the taste space

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on January 28, 2014

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

A 13-hour post and then some.. with a lot of help from some friends.

Tamales are not hard to make. They are just a tad labour intensive.

After gathering a few friends for a tamalada (tamale making party), the hardest part did not occur while making the tamales. Frankly, the hardest part is now writing up the (very lengthy) recipe. Kidding aside, for the tamale execution, the hardest part was not overstuffing my steamer.  If I were still in Toronto, the hardest part would likely be locating dry corn husks.

I first made these tamales with Rob when we were still in Toronto. I originally thought about making tamales after we had bought a bunch of fresh corn and had all these corn husks. Ever the thrifty type, I reasoned they would be great for tamales. Let it be known that Ontario corn husks do not make for good tamale wraps: they are just too small and/or require too much precision to rip the husks off without making the pieces too small. In any case, the seed was planted and Rob eventually tracked down corn husks at Kensington Market.

We sat together in our new kitchen, made the sweet potatoes, the black beans and the corn dough… and even a red sauce (Rob definitely made the red sauce). And then delicately wrapped each tamale. I counted 50. After an hour of steaming, they were delicious but we worked late into the night. We vowed to make this a group effort next time.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

Fast forward a few years later, where a Mexican Farmer’s Market is our supermarket of choice in Houston and we see corn husks all.over.the.place. For a fraction of the price of what we paid in Toronto, too. $2 bought us a big bag of corn husks (a pound, I checked). (Should I peddle corn husks across the border??). I knew it was time to resurrect the tamales!

Between 6 of us, it took no time to roll and wrap the tamales. I didn’t even wrap any! The whole ordeal was finished before I had cleaned up the kitchen. The corn husks were also probably larger as we only made around 25-30 this time.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

A bit about the recipe. It is a mashup from a few cookbooks. Thankfully I found a few online sources to help me cobble together my notes from a few years ago: Tess’ corn fluff stuff from RHIW with the beans and sweet potatoes from Viva Vegan. Tamales are known to be quite heavy with a lot of oil (even Terry’s original recipe calls for a cup of shortening/margarine) but I cut the oil by incorporating the black beans directly into the masa dough.

The black bean mixture and sweet potatoes both added nice flavours and worked well with the corn fluff stuff. We didn’t bother with a red sauce this time and instead (happily) resorted  to Trader Joe’s corn and chile tomato-less salsa.

This was a fun experiment because we had a bit of trouble getting the tamales to cook all the way through in the steamer. The tamales we took out later were more cooked, whereas some of the earlier ones were still a bit mushy. Still edible and delicious, but not exactly what we were anticipating. I photographed leftover tamales and the last photo here is Robbie-style so you can see all the nooks and crannies in the tamale from the corn husk mold. Perhaps steaming them in smaller batches would be a better solution.

With still many corn husks remaining and even more masa harina, there will be another tamalada. Perhaps I will finally make those chocolate tamales after all. Have you ever made tamales before?

For those who blog: How long would you say it takes to make one post? When you factor in shopping for ingredients, cooking, photographing and editing in addition to the post, it certainly adds up!

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

This is my submission for Meatless Mondays from A to Z for potatoes. (more…)

Dillicious Yellow Tofu Scramble and Mini Arepas

Posted in Breakfasts, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by janet @ the taste space on February 14, 2013

Rob has leaked that tonight’s dinner will not only feature frozen bananas (for dessert, I presume), but also sweet potatoes and beans. I am very intrigued… I’ll have to wait until tonight to see what he has in store. ;0

Rob is the king of fresh, hot lunches. His specialty on the weekend and while on staycations. Helping me focus more on studying, he is cooking up more of my meals these days.

When he makes this dillicious tofu scramble, there is no way I can turn it down. Paired with freshly made arepas, we have a winning combo.

Yes, this tofu scramble has dill, along with zip from onion, garlic and tamari. The cheesiness comes from nutritional yeast and egginess from black salt. But, really, it isn’t trying to imitate scrambled eggs, although that is how we came up with the idea to add in chopped broccoli stems.

We discovered arepas while in Colombia. A corn-based pancake, it was typically made with cheese and stuffed with some sort of meat. While hiking to The Lost City, our chef extraordinare made some arepas sin queso (without cheese) for me one morning. They used a more elaborate, although simplistic method, for making the wider and flatter Colombian arepas with a tortilla press. Here, we have adopted a Venezuelan-style arepa as it is thicker and baked.

Yes, there is a secret ingredient in here. After love, of course (which is why I themed this post with V-Day, HA!). Another Rob’s Repeater Recipe, arepas are super simple to make once you have located masarepa flour. You need pre-cooked finely ground corn meal. We used PAN (found just steps away from Welcome Food Mart but I have seen it elsewhere, too, like No Frills and Walmart), which comes in both yellow and white varieties. Both colours are ok. To make arepas, corn flour is mixed with salt and water. You let it rest, then form into flattened balls. Pan-fry it in a non-stick skillet to create a brown crust (yes, it tasted better if you use a bit of oil) and then bake it to cook it all the way through. No kidding, these were better than what we had in Colombia. Soft like a corny mashed potato inside with a delicious crispy crust on the outside. One problem, though: the leftovers are not as good cold.

Rob made mini arepas as a side to the tofu scramble, but feel free to make them slightly larger and fill them with the scramble (it just isn’t as pretty).

Rob cooks. I photograph and eat. Oh, and study. I could get used to this.

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Graziana.

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Triple Corn Pancakes

Posted in Breakfasts, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on September 7, 2011

I had a sense of deja vu this weekend. But not in the typical I’ve already done this sense. Rather, a ‘why haven’t I learned my lesson yet’ kind of deja vu.

We visited friends in Horseshoe Valley for a weekend filled with friends, food, games, adventure park fun (o-go ball is highly recommended) as well as a trip to the beach. While I am not too fond of beaching, I was excited when my friend, Greg, suggested we bike to Wasaga Beach instead, which was 45km away, he said. Rob checked: it was 27km away.

While Rob and I haven’t done many long-distance cycling trips since our big adventure to Kingston, 27km would still be a quick stroll for us. An hour, maybe an hour and a half, I told myself. We packed light for the trip, with just a couple bottles of water. Our snack would be waiting for us at the end, at the beach, when we would arrive for an early lunch and meet up with the girls. We could easily cycle back, too. Greg, our fierce leader, wasn’t keen on cycling back. OK, no problem.

As soon as we pulled out, I was reminded that this may not necessarily be as flat as I had predicted. We were starting at the bottom of the valley. We only could go up! Greg suggested taking smaller side roads to circumvent the huge hills on Horseshoe Valley Road, which we thought was a fabulous idea.

We twisted up the side roads and meandered through lovely rolling hills. After 13km, I needed a break and nonchalantly stated we were half-way to the beach.

Not so. Rob, plotting our progress through GPS on his phone, said we were now further from the beach than when we started!

I’ll spare you the details, but yes, we had lots of rolling hills with challenging uphills. The wind was fierce. We added detours to forgo traffic-heavy roads. I broke out my emergency larabar. Thankfully, the last 15km was mainly flat, maybe slightly downhill to the beach. The flat 27km bike ride ended up being a very hilly, very windy 57km.

We were greeted by a mild sand storm at Wasaga as the strong winds pushed sand around ruthlessly. Greg still jumped into the lake, cycling clothes and all. We arrived for a late lunch. The girls had already eaten without us and warned us there was probably sand in the sandwiches. ;) My quinoa salad had fared a bit better.

Steph made delicious vegan cupcakes for dessert – matcha green tea with marzipan flours. It had been a while since I had a cupcake yet I devoured it for dessert. Sometimes crazy cycling can do that to you!

It was on the way back home that Rob and I picked up the corn on impulse. Where else would we get such freshly picked corn?

When we got home, Rob started the barbecue and began grilling the corn for dinner. I had a hankering for baked goods and used corn to make these corny pancakes from Ricki.

Using three different forms of corn – fresh corn kernels, corn meal and corn flour (masa harina) – these are a seriously corn-stuffed pancake. With corn as the flour base, it was reminiscent of a sweet polenta. Flavoured with both vanilla and lemon, it was an exotic twist. Slather it with Earth Balance for pure simple bliss, or top with your favourite compote or salsa.


This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season.

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