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A Walk on the Mild Side: Red Pepper Tamales

April 28, 2011 4 comments

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I was raised in a middle-class suburban town with little exposure to any different cultures and heritages.  We grew up eating a meat and potatoes type diet with the occasional walk on the wild side.  Betty Crocker Chop Suey and Ortega taco night was as crazy as it got.

My first exposure to authentic Mexican cuisine was at my first job out of college.  There was a potluck lunch and a co-worker brought homemade tamales that his mom spent the better part of a day making.  If you are not familiar with tamales (as was I at the time) the actual edible part of the tamales is wrapped up in a corn husk.  The filling is encapsulated in the corn husk and steamed to cook it all up and add some yummy flavor imparted by the corn husk.  Well, my first time eating a tamale, I was not aware of the fact that you don’t eat the corn husk! I thought to myself…”These are terrible! It’s like chewing, well…on corn husks!” Someone spotted my foodie faux pas and immediately let me know I was doing it wrong.

tamales

Put the tamales in vertically so they'll all fit

Fast forward many years later, I became smitten with trying something I have never cooked before. I enjoyed making these oh-so yummy Red Pepper Tamales – a vegetarian version of the tamale.  The feta cheese, red pepper, corn and awesome corn meal flavors blend very well and are addictive. They do take about 1 1/2 hours to prepare and another 1 1/2 hours to steam, but me and my nine year old had a fun mother-daughter cooking moment. These would be great to make ahead of time and steam when you need ’em.

red pepper tamales

Doesn't photograph well, but sure are tasty!

A few notes:

– Start off the recipe by soaking the corn husks (I really hate when you read a recipe and halfway through the recipe, they say “meanwhile, you should be doing XXX”.  Why don’t you just tell me that at the beginning?)

– Masa Harina and corn meal are NOT interchangeable. I found it at Walmart of all places. It’s got lime in it, that’s what makes it a completely different product than corn meal.

Soaking the corn husks (yep, that's a rock)

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