ColombianaA Rediscovery of Recipes and Rituals from the Soul of Colombia

A recipe developer and food stylist—whose work has taken her across the globe to work with clients like Michelle Obama and into the test kitchens of today’s most esteemed culinary publications—pays homage to her native country with this vibrant, visually stunning cooking, the first dedicated solely to Colombian food, featuring 100 recipes that meld the contemporary and the traditional.

To Mariana Velásquez, a native of Bogotá, the diverse mix of heritages, cultures, and regions that comprise Colombian food can be summed up in one simple concept: More is more. No matter what rung of society, Colombians feed their guests well, and leave them feeling nourished in body and soul.

In Colombiana, the award-winning recipe developer and food stylist draws on the rich culinary traditions of her native land and puts her own modern twist on dishes beloved by generations of Colombians. Here are recipes for classics such as arepas and empanadas, as well as “Colombian-ish” recipes like Lomito de Cerdo al Tamarindo y Menta (Tamarind Pork Tenderloin with Mint), Gazpacho de Papaya y Camarón Tostado (Spicy Papaya and Charred Shrimp Gazpacho), and Cuchuco de Trigo con Pollito y Limón (Lemony Bulgur Farmer’s Chicken Soup).

In addition to offering a unique perspective on Colombian food, Mariana shares the vibrant style of Colombian tablescapes and entertaining. For her, the best meals are never simply about the food on the table—they are an alchemy of atmosphere, drinks, and simple snacks and sweets that complete the experience and make it memorable.

Rich with culture and stories as well as one-of-a-kind recipes and stunning photography, Colombiana is a gastronomic excursion that reminds us of the power of food to keep tradition alive.

Mariana Velásquez is an international food stylist/artist and chef. Her work has been featured in the New York TimesVogueFood & WineBon Appetit, and Gourmet, to name a few. A published author of three recipe books, she has also styled, art directed, developed recipes and collaborated on more than twenty cookbooks throughout her career. She collaborated on two books that received James Beard Book Awards. First Lady Michelle Obama hired Mariana to style the First Lady’s “American Grown” project. Born in Bogotá, Mariana lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband.

“I have never read a more passionate and heartfelt expression of Colombian culture and cuisine in English. I’ve been waiting for years for a book like this to come out.” – J. Kenji López-Alt, bestselling author of  The Food Lab

Colombiana captures the amazing flavors of her Natal Colombia, but seen through Mariana’s eyes, you can feel and taste the flavors as much as her love and pasión for her culture, sazon and traditions. I want to eat and cook everything in this book.” -Chef Lorena Garcia

“Velásquez, a cook, food stylist, and recipe developer, pays tribute to the food of her birthplace in this rich and vibrant collection. . . . For home cooks in search of a primer on Colombian food and culinary tradition, Velásquez is the ideal tutor.” –Publishers Weekly

“The heart of the book fulfills all sorts of taste cravings. . . A celebration of flavor.” –Booklist (starred review)



A quite common snack is a slab of guava paste stacked over a slice of white cheese and a spoonful of arequipe—the perfect bite, indeed.

Most airport food stores in Colombia offer tiny, portable versions of this des- sert. Sometimes, you can even find a bite-size white cheese with the arequipe or guava paste already inside, gently oozing out after the first bite. My take on this ubiquitous flavor combination is rather delicate and less sweet.

For the crust:

7 ounces round tea biscuits (200-gram package roll), popularly known as Maria cookies or Maria biscuits, or substitute graham crackers

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

For the topping:

1 pound small guavas, peeled, halved, and seeded

3 cups fresh blackberries 2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons sherry

For the filling:

2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt, chilled

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1⁄2 cup arequipe (page 00) or dulce de leche

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Grease and line a 9-inch springform cake pan with parchment paper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Make the crust: Place the biscuits in the food processor and grind to form very fine crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the melted butter and cardamom. Using your hands, press the crust onto the bottom of the prepared pan and use the back of a spoon to even out the dough. Freeze, 20 to 25 minutes.

Make the topping: Place the guava halves and blackberries in a large metal bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, water, and sherry and toss to coat. Place the guava, cut side down, and the blackberries on the prepared baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven until the fruit begins to brown, burst, and soften, while still holding it’s shape, 20 to 25 minutes.

Make the filling: Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until light and airy, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in the yogurt and sweetened condensed milk and add the salt. Continue mixing to obtain a velvety and airy mixture, about 4 minutes.

Using an offset spatula or butter knife, spread the arequipe evenly over the cookie crust layer that is now fully set. Place half of the guava halves (cut side down) and half of the berries on the arequipe. Reserve the remaining guava and blackberries for serving. Gently pour the cream cheese filling over the roasted fruit, smoothing the top. Transfer to the freezer until set, 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes.

Before serving, remove the outer ring of the springform pan, slide the tart onto a pretty cake stand, and garnish with the reserved roasted fruit and their juices. Slice into wedges and serve.


From the book COLOMBIANA by Mariana Velásquez Villegas. Copyright © 2021 by Mariana Velásquez Villegas. Published by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission. 

Photos by Gentl & Hyers


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