Seeing Things

So I'm out on the patio a few days ago, smiling away at the rainbows I'm creating while I water my little flower and veggie garden, when I saw an odd looking rock under the tomato-moonflower-cucumber 'monstosity' we've got growing in one corner by the house. Sonoma is our 'rockhound,' always trotting around with a rock of some sort in her mouth, moving rocks around in the dry "riverbed" we created to run around the patio. I stood there for a minute trying to figure out which rock that might be....

I need to explain here that we collect rocks from wherever we go. Big rocks, like the boulder-sized crystals we've found while cruising around on some Eastern Oklahoma lakes to rugby-ball-sized granite chunks from the Texas Hill Country to river rocks from the Traun in Bavaria to pieces of various summits we've reached. All my friends know what to bring me whenever they go on a trip: a rock. No, not something from a neatly landscaped shopping center or hoity-toitily coifed hotel grounds, but a real rock they might spy while out hiking around. Like the heart-shaped rock from the cathedral in New Orleans or the bushrock from Australia (shhh! you're not supposed to take bushrock out of Oz).

The night J first brought Sonoma home, he took her for a little let's-get-better-acquainted run through her old neighborhood where she was being fostered. Sometime during the run they stopped and J petted and 'talked to' her, explaining that she was going to be going with him to her forever home. There at their feet was a little granite landscaping rock, probably kicked out of someone's yard by some bored kid. Sonoma grabbed it up with her teeth and J let her carry it for the rest of their run. But she didn't drop it when they hopped in the car to come home. And she didn't immediately drop it when she walked into our house. She carried it around with her as she inspected her new digs room by room. So J started calling it our rock.

"Sonoma! Where's our rock?" he'd sing-song as he played with her.

She's not like Leia, absolutely obsessed with anything even remotely resembling an orb. No, she likes her shredded towels, any one of her dozens of stolen socks, any stuffed anything she can grab while you're running after her like a crazed person, yelling "Drop it!!!"
But she does like her rock. And she considers any rock on our property her property. Is that where the term 'rockhound' comes from??

And I like my rocks, too. Enough to know just about where each one is at any given time, and whence its provenance. Yeah, I took Geology :) Actually, I did my honors thesis on rocks from the Caribbean island of Antigua, "Sourcing Lithics in Antigua". Earned me a Summa cum Laude, thank you very much.
So when I saw this odd-shaped rock under the tomato-moonflower-cucumber conglomerate, I couldn't help but wonder why it didn't appear familiar. Where'd this thing come from??

Well, upon closer inspection, I knew immediately and exactly where it came from -- it was another compost bin 'dividend.' That wasn't a cucumber vine so gracefully intertwining and birling 'round the tomatoes and moonflowers. It was a canteloupe!! Ha!

Now why did I go through all that when I wanted to blog today about arepas?? Um, I think it's because when I looked through the camera lens to shoot the arepas on the placemat, I saw dots. Colored dots on the placemats; dots of arepas on the plate; dots of corn in the salsa; lots of dots. And then my mind 'moseyed' in its own peculiarly rambling way to the canteloupe rock. Yeah, mhm, that's exactly how it was.
We had arepas for lunch a few days ago. They're pretty quick from the mixing bowl to the table. They taste great. They're homemade. They reheat well. All definite and welcome pluses in my summer (non)cooking book. So we had them again for lunch today.

I used to buy them at a South American cafe downtown. I always had the cheese-filled. J always got the ham-and-cheese and/or ham-cheese-fried egg-filled. They serve them with a fresh tomato salsa and lots of napkins. But I can make 6 for the price of one. So now, unless I happen to be driving by the cafe and starving, I make my own.

I've read all kinds of ways to make the different kinds of arepas. I've found that the recipe on the bag of masa precocida para arepas (pre-cooked masa) is perfect: 2 cups masa, 3 cups warm water, and salt to taste (I grind in about 1 teaspoon). Mix all together till you have a soft dough; let sit about 5 minutes (it will firm up); then shape and fry. Doesn't get much simpler. They can then be sliced in half, filled as desired, and served with everything from ham, cheese, eggs -- anthing savory -- to butter, jam, honey. The choices are endless.
Most of the time, however, I fill my arepas with cheese. Sometimes I use manchego slices, other times crumbled cotija, other times chipotle cheddar. Here's how I make my arepas:

I wet my hands, take about 1/4 cupful of dough, roughly shape it into a disk, lay it onto a cutting board and top with some cheese, making sure to leave the edge clean. Then I take another 1/4 cupful of dough, shape a disk, and press it onto the cheese-filled dough. Seal it well and pat it all into a disk about 1/2" thick. Set aside and make several more.
Heat a large saute pan over medium, spoon in about 2 teaspoons coconut oil, and layer in a few arepas. They should be golden brown on the bottom; flip them over till the other side is golden brown and serve. Mm, muy ricas!!

Cool any leftovers, wrap, and refrigerate. To reheat, heat a skillet over low-medium (no need to add oil) till both sides are crispy. Great for breakfast with guava jam!!
How do you like your arepas?

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