Sunday, February 24, 2013

Vegetarian Tamales

I promised my vegetarian roommate that I would learn how to make tamales.  To say that she doesn't cook is an understatement, so any homemade meal is a treat.  I decided to make this elaborate production for Purim, a traditionally vegetarian meal.

The basic concept for this recipe comes from the Tasty Kitchen Blog.  She has an amazing post that shows you step-by-step how it works.  I just changed the filling into veggies that I like and added a bit more cheese.  OK, a lot more cheese.  I love the phrase "zero to tamale".  That's how a lot of my recent recipes have gone.  If you try to do them all at once, you'll kill yourself.  I made the masa after breakfast, the filling while my lunch was in the microwave, and assembled it after tea time.  (mmm, tiramisu)

1/2 package dried corn husks
*2 C masa flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt, divided
*2 tsp cumin, divided
*2 tsp chili powder, divided
2-1/2 C vegetable broth, divided
1 stick (1/2 C) butter
1/2 C diced red onion
1 green bell pepper
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 C chopped cilantro
1 Tb olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tb lime juice (of 1 lime)
1 C shredded "Mexican blend" cheese

1.  Some time before you start the process, cut pepper in half and remove seeds, stem, and ribs.  Broil until the skin turns black.  Rub off skin under running water and chop flesh into bite-sized pieces.  Store in fridge until ready to use.

2.  To make the masa dough, cream the butter in the mixer.  In a separate bowl, stir together masa flour, baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin, and 1 tsp chili powder.  Stir 2 C vegetable broth into flour, to make a thick paste.  Scrape down sides of mixer and add masa.  Beat into a uniform paste.  Set aside.

3.  To make the filling, heat the oil in a skillet.  Add onion and garlic and cook until onion starts to soften.  Add tomatoes, roasted green pepper, cilantro, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, and 1/4 tsp salt.  Add 1/2 C vegetable broth and cook together until broth has mostly boiled off and tomatoes are thoroughly cooked.  Set aside.

4.  Place dried corn husks in a shallow pan (I used a rectangular cake pan) and pour 2 qts boiling water over them.  Allow to sit at least 30 min, turning periodically, to hydrate the husks.

5.  Set up a pot with two inches of water.  If you don't have a steamer basket for the pot, get a strainer or colander that fits it.  Start warming the water while you assemble the tamales.

6.  Unwrap one of the husks.  There are four or more usable husks in one dried husk bunch.  The middle one is usually a loss; tear that one into 1/2" strips to use as ties.

7.  Set one husk on a clean dish towel on the counter so it doesn't slide around.  Place about 3 Tb (just under 1/4 C) of masa batter in the middle of the upper half of the husk (pointy end is "down") and spread it around a little.  Place 1 Tb of filling on the masa, then a generous sprinkling (1 Tb?) of shredded cheese on top.  Pull in the sides, then fold up the pointy end.  Use a strip of husk to tie into a package, leaving the wide end open.  Set in the steamer/strainer with the open end up and go at it again.

8.  When all of the tamales have been assembled, set the steamer over the now-boiling water and place a lid on the pot.  Cook for 90 minutes, until the masa batter has cooked and set, checking the water level every 20 minutes or so.

9.  To serve, leave tamales in their package and let the diner unwrap the treat.  I made them into a big meal with black beans, rice, and tomatillo salsa.

Makes about 18

Difficulty rating :-0

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