Traditional tamales are made with a corn masa dough (read more about masa here) surrounding a meat filling. Humitas are another kind of tamale made with ground fresh corn instead of masa. These garden vegetable tamales have the traditional masa dough, but the vegetarian filling is made with fresh corn, tomatoes, green onions, cilantro and cheese. The smoky corn flavor of the masa dough contrasts nicely with the sweet fresh corn.
Yield: About 16 medium tamales
- 1 package dried corn husks
- 3 cups masa harina cornmeal
- 1-2 cups vegetable stock
- 4 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 5 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
- 3-4 ears of corn on the cob
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon aji amarillo paste (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place corn husks in a large pot and completely cover with hot water. Soak corn husks for 30 minutes to an hour to soften.
- Carefully cut corn from the cob using a sharp knife or a corn stripper. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mix masa harina with a pich of salt and 1 1/2 cups of vegetable stock. Add lard and work lard into mixture with your fingers. Add more vegetable stock in small amounts, kneading after each addition, until you have a smooth, soft dough. Dough should be moist and a little sticky, not stiff.
- Add vegetable oil to a heavy skillet and sauté tomatoes, green onions, cumin, and sugar over medium heat. Cook until most of the water is evaporated and vegetables are soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Stir in fresh corn and sauté 2 more minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro leaves.
- Drain corn husks. Spread a corn husk out flat. (See step by step guide to wrapping tamales with corn husks here.) Place about 3 tablespoons of masa harina dough in the middle of the corn husk, and use your fingers to press dough into a 2 inch by 3 1/2 inch rectangle. Top dough with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the corn and tomato mixture. Place another 2 tablespoons of masa on top. Fold sides of corn husks in over the filling, then turn pointed ends up to the middle, then fold top flap down, making a little package (see How to Wrap a Tamale). Tie tamales with a strand of corn husk or twine to secure the corn husks around the filling. To make larger tamales, you can overlap 2 corn husks and use them together to wrap the tamale.
- Steam the tamales: Bring 1-2 inches of water to boil in a steamer pot, or in a large pot with a colander or steaming basket set into it. Fill the colander or basket with one layer of tamales (you may have to steam them in batches). The tamales should be above the water - they are cooked by the steam only. Cover the tamales with a dish towel and the pot lid and steam them for 30-40 minutes, being careful to add water to the pot when necessary.
- Remove tamales and serve warm. Tamales can be reheated in the microwave. They can also be frozen - reheat them by steaming them for 15-20 minutes, or by heating them in the oven, wrapped in foil.