By the final day of our honeymoon we had befriended a few very cool peeps - most of which were other newlyweds - from LA-ish and Virgina... but there was a particularly special spot in our hearts for some kindred spirits, Martin Flores and Mario Delgado - two gentile gentlemen who shared their vibrations with us every morning at breakfast (the BEST part of the honeymoon, meanwhile).
Each morning we would be seated and with all the goodwill and earnestness, Martin would bring over our green tea and of course, my beloved tamales. "Buenos Dias, 'Biiktoria,' Señor Matan..." he would smile and we would smile...We immediately shared a love and passion for all things culinary - the ingredients, the satisfaction, the visceral experience of creating goodness to share with loved ones...he too had the same system with his partner - I prepare the food and Matan cleans up lol...that really allows us to get emotional in the kitchen with different utensils...pots and pans and food processors flying about in a frenzy to 'give' to our food. We shared recipes and suggestions and he told me of his grandfathers' huatia tamales...wrapped in banana leaf and baked in an 'earth oven' or 'pit-hearth' [a cooking pit in the ground used to bake or steam food]. Talk about inspiration. This is an homage to Martin, his grandfather, the Mexican gastronomic culture and all foodies out there who just love good eats. Here's a little lovin' for that tomatillo sauce to compliment:
Vegan Pinto Tamales
For the dough
4 cups corn masa [Maseca brand is fab; can be purchased at an Mexican market or Garden of Eden]
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup organic coconut oil, melted
3 cups vegetable broth
1 package of dried corn husks (fresh husks are always a good choice)
Soak 10-12 husks in water for at least 30 minutes while preparing the filling.
Mix all the dry ingredients. Add vegetable broth and mix to start forming a dough. Slowly pour melted coconut oil to create a smooth consistency that is malleable and dough-like. Set aside.
For the filling
4 tbsp. canola or safflower oil
1 container of organic pinto beans
1/2 poblano pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup organic mushrooms, sliced
1 tomato, diced
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (mild-medium) green chili
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
Dash of chili pepper (+) if you like it hot hot hot
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of cheddar or pepperjack daiya
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, defrosted
Heat the oil in a large pan [I used a cast iron brasier - thank you Harrisons!]; add onions and leeks and cook down on medium heat until a bit soft (about 5 minutes). If using a cast iron pan, no need to make the heat higher than medium-low the whole time.
Add red and poblano peppers and allow to cook another 5 minutes or so until they soften.
Add chopped tomato, garlic, mushrooms, can of green chili and cilantro. Mix well and let those ingredients simmer and integrate.
Add pinto beans and spices, salt and pepper. Simmer covered on a low fire for another 15-20 minutes or so...yet continue to check in. If the ingredients get dry, may add a drop of vegetable broth. Once all the vegetables have cooked and softened out, mix in the daiya cheeze and continue to simmer and stir for another 5 minutes until cheeze has melted - creating this this stew-like pot of tamale pinto love. Let cool.
With about 2-3 tablespoons of the corn masa dough (depending on the size of the husk), center the dough on the husk and spread towards the edges, making it about a 1/3 inch in thickness and leaving about an inch frame of husk all around.
Place a heaping tablespoon of the pinto mixture and a sprinkle of the defrosted corn kernels in the center and wrap it up! It is a learned skill and it took me until the 5th or 6th tamale to get the hang of rolling up the tamale. Rip strands of a corn husk, of about a centimeter in width to tie the ends of the tamales.
Steam! In your double-boiler or with a steam basket for 30-40 minutes. Its important to not overcook the masa so give it a little squeeze intermittently to make sure they haven't hardened.
Remove, unwrap and enjoy warm! With above tomatillo sauce...que delicioso!