Pear Pecan Bread made from Ugly Pears

I bought a bag of sad, truly ugly looking pears for only 20 cents, but I didn’t despair, but created a new paradigm since the only thing was was to prepare some pear bread by peeling it and removing the bad spots with a paring knife. And I still had more pears, which called for a second loaf. Therefore I had a pair of pear breads. Which were  beautiful and tasted incomparable – a true paradox. I used a recipe from Joy of Cooking, but swapped finely ground whole wheat flour for half the flour, and pared down the sugar, which apparently repaired the recipe with healthier ingredients, quite a parable. (There are 11 pear puns in the above paragraph, oops one more there! Did you catch them all?)

ugly pearsWet Ingredients:

3 – 4 ripe pears, grated to make 1 1/2 cups with the juice

1 large egg

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest from one medium lemon

1 Tb fresh lemon juice, squeezed from the same lemon

Dry Ingredients:

3/4 cup finely ground whole wheat flour (also known as white whole wheat flour)

3/4 cup white all purpose flour

1 Tb ground flax seeds

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 cup chopped pecans

Topping:

1 Tb Demura sugar (coarsely ground sugar)

1 tsp cinnamon

pear bread loaf

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*

Break pecans into small pieces. I used the blade of the food processor and pulsed a few times. Fill up 1 cup of broken pecans and set aside.

Peel pears and cut away the core and any bad parts. Grate to make 1 1/2 cups. I used the grater attachment for my food processor to grate the pears. measure grated pears and set aside.

Mix egg, olive oil, vanilla, lemon zest and juice with the food processor blade, Add grated pear and mix again. Sift together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Fold in dry ingredients until somewhat mixed in. Add pecans and fold until just mixed.

Spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray. Pour in batter. Mix the Demura sugar with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl, then sprinkle evenly over the top.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool on the rack until you can’t wait any longer.

 

 

4 Bananas Chocolate Chip Banana Bread or Muffins

banana loaf

I used four soft, speckled bananas to add natural sweetness and rich banana flavor to this delicious bread with minimal oil and sugar. The bananas and just 3 tablespoons of olive oil make this bread moist.  Add strawberries for a taste of strawberry jam or blueberries. Add chocolate chips for a nice gooey sweetness.

strawberry banana bread

muffMakes one loaf or 12 muffins.

speckled bananas

Ingredients

1/3 cup 1% or skim milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 cup unbleached white flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup finely ground whole wheat flour

¼ cup ground flax seed

A dash each of nutmeg and cinnamon.

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar plus 1 Tb for sprinkling on top. I used turbindo sugar for sprinkling.

4 bananas (1 ½ cups mashed)

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

3 Tb olive oil

¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chocolate bar pieces

3/4 cup roughly chopped strawberries (optional)

1/2 cup blueberries (optional) If you are using frozen blueberries, defrost them and drain them before adding

½ cup walnut and/or pecan pieces

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º F.

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Add lemon juice to milk. Let it sit while you are mixing the other ingredients. The milk should curdle, resembling buttermilk. (You can skip this step and use buttermilk instead if you prefer).

Sift both flours, baking soda, salt, and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, and flax seed.  Stir well to combine ingredients.

whipped egg and sugarWhip eggs in mixer until well combined. Add sugar and whip on high speed for 2-3 minutes until creamy.

Mash bananas with a fork or potato masher. You can also whirl them in a food processor. Add them to the egg mixture, along with olive oil and vanilla. Whip for another minute.

With mixer on low, add half the milk and half the flour mixture, and then repeat. Mix only until ingredients are almost combined. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips and/or blueberries (if using) until they are just combined.

Spray a loaf pan or muffin tins with non-stick spray. (because of the low fat content of the ingredients, you should spray paper muffin cups with non-stick spray if you choose to use them.) For extra buttery flavor, wipe a smear of butter at the bottom. Pour in batter. Sprinkle the top with turibindo sugar.

Place on the middle shelf of preheated oven. Bake loaf 1 hour- 65 minutes, muffins for 35-40 minutes,  just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Remove bread from pan and let cool on a rack a few minutes before slicing.

banana bread with cream cheeseDelicious spread with cream cheese!

Olive Oil Cornbread

olive oil cornbreadThis light cornbread is super moist from olive oil, applesauce and corn kernels. I added ground flax seed for its Omega-3 benefits.

Ingredients:

1 cup 1% milk

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

1 Tb ground flax seed

2 eggs

½ cup applesauce

¼  cup olive oil

½ tsp honey

½ cup frozen or fresh corn kernels

1 Tablespoon butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425’ Add vinegar to milk and let it curdle while you mix the other ingredients. Place corn kernels in a small bowl with a splash of water and microwave for two minutes. Set aside to cool.

Sift white flour with baking powder and baking soda. Stir in the rest of the dry ingredients and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with applesauce, oil, honey and milk. Pour into dry ingredients. Add corn, then mix with a large spoon only until ingredients are combined. Spray bottom and sides of an 8 inch square pan with nonstick spray. Add  1 tablespoon butter and place pan in the hot oven for a couple of minutes while the butter melts. Tip pan to distribute butter evenly on the bottom of the pan. Pour in batter. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Nice with soups or stews.

Rosemary and olive oil cornbread

 

Curry Chicken on grill or in clay pot


Here’s a recipe that will curry your favor in both warm weather barbecuing and clay pot oven cooking in the coming cool season. Serve with steamed basmati rice and Chana Dall (yellow Lentils), Punjabi-style Potatoes and Cauliflower, and Indian breads.

I made this chicken on skewers to barbecue today. I cut up boneless breasts in 1” cubes and marinated it for several hours. I’ve also made this with either a cut up chicken or breasts, scoring the meat in several places to allow the marinade to penetrate.

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Makes enough marinade for 6 breasts

1 cup plain yogurt (I use nonfat Middle Eastern Karoun yogurt)
1/3 cup lemon juice (2 large lemons)
2 Tb (tablespoon) olive oil
2 Tb melted butter or ghee
1 onion, chopped
2 Tb freshly minced or grated garlic
½ Tb freshly grated ginger OR ½ tsp ginger powder
3 Tb curry powder (or more to taste)
1 Tb garam masala seasoning (optional)
2 Tb cumin (comino) powder
2 tsp sea salt (to taste)
several grinds of black pepper.
2 tsp hot oil (to taste)
6 breasts or chicken pieces
1/4 cup cream for baked chicken
3 cups fresh spinach for baked chicken

Mix all ingredients well. Add cream if baking the chicken. It will make a smooth sauce. Otherwise the yogurt separates when cooked.  Adjust seasonings to taste. Add either cubed chicken or pieces and marinate for 2 – 4 hours.

Remember if using the clay pot, to soak it first for 1/2 hour and put in a cold oven, then turn on the oven to 350′. (You can also make the chicken in a ceramic casserole.) Cook chicken in the marinade for about 1 hour. Stir washed spinach leaves in the marinade for the last 10 minutes. Serve chicken, spinach and sauce over  basmati brown rice.

If using wooden skewers soak them first for at least ½ an hour. This is supposed to stop them from burning, but to tell you the truth, they burn anyway! Thread cubed chicken on skewers with some onion between them. Grill on medium high heat until done, about 15 -20 minutes for skewers, longer for pieces.

Serve cooked chicken garnished with fresh cilantro.

served with eggplant and bbq chicken

Capering about the Kitchen with Chicken Piccata

serving chicken picattaMy son Francisco and I first made this on Mother’s Day when he was a teenager. It’s one of his favorite dishes.

ingredients for chicken piccataIngredients: Makes 6 cutlets

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

Several grinds black pepper

3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1/4 cup (4 Tb) olive oil, divided

1/4 cup dry white wine

½ cup chicken stock Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup

2 medium or 1 1/2 large lemons to make ½  cup fresh lemon juice plus  lemon slices

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

1 large shallot, diced

1 tablespoon capers, drained

4 Tb butter (1/2 cube), divided

cutting chickenPrepare chicken cutlets. They will fry better if cut in half width-wise and pounded flat. With your knife parallel to the cutting board, cut each breast as if to butterfly it (although in this case, there’s only one butterfly wing!)

Place a cut breast half between two pieces of plastic wrap, then place in a clean plastic bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag, then fold it over.

smashing chickenPound the cutlet several times with a heavy iron skillet so that it is about ½ inch flat. It’s a good way to get out your frustrations after a hard day. Repeat for all the cutlets. Rinse the chicken and dry it with a paper towel. Mix flour, salt and pepper on a plate. Dredge one cutlet at a time in the flour until it’s coated. Pat it gently until it’s just lightly coated with  flour.

frying cutletsHeat 2 Tb oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in 1 Tb of butter. As soon as the butter melts, add 2 chicken cutlets, making sure they do not touch each other. Saute for 5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Turn chicken around while cooking so that they brown evenly on both right and left sides. When chicken is golden brown, place it on a plate and cover it with a large lid or an inverted plate to keep warm. Add another Tb of oil and 1 Tb of butter to the pan before adding the next batch.

saute garlic n leeksWhen all the chicken is fried, add garlic and shallots to the pan and stir a few minutes until they are  fragrant.

whisk saucePour in chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Using a metal spatula, scrape the pan to loosen browned bits. Whisk while cooking for  5 minutes. Cut middle slices from lemon for garnish, then squeeze the juice and stir in sauce with capers and a tablespoon of butter. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Return chicken to the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes, turning several times to absorb the sauce. The sauce will be thick.

Serve chicken with sauce and garnish with lemon slices.

Pozole

Oy vey! Nice Jewish girl learns to cook with pork products! My friend Jann made this hearty and delicious pozole with her Mexican husband, Luciano, for their  New Years Eve parties. She gave me her recipe using pork shoulder, but the second time I made it I used the leaner pork loin.

Cooked with chilies and hominy and topped with cabbage, oregano, radishes and cilantro, it makes a rich and satisfying stew.

This recipe made 10 servings, including leftovers.

Ingredients:

1 gallon chicken broth. For the cross-cultural experience, use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup.
4 dried red chilies, such as ancho or pasilla chili
2 fresh poblano chili peppers
2 Tb olive oil
2 onions
2 1/2 pound pork loin.
1 Tb dried oregano
1 head garlic.
3 bay leaves
1 tsp cayenne
1 Tb paprika (Spanish smoked paprika adds a nice smoky flavor)
Several grinds black pepper
1 Tb salt to taste
2 chayotes, peeled, seed area removed, and chopped
39- oz and 15-oz cans of white or purple hominy (maíz blanco o morado)

Condiments:

1 Tb dried oregano
Black pepper
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 small green cabbage, shredded
A bunch of radishes, sliced thin
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly
4 limes, sliced into wedges
 

Bring the soup stock to boil in a large pot.

Heat a heavy frying pan and toast the dried red chilies and the poblano peppers. Place them in a covered bowl to cool, and then remove the stems and seed pods. Throw them in the stock pot

Pour a tablespoon of olive oil to the frying pan and cook the sliced onions until soft. Slice the poblano chiles and fry up with the onions, then add to the soup. Smash the garlic bulb with a molcajete or mortar and pestle, chop it finely and add it to the soup. Add bay leaves, salt, paprika, black pepper and cayenne.

Cut the pork into large (about 3 x 3) chunks and trim extra fat. Pour another tablespoon of oil to the frying pan and add the pork, sprinkling salt and dried oregano on each side. Brown pork on all sides then put in the stock. After pork is browned, add  2 ladles of hot broth to the frying pan to deglaze it. Using a metal spatula, loosen all the browned bits  into the broth and then pour it back into the pot.

Simmer the soup at low-medium heat for 1 ½ hours.

Pour the soup into a large container and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the congealed fat from the top of the soup. Pour the broth through a sieve into a large pot, and heat it. Pour the solids into a bowl. Remove the red chili and strip whatever skin from it that you can. Put in a blender with 2 cups of broth and run blender on high, then add to the broth in the pot, rinsing the blender with broth several times to get all the chili out.

While broth is cooking, shred or chop the meat, discarding bones and fat, and then add the shredded meat to the broth. Add chopped chayotes and hominy. Adjust salt to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes, until chayote is tender, and then scoop into bowls.

Top with condiments, squeeze a bit of lime in, roll up a few warm corn tortillas to dip in the soup, y disfrútelo.

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Meyer Lemon and Italian Herbs

This is quick and easy. The chicken is fragrant and juicy. A good way to use those chicken breasts on sale. Use roasted bones and skin for Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup  ; perfect to make broth for Minestrone Soup on a rainy day.

5 bone-in chicken breasts with skin attached
Olive oil, about 3 Tb
5  garlic cloves, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
2 Tb fresh thyme, minced
About 1 Tb each dried oregano and thyme
About 1 tsp chili flakes
Sea salt and pepper
Fresh basil leaves
2 lemons: ½  sliced and 1 ½  juiced and zest grated
 

Preheat oven to 450′

Oil a large roasting pan

Salt underside of breasts. Place breasts in pan, skin side up

Stuff garlic, rosemary, fresh thyme and a lemon slice under each breast skin

Sprinkle dried herbs, chili flakes, salt and pepper over breasts

Sprinkle olive oil over breasts

Roast in 450’ oven for 50 minutes

Squeeze lemon juice over cooked chicken. Garnish with fresh basil and Meyer lemon zest.

Blushing Hummus bi tahinah


The Arabic word hummusحمّص means chickpeas or garbanzo beans. It’s the main player in the popular Middle Eastern dip of the same name. Add some tahini (sesame butter),  lemon juice, red pepper for a nice blush, and a garlic clove, a bit of olive oil and water, sprinkle in salt and a dash or two of cayenne pepper for a bit of zing, top with a small handful of pine nuts, and you have an easy and tasty dip for a crudite plate or pita bread spread.

I got my beans from a local Middle Eastern market (Indus Foods in Berkeley) for 33 cents; the whole dip cost about $1, much cheaper and fresher than shelling out $4 for the commercial version.

Makes about 1 1/3 cups

1 clove garlic

1/4 fresh  red bell pepper. Roasted red peppers work well also – use one.

1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained

¼ cup tahini

¼ cup lemon juice (one medium lemon)

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 Tb to pour on top.

1 Tb water

shake of cayenne to taste

¼ tsp salt, to taste

2-3 Tb toasted pine nuts (pignolias)

1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro to garnish

Peel garlic and mince in food processor using blade. Add rest of ingredients except pine nuts, and run processor for at least a minute until hummus is smooth. Sprinkle pine nuts on top. If desired, pour a bit of olive oil on top and garnish with cilantro.

Serve with carrot or celery  sticks, cucumber, jicama and red bell pepper spears, pita chips, or wedges of toasted pita bread.

Makes a great sandwich spread on pita or olive bread with cucumber slices.

Spicy Salmon Steaks with greens

This easy fish dinner is a bit spicy, moist and colorful. I made it first with spinach and the second time with red Swiss chard. If using chard, add it with the other vegetables. Spinach can be added at the last few minutes, since it only needs to wilt. You could even use both!

1 lb salmon steaks – 2 steaks

2 cloves garlic, crushed and diced

1 tsp fresh rosemary needles

¼ tsp red chili pepper flakes

several grinds of black pepper

several shakes sea salt

½ lime or lemon

1 red bell pepper, chopped

5 mushrooms, sliced

1 bunch Swiss Chard, both stems and leaves, chopped

OR /and one bunch spinach, de-stemmed

1 tsp olive oil


Heat olive oil in heavy skillet. Add rosemary and garlic. Wash salmon and sprinkle both sides with salt and chili and black pepper. Squeeze lime or lemon on both sides. Place in pan on top of herbs on medium flame. Add chopped red bell pepper, mushrooms, and chopped red chard on the sides of the fish. Cook about 8 minutes, until fish browns. Turn fish over. If using spinach, add it to cover fish, and cover pan. Cook for 5 minutes.

I served this with red Quinoa in a heart shape for Valentine’s Day

Tamales de pollo y de frijoles – Chicken and Vegetarian Bean Tamales

tamales with tomatoesMy children’s Abuelita Conchita made tamales every Christmas. After marrying her son, I do too. She visited us on our first Thanksgiving together and taught me how to make them with our leftover turkey.

I’ve been tweaking the recipe ever since.  I now make them with boneless chicken breasts with a few legs for flavor. The boneless breast eliminates the risk of choking on a rib bone, which are easy to miss while shredding the chicken. I also make vegetarian tamales using frijoles pintos, roasted chili and jack cheese.

I make my masa with olive oil, with a bit of chicken fat and bacon grease for flavor. That kind of balances the heart-healthy effects of the olive oil.

Makes filling for 120 medium tamales.

Ingredients for filling:

Dried chilies w chipotle.jpg

epazote on cooked chilies.jpg

16 cups of water (To use some of the sauce for frijoles, increase the water to 17 cups.)

2 chopped onions

8 minced garlic cloves

3 dried chipotle chilies or 2 Tb chipotle powder

2 Tb cumin powder (comino)

2 tsp cocoa powder

2 Tb dried oregano

6 cups diced Roma (plum) tomatoes or a 28 oz can (or two 14 oz cans) diced tomatoes. Fire roasted tomatoes are nice.

2 green bell peppers

2 Tb salt to taste

6 dark green poblano chilies (sometimes sold as fresh pasilla)  (add 4 more for filling for vegetarian tamales)

8 oz. dried pasilla ancho chilies

2 oz. dried morita chilies

1 bunch epazote, leaves only (pictured above)

12 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves and 6 chicken legs

Heat a large pot with the water and bring to a boil.

There’s the easy way to add chili to the broth, which my mother-in-law did, by adding chili powder to it.

3 kinds of peppersThen there’s the labor-intensive way, adding fresh poblano and dried pasilla chilies. Pasilla chilies are dark and wrinkled, like giant raisins (pasa is raisin in Spanish) They make for a more intense, earthy flavor. I also add dried morita chilies and dried chipotle chilies which look like a pieces of wood!

I use a cast iron comal (coMAL), which is a shallow frying pan to toast the chilies and peppers to intensify their flavor. I wear thin disposable latex gloves when I work with the dried chilies and poblanos. This way I emerge from the process without stained and sore hands and can rub my eyes afterwards without fear of blinding myself.

toasting pasilla chilisRinse the dried chilies and pat dry. Toast them lightly on the comal. If you don’t have a comal, use a heavy frying pan. Sometimes the pasilla will blow up like a balloon! Remove them to a plate while they are still soft.

destemmed and opened chilies after boiling.jpgWear gloves for this part: Discard the stems and some of the seed pods from the chilies and but keep some seeds for spiciness, depending on your taste. Boil the chilies for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and soak them for 20 minutes until they soften.  Remove the chilies and let them cool. Slice them in half lengthwise, scraping out extra seeds,  and add them  to the broth.

While the dried chilies are boiling and soaking, prepare the rest of the broth ingredients:

poblanos on the barbieBlister the Poblano and bell peppers on the comal or if the weather cooperates, the barbeeque. Wearing gloves, cut out the stems and scrape out the ribs and some of seeds of the poblano and discard most of the seeds. Add a few poblano seeds or ribs to make the broth spicier if you want.

Set aside four  poblanos to insert whole into vegetarian tamales. Coarsely chop up the rest and add to the water.

chiles in tomato sauce ready to blend.jpgAdd all ingredients except salt and chicken, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool for another 30 minutes.

blended sauceBlend in batches to make the chili sauce.

If making Frijoles pintos, pour out a cup of sauce into a separate pot.

For vegetarian tamales: Salt the sauce to taste. You will use it for mixing in the masa and pouring over the tamales when you eat them.

For chicken tamales: Salt the sauce and bring it to a boil. Add chicken legs, including any fat and skin to render in the sauce, and cook for 45 minutes. Cut chicken breasts into large chunks and add to the legs, cooking for 20 minutes, until done. Remove chicken from sauce with slotted spoon, reserving sauce.

Let chicken cool until you can handle it, then remove the bones from the legs and break off the cartilage at the ends of the bones to expose the marrow (I use a kitchen shears). Bring the sauce back to a boil. Return the bones to the sauce and let it cook at medium heat while you shred the chicken by hand. The marrow will add great flavor and nutrients to the sauce. Remove the bones from the sauce.

Refrigerate the sauce until the fat solidifies. Skim most of the fat from it, but keep in about 1/4 cup to add flavor to the chicken as it cooks. (If you are short on time, use a fat skimming cup.)  We will add the fat to the masa for flavor. Reserve 5 cups of sauce for the masa.

Pour 2 cups chili sauce into a skillet and heat it Add half the shredded chicken. Simmer and stir until chicken absorbs most of the sauce, but is not too dry. You should be able to see some sauce between the meat. Make the second batch, (I use 2 skillets at a time) then store in refrigerator until ready to use. It’s best to make this part the day before so that the chicken will absorb the sauce while it sits overnight. If you don’t have time, just let it cool in the freezer or fridge.

This is plenty of chicken. If you don’t want to turn it all into tamales,  they are great in tacos or enchiladas.

Vegetarian tamales: Cook  Frijoles pintos the day before. Roast 4 more fresh poblano chilies on a grill or heavy frying pan until the skin chars. Cool in a covered container to aid in peeling, then peel charred skin, discarding skin, seeds and stem, and cut into strips. You can use canned chilies to save time, but I am giving you the fresh recipe, which has a much more earthy and intense flavor. Slice jack cheese.

Preparing the tamales:

Soak an 18 oz. package of hojas (OH-hass) (dried corn husks) in warm water in a large pot (such as the tamale steamer) until soft, about 1 hour. You can even soak it overnight. I put the steamer pan on top of the hojas and weight it down with a large bowl of water. Rinse them well afterward and remove the corn silk.

Masa

Most of the Mexicans I know with swear by lard, the traditional fat used to make tamales. Lard is delicious but very heavy, so I prefer to make my masa with heart-healthy olive oil, combined with some chicken fat for flavorful chicken tamales. I use only olive oil for vegetarian tamales.

I make my masa in several batches, so I can fit it in my electric mixer. I’m giving the 1/2 measurements in parentheses.

Masa for 40 tamales (20):

7  (3 1/2) cups masa harina (corn flour) for tamales. This is coarser ground than the masa harina that is used for tortillas.
1 Tb + 1 tsp (2 tsp) salt
1 Tb (1 1/2 tsp) baking powder
2 Tb (1 Tb) paprika
6 1/2 to 7 cups (3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups) reserved warm broth. If you run out of broth, add some chili powder to warm water

beat chicken fat and olive oilFor chicken tamales: 1 1/2 cups (3/4 cup) olive oil

1/2 cup plus 2 Tb (1/4 cup plus 1 Tb) solidified chicken fat. If you don’t have enough fat skimmed from the sauce, you can add chicken fat from homemade chicken soup.

For vegetarian tamales:

2 cups (1 cup) olive oil

Directions:

Mix masa harina with salt. Sift in baking powder and paprika. Mix well.

For chicken tamales: Beat chicken fat in mixer on high until fluffy.

For vegetarian tamales: Beat olive oil on high

Add  broth to the dry ingredients, mixing with a spoon, then with your hands until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add about a quarter of the masa to the oil and beat well, then add another quarter of the masa, repeating until all masa is incorporated. Beat until dough has a fluffy and moist consistency.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate the masa for an hour or so, then return it to the mixmaster. Beat it again, adding more broth if necessary to make a soft dough.

ball of masaIt should not stick to your fingers, and you should be able to form a smooth ball of masa. It should float in a bowl of cold water. If it’s too sticky, add a little masa.

Assembling the Tamales

Now you are ready to assemble the tamales. This is best done with your family and/or friends helping – a tamalada.

Spread the masa in a thin layer on the wide end of the hoja, leaving  about 3 inches bare on the pointy end and a small border around the sides.. You can use the back of a spoon, or your fingers. I find it works best if your fingers are moist and not too full of masa.

For chicken tamales, put in a spoonful of the shredded prepared chicken. Make it into a long rectangle.

For vegetarian tamales, place a spoonful of beans without liquid, a strip of chili and a piece of jack cheese. Vegans can skip the cheese, or use vegan cheese.

fold in one side

Fold the other side in so they overlap,

then fold up the pointy end.

Tear thin strips from several hojas to use for tying the tamales. I use the torn or ugly hojas. Tie tamale with the strip of hoja.

cooked tamales

When all tamales are assembled, heat water in the bottom of a tamale pot or large steamer Put a couple of dimes in the water. This is known as a paradigm. Add the tamales with the folded end down and the tied end up on the steamer tray.

steam tamales with bowl in the middleIf you don’t have enough tamales to fill your pot, place an metal bowl upside down in the middle of the tamales to hold them upright.

Stretch some foil over the top of the pot to help trap the steam in. Cover the steamer, and cook on low heat for 1 ½ hours. The dimes will rattle in the water. If the water runs out, the dimes will stop rattling and you must add more water or the tamales will burn! Check on it every 20 minutes to make sure theirs enough water. pour the water in through a funnel between the tamales.

When the masa separates easily from the corn husk, the tamales are done. Uncover the pot, turn off the flame and let dry out for 15 minutes or until you can’t wait any longer to eat them!

Unwrap and enjoy with sliced Roma tomatoes. Warm the chili sauce and pour over the tamales, or top with Frijoles pintos.

Feliz Navidad!

serving tamales with sliced tomatoes