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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pork and Cheese Tamales

When I was in school in Boulder, I worked at the Africa Travel Center one summer. Going to the farmers market for lunch was often a highlight of my day. My favorite stop - the tamale cart. I'd never had them growing up, I didn't even know what they were! And since then, I don't really order them if I'm out for dinner and never thought that I could make them myself. But they're EASY! They just take a little bit of time. Our local grocery store sells the corn husks, Whole Foods also has them too. And all you need is masa - a corn flour that's usually sold in the Mexican section of the grocery store (or also available at Whole Foods). These are best using pulled pork - a great way to use leftover carnitas. I like to fill them with extra cheese. This recipe makes a load of them. Steam them all and freeze the leftovers. I often wrap them individually in plastic wrap. Take them out of the plastic and microwave for 1 minute and you have a great lunch or snack.

24 dried cornhusks

2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups corn
3 3/4 cups masa harina
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted

3 cups shredded pork, with salsa mixed in
1 package of shredded cheese - mexican combo or chedder and jack

1. Place the corn husks in a large pot of boiling water, cover and remove from heat.

2. Combine the broth and the corn in a blender and blend until still a little chunky.

3. In a large bowl, combine the masa harina, baking powder, and salt. Add the broth mixture and the butter and stir until a dough forms.

4. Drain the husks but leave them in the pot with the lid on.

5. To assemble the tamales, take one husk from the pot and cut a thin strip from one edge (1/4 inch). Place the husk in front of you so that the cone end is away from you. Take a couple tablespoons of dough (about the size of a meatball) and roll it gently in your palms. Press the dough into the husk so that it's pressed out into a square on the flat edge of the husk, leaving an inch or so on each side without dough. You don't want it too thick. Place a couple spoons of the pork and a bit of cheese in the middle of the dough so that it extends the length of the dough vertically. Roll the dough so that it covers the filling and the husk forms a tube. Fold up the bottom of the husk twice and tie down with the strip you cut before making the tamale. The other end should be open.

5. When all of your tamales are rolled, put enough water in a large pot with a steamer so that the water reaches just below the steamer. Place the tamales vertically (open side UP!) on the steamer so that they're snug standing in the pot.

6. Cover and bring the water to a boil and then reduce heat so that the water is simmering and steaming the tamales. Steam for 45 minutes - but make sure your water doesn't completely evaporate. Keep the temperature lowish.

That's it!

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Zuppa Gallurese (Cheesy Bread Soup!)

I've been watching a lot of Lidia's Italy on PBS lately - she's my new favorite. No frills or fancy airbrushed camera shots, just really good food. I saw her make this a while ago and although I was a little unsure about the cabbage, once she took it out of the oven and took a bite - I was dying for it. Soooo ooey gooey and cheesy. When I made it a couple of weeks later, it was as good as I hoped. This is not the healthiest meal and you do have to be a cheese lover...

12 slices of whole wheat country bread, cut 1/2 thick
1/4 tsp salt
1 head Savoy cabbage
2 TB olive oil
1 lb provolone (have the deli cut it in extra thick slices - 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick)
1 TB soft butter
1/2 cup grated romano
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Trim the crusts from the bread and lay them flat on a baking sheet in the oven as it heats. Toast the slices, turn them over once. Remove and let cool and let the oven continue to preheat.

3. Slice the cabbage head in half and cut out the core so the leaves can separate. Lay the halves cut side down and slice into 1 inch strips. Drop them into a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook 10-15 minutes or until tender.

4. When the cabbage is done, drain them in a colander and rinse under cool water. Let drain and put them in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and a touch of salt. Toss well.

5. Butter the sides and bottom of a deep baking dish. Add a layer of bread to cover the bottom of the dish. Spread half of the cabbage in a layer over the bread. Lay all of the provolone on top of the cabbage in a single layer. Sprinkle half of the grated cheese. Spread the remaining cabbage and top it with another layer of bread. (If the bread is over the edge of the dish, press down to compress the layers a bit)

6. Slowly pour the stock all over the bread so that everything is moistened. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top.

7. Tent the dish with aluminum foil and place the dish on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes until the juices are bubbling. Remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes until the top is brown all over.

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Roasted Asparagus and Tomato Penne Salad

This is from Cooking Light and it's really easy and yummy. The best part about it is that it's combination of pasta dish and salad. You can eat it warm or cold so it's good for all seasons!

2 cups uncooked penne
handful of asparagus spears
1/2 container of cherry tomatoes
1 shallot, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 TB dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp honey
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. Cook pasta, drain and set aside.

3. Put asparagus and cherry tomatoes on a cookie sheet and drizzle with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss gently. Bake for 5 minutes or until asparagus is tender but still crisp. Then remove asparagus and bake tomatoes for another 4 minutes. Take out of the oven when done and let them cool a bit.

4. Cut the asparagus into 1-inch lengths and halve the tomatoes.

5. Whisk together the shallots, lemon juice, mustard, and honey. Add 3 TB olive oil, salt and pepper.

6. Put pasta, asparagus, tomato, olives, and arugula in a large bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and mix to coat everything. Top with the goat cheese.

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