We have to say the highlight of this session was sweet tamales. Interesting how something that included nothing from the CSA box can be said to be seasonal. But if you look at the recipe below you will see that every ingredient is something with a long shelf life, something that can be made from staples from the home pantry. Personally, I just have to add corn husks to what I keep on hand anyway.
L and A showed us how it’s done. And, far from being intimidating or difficult, it was clear that this is a robust recipe, one that can be endlessly adapted to taste and to what is on hand.
- Corn flour (neither the coarse meal used in polenta or the very fine powder used to thicken stews – this corn flour had a medium, not powdery and not grainy, consistency)
- Dry fruits like cranberries or preserved fruit (we used quince paste)
- Nuts like peanuts, almonds, etc. (the traditional version uses peanuts and raisins)
- Hot water (sweetened with brown sugar and flavored with cinnamon)
- Corn husks (softened in warm water)
Mix the flour with the butter, add water a little at a time until you get a fluffy consistency then add the chopped preserved or dried fruit and nuts. Mix well and form little packets with the corn husks.
Cook for 1.5 – 2 hours in a steamer pot.
Staying with the sweet theme – Here’s a look back to our last (7th) cooking session where I talked about the amazing thrice fried egg recipe Q made. She wrote it up for us!
Candied Sweet-fried eggs (from Northern China)
This dessert dish involves a particular technique known as basi, which occurs when you melt sugar and mix it with fried-egg pieces or fried-fruits or tubers. Basi literally means “draw strings,” because when you pick up the hot, sugar-coated morsels on the plate with chop sticks, you will definitely draw some strands of sugar. The dish has to be served hot along with a separate bowl of cold water. Immerse a glazed piece into the cold water and the sugar coating will harden and become immediately crispy. Each bite will consist of the tenderness and warmth of the filling on the inside with a cool crisp layer on the outside.
Here’s what you need:
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 5 cups cooking oil
These steps are a little more complicated than you would normally see in a family dish:
- Beat eggs until fluffy. Preheat frying pan with some oil and gently spread 1 tablespoon of the beaten eggs into it to make a thin (2 mm thick) pancake. Repeat until all the egg is used up. Cut up pancakes into pieces about 1” square.
- Add oil to the pan until it is a couple of inches deep, heat it to about 60 °C, add a piece of egg pancake into the oil and see whether it inflates quickly, then fry all the egg pancake pieces a few at a time until their surface turns a light golden brown.
- If possible repeat step 2 so the eggs are thrice cooked.
- Now, here is the delicate part (and tricky part) with the sugar that you have to pay special attention to, or even take few practice rounds ahead of time. Pour out the cooking oil but keep the remains without cleaning out the pan. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of white sugar over the oil evenly. Heat it up over medium heat for a couple of minutes. When the sugar starts melting, lower the heat and simmer about 7-8 minutes more, until the sugar turns into golden-brownish syrup and bursting with small bubbles, keep the heat low (or the sugar will turn bitter) and put in the fried egg pieces. Turn the fried egg pieces into the syrup and use chop-sticks to separate the fried egg pieces – you should see strands of caramelized sugar glistening.
Tip: Never stir the syrup with a spoon when it is melting; spread it by moving your pan.
Eat and enjoy!
Returning to cooking session 8, I can tell you I was very impressed by the lasagna that S, our hostess, made. She used instant lasagna sheets and the frozen butternut squash purée from the Tomato Mountain veggie box as well as some lightly caramelized onions and cheese. It was nourishing and delicious.
Le made veggie patties with beets and carrots – they were redolent with cloves – and tasted great with a quick salsa Li made using a Tomato Mountain jar of roasted tomato as a base.
A and Li dressed parboiled beets two different ways and it was interesting to see how different (and good) both were.
P made a warming carrot soup, perfect for the season.
R started making a butternut squash and chocolate chip loaf and soon let out a yelp of dismay. She had added in extra sugar instead of flour having mixed up the two canisters! We quickly huddled. This batter was too good to throw out! How about you make TWO loaves we said? Add in flour, replace sweetened yogurt with lemon juice and see what happens. Well, the resulting loaves tasted great! A clear demonstration that when life hands you lemons you can use them to cut the extra sugar in a recipe!