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Meatless Monday: Arepas With Cheese and Corn

arepas

Mark Bittman's Arepas: the batter's made with cheese and whole corn kernels.

Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

If you haven’t tried arepas, get or make yourself some as soon as possible. They’re popular in Columbia, Venezuela and other Latin American countries but widely available in the US at Latin American restaurants, and they’re ubiquitous at New York City summer street fairs. They’re thick, round corn cakes that are either baked, grilled or fried. They can be split in half, like an English muffin, and stuffed with just about anything — cheese, meat, eggs, seafood, beans, roasted vegetables — or they can be left whole and eaten on their own. I like mine stuffed with mozzarella cheese; it gets all stringy when you bite into or break the arepa in half.

If you’re not near Venezuela or a NYC street fair right now, arepas are easy enough to make at home. Mark Bittman’s arepas are made with a thick cornmeal batter that’s studded with whole corn kernels. Once they’re cooked, you can slice and stuff them with beans, grilled vegetables, cheese (queso, Monterrey jack, cheddar or mozzarella all work), or you can top them with any of the aforementioned fixin’s and eat them with a fork.

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Meatless Monday: Panzanella

Today’s better-than-meat meal for Meatless Monday is panzanella, an Italian bread and tomato salad. When I was a kid, summer meals in my Italian family included garden-fresh tomato salad, and if you finished all of your dinner, you’d get to sop up the garlicky tomato juice with Italian bread. (Summer meals were also eaten in the garage — garage door removed and replaced with a screen — a tradition I still don’t understand.) I didn’t hear about panzanella until I was grown up (and no longer eating in garages), but panzanella is the same idea, except the salad is served with the bread right in it. It soaks up the juices, and you don’t have to finish the rest of your meal to reap the rewards.

Panzanella is a great way to use up all of the summer tomatoes that are flooding the markets and overflowing in backyard gardens, and it’s also a good use for the stale bread that’s sitting on the counter from the weekend. The only other ingredients you’ll need are onions, oil, vinegar and basil, but you can add your favorite stuff to your salad, like peppers, cucumbers or fresh mozzarella.

David Rocco’s Panzanella comes together in minutes with just 6 ingredients (plus salt and pepper), but it’s best made ahead so the flavors meld.

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