The lush and fertile valleys in the Colombian Andes where I grew up
were already inhabited by a thriving agrarian culture (the Chibchas)
at the time of the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century. To this day,
four centuries later, corn, potatoes, cassava (yucca), squash, tomatoes,
and beans remain staples of the Andean valley's cuisine.
In addition to the higher-altitude produce, a profusion of vegetables
and tropical fruits grown in the lower altitudes are also available
all year long due to Colombia's geographic closeness to the Equator.
Although Colombia's cuisine is as varied and rich as its many geographic
regions, the following recipes are representative of the high valleys
in the Andean region. I took care to conserve the recipes' unique flavors
when adapting them to their vegan versions. Some of the ingredients can
be found at ethnic stores, usually Latin, Caribbean, or even African.
If there are no ethnic food stores near you, some of the ingredients
such as MASECA or P.A.N. (pre-cooked corn flour) are available by mail
order through EMD Sales, 820 West, Landover, MD 20785, Telephone (301)
322-4505, Fax (301) 322-3504.
PUCHERO DE GARBANZOS (CHICKPEA CASSEROLE)
This dish is very nice when served on a bed of rice.
- ½ Tablespoon oil
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups cooked garbanzo beans
- 6 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 Tablespoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup fresh coriander, chopped
In a non-stick skillet, sauté onions and garlic in oil for about 3
minutes; add the cooked garbanzos, tomatoes, cumin, oregano, salt,
and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes stirring frequently.
Add the coriander and serve.
|Total calories per serving: 200|
|Fat: 4 grams|
AREPAS (CORN FLAT BREAD)
(Makes 18 arepas)
Serve hot with soups or as a substitute for bread. The arepas can also be
cut in half and stuffed with tomato slices.
- 2 cups pre-cooked corn flour (MASECA for arepas or P.A.N.)
- Lukewarm water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Mix the flour and salt with the lukewarm water as in the recipe for the
tamales (on the next page). Set aside for 10 minutes. Make 3" dough
balls and flatten them between your hands until they are ½" thick.
On a non-stick skillet cook them until both sides become darker.
|Total calories per arepa: 187|
|Fat: less than 1 gram|
(Makes 20 tamales)
Tamales are best when cooked in banana leaves. This fall we were lucky to
have 20 large leaves from the banana tree in our backyard. For three years
now we've dug it out in the late fall for a winter slumber in our basement
and then replanted it in the yard in the spring. Some ethnic food stores
sell fresh or frozen leaves already cut and ready to use. If you do not
have your own banana tree or an ethnic food store nearby, foil paper can
be substituted for the leaves.
- 3 cups pre-cooked corn flour (MASECA for tamales or P.A.N. work well)
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 4-½ cups lukewarm water
- 1 Tablespoon oil (I prefer olive)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 medium onions, minced
- 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and minced
- 1-½ cups cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- ¼ cup capers
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 20 plantain leaves or foil paper (10" x 10")
- Mix the corn flour and salt, slowly add water while mixing until a smooth
dough that is just slightly sticky is obtained. Set the dough aside for
- Sauté the garlic and onions in oil until the onions are translucent.
Add the tomatoes, garbanzo beans, capers, and seasonings; mix well and
cook over low fire for 5 minutes.
- To assemble the tamales, wet the center of one side of the banana leaf
with some of the juice from the sauce, then take some of the dough and
smooth it with your hands over the center of the leaf to form a 4" square
that is about ½" thick. In the center of this square spoon some of the
sauce, leaving about 1" border all around. Then take some more dough and
pat it over the square making sure that all the stuffing is covered, and
press all four sides down to seal the contents in. Fold the sides of the
banana leaf over the dough so that it looks like a small packet and tie
with twine. Pour 1" water in a large pot and place a steaming rack over
it. (Metal ones are cheap, fit most pans and can be found in any store
that sells cooking utensils.) Neatly stack the tamales, cover the pot
with a lid, and steam for one hour. The level of the water should be
checked on a regular basis; if it is too low, then add some more.
Tamales can be prepared a day or so in advance and reheated over a
steam bath before serving. Do not eat banana leaves.
|Total calories per tamale: 252|
|Fat: 2 grams|
EMPANADAS DE TOFU Y ARROZ (TOFU AND RICE CAKES)
(Makes 12 empanadas)
Serve this dish as an appetizer.
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 large red pepper, diced
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 pound tofu - crumbled
- 2 Tablespoons tamari
- 12 empanada rounds (found ready to use in the frozen section of your local ethnic market or you can also use small flour tortilla rounds which can be found in most large supermarkets in the refrigerated section)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While the rice is cooking, sauté the garlic
for 3 minutes, add the pepper, cumin, parsley, tofu, and tamari and cook
for 5 more minutes. Add the cooked rice and mix well.
- With a spoon, scoop some of the filling in the upper half of the empanada
round, making sure to leave a large enough border. Fold the lower half
over the top part to form a semi-circle. Press the edges together and go
around the edge with the teeth of a fork to seal it. Place on a non-stick
cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden.
|Total calories per empanada: 171|
|Fat: 5 grams|
AHUYAMA RELLENA (STUFFED SQUASH)
This dish has been our family's favorite for Thanksgiving Dinner for the
past six years. I usually buy a medium Hubbard squash (also known as Crew
Neck squash) at our local farmer's market. If there are no Hubbards in
your area, a good-size pumpkin also works well. Choose one that will fit
in your oven and for which you have a large enough pan - I usually get
one that fits into my 16" by 11" pan.
- One medium Hubbard squash (Ahuyama)
- 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
- 1 Tablespoon oil
- 2 Tablespoons grated ginger
- 4 large onions, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 4 cups squash flesh cut into small cubes
- 3 apples cored and chopped
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- 4 cups cooked Kashi (cooked millet or rice can be substituted for the Kashi)
- 1 cup raisins
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup tamari
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the top portion of the squash as if
to make a lid, scoop the seeds as well as some of the flesh and set squash
aside in a large oven pan.
- In a non-stick covered pan, roast the mustard seeds until they stop
popping and set aside. In a wok or large skillet, sauté the ginger,
onion, and garlic in oil. Once the onions are tender add the carrots,
squash cubes, apples, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice, mix well and cook
over low heat for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and mix in the
cooked Kashi, mustard seeds, raisins and walnuts. Mix the orange juice,
syrup, and tamari and set aside. Stuff the squash with the kashi
mixture, pour over the orange juice-syrup-tamari, and top with a layer
of almonds. Cover with the squash lid and cover the bottom of the pan
with 1" of water; bake for 1-½ hours or until the squash is tender.
(Prick it with a fork, if it goes through the skin easily it is ready.)
|Total calories per serving: 171|
|Fat: 5 grams|
PLATANO AL HORNO (BAKED PLANTAIN)
This dish calls for ripe plantains (they are ripe when the skin starts
becoming black). If you cannot find plantains in your area, I have tried
this recipe with large bananas (medium ripe) with good results.
- 4 ripe plantains
- 2 ounces shredded soy cheese
- ¼ cup fruit preserve (preferably guava, but this can be substituted with your favorite fruit preserve)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel the plantains and slice them
lengthwise in the middle but do not cut all the way through so that
the two sides are still joined. Stuff the plantain with shredded cheese
and fruit preserve, place in a non-stick pan, add ¼" water to pan
bottom and cover with foil paper. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees
or until the bananas are soft.
|Total calories per serving: 280|
|Fat: 4 grams|