Thursday, January 07, 2016

Three Sisters Mini Tamal Cakes

I love reading the Food Section of The Washington Post.  My husband walks out the door and down our driveway each morning to get our paper.  He always grabs the Food section out on Wednesday mornings and places it on my spot at the kitchen table.  I am partial to the recipes by Joe Yonan and Ellie Krieger.  This one is from Joe Yonan.  This recipe is delicious and if you are looking for a good vegetarian or gluten-free recipe this is a great one.  I do have three sisters but this recipe is not named for them.  Three sisters refers to the Native American planting philosphy of co-planting squash, beans, and corn.

I have tried this recipe with a variety of fillings:  butternut squash, acorn squash, black beans, pinto beans, adzuki beans, feta cheese and ricotta salata.  I also tried it with white pre-cooked masa, yellow masa, and grits.  It's nice to have little individual cakes but you can also make it in one large round casserole dish and serve in slices.  My family loved it every time although one child is partial to grits and I am partial to the yellow masa.  Whichever way you make it you will be happy to know that it can be made several days ahead and reheats nicely.  My oldest takes one in her lunch and heats it up in the school microwave!  Yum!

Three Sisters Mini Tamal Cakes
Adapted from The Washington Post Food Section, November 18, 2015

For the filling:
-1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, diced and roasted roasted butternut squash recipe here
-8 ounces of feta or ricotta salata cheese - diced
-2 cups cooked or no-salt added black beans rinsed and drained
-1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped (about 1/4 cup)

For masa dough:  
2 cups organic yellow masa (I used the Gold Mine brand found at My Organic Market)
2/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt or himalayan pink salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cups warm water
(OR if you want to use grits then prepare this recipe Easiest Baked Grits!)

Roast squash as noted above (can be done several days in advance).In a small bowl mix chopped cilantro with beans.Have diced cheese, roasted squash, and beans ready to use for filling.

To prepare dough mix masa with salt and baking powder in small bowl.  Pour olive oil into medium size bowl and slowly add masa mixture to olive oil, stirring with a spoon or spatula.  Once all masa is incorporated start adding the warm water until mixture resembles a soft dough.  When ready to assemble, grease eight 6-ounce ramekins with olive oil or butter.  Use a spoon to drop 1/4 cup of masa dough into the bottom of each ramekin, then spread it evenly using your fingers or back of spoon. Top with squash, beans, and cheese (put as much or as little as you like). Spoon 1/4 cup of masa dough onto the top of each ramekin and spread it evenly, smoothing the top.
Oil the shiny side of 8 pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil, and use the pieces to tightly cover the ramekins, shiny side down. Transfer the ramekins to a large rimmed baking sheet and bake (at 375 degrees) until the tops are slightly puffed, firm and dry to the touch, about 1 hour. Leave covered and let cool slightly, then uncover. Run a knife around the edges to loosen, then invert onto small plates to unmold.
To serve, spoon about 2 tablespoons of  tomatillo salsa around and on top of each tamale pie. Top each portion with cilantro leaves and diced avocado; serve warm.