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Carefully fold into the corn mixture.  Turn into a 7x11-inch buttered baking dish and bake in the middle of a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour.  Let cool for a few minutes, cut into six slices and serve.

 
 
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TOMATO AND ONION SALAD

Serves 4

This type of salad is common is many Latin American countries with variations. Some cooks use black olives to garnish the dish.
Picture was contributed by Yvonne Reyes.

4 large tomatoes (about 2 pounds) well rinsed, peeled, quatered across and seeded
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped and soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and well drained
1 jalapeño pepper cored, seeded and minced or thinly sliced (optional)
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, basil or parsley
Black olives to garnish the salad (optional)

1.  Place the well-drained tomatoes, onions and jalapeño pepper in a salad bowl.
2.  In a small bowl beat oil with vinegar or lemon, salt and pepper until emulsified andpour over tomatoes and onions and sprinkle with cilantro, basil or parsley.
3.  Serve in a glass bowl or platter garnished with black olives, if desired.

 

 

QUINOA BARS WITH KAÑIWA

Serves 24

This particular recipe was inspired by a sweet quinoa tamale found in my native Ecuador. Here, cinnamon combines with cloves and anise to give these moist, cakelike bars a decided holiday tone. But even though they’re perfect for the holidays, they are versatile enough to suit any occasion. Stamina seekers, from hikers to woodchoppers, will especially appreciate the mix of nuts and dried fruit. A certain winner with anyone, these nutritious bars will quickly disappear from your serving platter.

1 cup quinoa, thoroughly rinsed
2 cups water
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup rice flour or cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon anise seeds, crushed
½ cup seedless black or gold raisins
½ cup coarsely chopped dates or dry apricots
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts
½ cup Basic Boiled Kañiwa (see recipe in Chapter 1)
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
½ cup orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Put quinoa and water in saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook for 12 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork, cover, and let cool.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, anise seeds, raisins, apricots, walnuts, and Basic Boiled Kañiwa; mix well. Add cooked quinoa, butter, orange juice, vanilla, and eggs, and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a buttered and floured 13" × 9" baking pan.
4. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
5. Cut into 24 bars. If desired, dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

 

HOT CHOCOLATE WITH CHIPOTLE

Serves 4 tea cups

My version of this holiday classic uses only 1-1/2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate per cup of milk, but for chocoholics I use 2 ounces chocolate and no sugar, with a small amount of chili powder to give a little kick. You can use 2 % milk, whole milk, or like some versions I’ve seen, half and half. Let your conscience be your guide.

2 cups milk
3-4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut up in small pieces
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream, optional

1. In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, mix milk, chocolate pieces and chili powder. Bring to a boil over
very low heat, whisking often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. When the chocolate has
completely melted, increase the heat to medium and bring to a quick boil, whisking all the time.
After a couple of minutes, foam will start rising. Remove pan from the heat before foam reaches
the top of the saucepan and continue beating. When the foam has gone down, put the saucepan
back on the heat and continue whisking for a couple of minutes When it foams again, remove
from the heat, continue beating, if you are lucky, you will be able to get the foam to stay.
Mexican cooks are famous for serving their hot chocolate with a lot of foam. Stir in vanilla
extract.
2. Ladle into small coffee cups or mugs if you are serving 8-ounce portions. Add a dollop of
whipped cream, if desired, and serve immediately. As the chocolate cools, it will thicken.
Depending on what else you are serving, 4-ounces may enough, as this chocolate is quite rich,
especially if you use 2 ounces of chocolate per cup and whole milk. Good opportunity to use
your demi-tasse cups.

 

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QUINOA WITH WILD RICE AND SHRIMP SALAD

 Serves 8

The original recipe appeared in the Art of Cooking with Quinoa and later on was adapted to this version, which my daughter Stephanie made for a party. The combination of flavors and textures, as well as the eye appeal, will make this refreshing salad a favorite for the buffet table. Instead of shrimp you can use diced cooked chicken, turkey or ham.

You can also change some of the ingredients according to availability and preference. You can find in my latest book Cooking with Ancient Grains published by Adams Media 2014 a variety of beautiful salads that use the latest ingredients such as colorful grape tomatoes that you can use in this salad instead of the garnish - just toss and serve.

1/2 cup raw wild rice
1 bay leaf
6 cups water, divided
Salt
1/2 cup raw black quinoa
3/4 cup seeded and diced (1/4-inch) red or orange bell pepper
2/3 cup frozen baby lima beans, or frozen green soybeans, cooked
1 cup cooked corn kernels, drained
1 cup diced (1/4-inch) red onion, rinsed with hot water and patted dry
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat parsley leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup lupine beans nuts, skins removed (optional)*
1/2 pound peeled, cooked shrimp

DRESSING:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon country-style Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar

GARNISH (optional):
1 medium-size ripe but firm tomato, cut into 8 thin wedges

1. Place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly. Transfer to a 4-quart saucepan, add the bay leaf and 3 cups of the water, and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, discard the bay leaf, return to pan, cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to dry for 5 minutes.
2. Place quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly with cold running water until water runs clear. In a medium-size saucepan, bring the remaining 3 cups water to a boil, add the quinoa, and cook until the grains are transparent throughout, about 12 minutes. Drain well and return to the saucepan. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to dry for 5 minutes; toss with a fork, transfer to a mixing bowl to cool.
3. To finish salad, in a large mixing bowl combine the rice, quinoa, and the remaining ingredients
4. In a small mixing bowl, beat the dressing ingredients together with a small wire whisk until the mixture thickens. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette to taste. Taste again for salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap refrigerate until needed.
5. Serve chilled, garnished with the tomato wedges.

For optional shrimp, which I call for in several recipes, the best way to give good flavor to the shrimp is to marinate as shown below. My experience is that most people really appreciate if the salads have shrimp as one of the ingredients, if shrimp is part of their diet. Keep in mind this recipe calls for only 1//2 a pound of shrimp..

1 pound cooked large shrimp
3 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste with
1/2 teaspoon salt and
1/4 teaspoon freshly round black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

If using large shrimp, cut in half or thirds; if using small salad shrimp leave it as is, and rub with garlic and lemon paste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes  

NOTE; To make preparation easier cook rice and quinoa the day before, and while they are cooking get vegetables ready. Refrigerate all ingredients until needed.

*Lupine beans are found in the Italian section of supermarkets and are very rich in calcium.

 

 
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AREPAS

BASIC AREPA DOUGH

1 cup harina precocida (yellow or white)
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1-1/2 cups hot water
Butter or cream cheese

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and optional salt. Add water and stir with a wooden spoon to make a soft dough. Let stand for 5 minutes, covered with plastic wrap, then knead for 3 minutes. Dough is ready to be shaped into standard arepas, or to be mixed and kneaded with other ingredients such as cheese, chicharrones (pork rind), etc.

To shape arepas:

The standard Venezuelan arepa is 3 inches in diameter and 3/4-inch thick. Colombian arepas are larger and thinner, about 4-inches in diameter and 1/4-inch thick.  To make arepas, oil or wet hands lightly and shape dough into balls. Place between 2 pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap and flatten into a circle; shape the edges to form a smooth disk. In Colombian , arepas are often made using a small wooden press, a utensil that is also used to flatten disks of cooked plantain to make patacones. These presses are available in some Latin American grocery stores.

To cook arepas:

Heat a griddle or cast iron skillet over medium heat; grease lightly and cook arepas on both sides, turning a couple of times until crust is formed. If arepas are browning too fast, reduce heat to low. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Colombian arepas are ready to be served at this point. Venezuelan arepas have to be baked in a preheated 350°F oven for 15 minutes. To check for doneness, tap the arepa lightly—if a hollow sound is heard, it is ready. Split open, add butter or cream cheese and serve hot. 

A common way to enhance arepas that was made possible by the introduction of dairy from Europe is the addition of cheese. Just add one cup of shredded cheese (any good, hard cheese, such as cheddar)  to the dough, and kneed thoroughly before cooking.