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When life gives you a pandemic, make tamales

When we lived in Sonoma county, there was a place in Petaluma that made black bean tamales and I’d buy them at the Whole Foods in Santa Rosa. They were sooo good.

Given that we don’t eat meat, finding vegetarian tamales in restaurants is almost impossible (well, now completely), so we hadn’t had any for a long time. Because we’ve had difficulty getting corn tortillas with grocery orders (weird huh), I researched how to make them. Presto – an Amazon order for masa harina and a tortilla press arrived at the end of last week. In my tortilla-making Googling adventures, I discovered that tamales are made from masa harina as well, so I also added some corn husks to the Amazon order.

So, with a fresh batch of homemade black beans cooked and gin cocktails in hand, we set about making some this week.

They really are easier than you’d think. I researched four to five recipes and came up with our recipe for 12 (it ended up making 11). You soak the corn husks in warm water for 30 minutes while you make the tamale masa (corn part). For ours, we mixed 2 cups of masa harina, 1/3 tsp of baking powder, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup of oil, then added 2 cups of vegetable stock.

We used the hand mixer we got as a wedding gift 40 years ago (hasn’t gotten a great deal of use, but thank you to the person that gave it to us) to mix the corn mixture about 10 minutes on low.

You are supposed to fill the smooth side of the husks; we couldn’t really tell the difference. We made rectangle-shaped areas of the masa, added beans and a little cheese. Greg did the folding- basically over and then up from the bottom. I cut strips of one of the husks to make the ties. The end products are in the header photo.

I hadn’t read this far into the process in my research, so I didn’t know you had to steam them to cook them. I used a strainer in the top of big pan of boiling water. It took about an hour. Second gin in hand, I ordered a steamer pan from Amazon for next time.

There also appears to be some debate whether you freeze what you aren’t going to eat before or after steaming. We went the no steamed freezer route for half of ours. After the ones we steamed seemed cooked, I put them in the oven with some enchilada sauce for about 20 minutes. They were fabulous!

I seriously doubt we would have ever tried making them if we hadn’t been stuck at home for 9 weeks. Old dogs, new tricks thanks to the pandemic.

Who knows what we’ll try in week 10, or 20, or 30….

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