Let’s Get This Tamale Party Rolling!
Cooking with Kids shares simple steps for this New Mexico favorite.
Join the tamalada! (That’s a tamale party.) The best way to make tamales is to have everyone help out — plus it’s a lot of fun! Little hands can help measure and mix the masa, grate zucchini and cheese for the filling (watch those knuckles!), and roll and tie the tamales. Our tasty vegetarian version is a simple spin on traditional favorites, and the smaller tamales take less time to cook. We like to serve our simple red chile sauce on the side, but don’t be surprised if second helpings end up doused in the stuff!
Thousands of kids have been making tamales this fall in their Cooking with Kids classes in Santa Fe and Española Public Schools, and while we aren’t yet able to invite family members back into the schools, kids are taking the tamalada spirit back to their families! Says one fifth-grader: “Now, I am enjoying cooking with my mom and dad. I surprised them with my tamales and they couldn’t believe how delicious they were.”
Vegetable Tamales with Red Chile Sauce
Makes 24 tamales
There are many kinds of tamales. Some are wrapped in fresh corn leaves, banana leaves or avocado leaves. Most tamales have fillings of meat, cheese or beans, but some have no fillings at all. These vegetarian tamales are smaller than most and take less time to cook. When everyone works together, making tamales is easy and the results are so satisfying.
Wrappers and Masa
4 ounces dried cornhusks
2 1⁄4 cups masa harina de maiz
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 3⁄4 cups warm water
Soak the cornhusks in hot water until soft and pliable. Tear 3 cornhusks into 1⁄4-inch strips to be used to tie the tamales.
Make the masa: Put the masa harina, baking powder and salt into a bowl and mix together. Stir in the melted butter. Add the warm water and mix well to make a soft dough. In the bowl, knead the dough gently for 1 minute. Cover the masa and let rest for 10 minutes.
2 mild green chiles (Anaheim), roasted, peeled and diced
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1⁄2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1⁄4 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Make the tamale filling: In a bowl, mix together the green chile, zucchini, corn, cheese, cilantro, oregano and salt. Stir well to combine.
Red Chile Sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons masa harina de maíz or unbleached white flour
1⁄2 cup ground mild red chile
2 1⁄4 cups water
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
1⁄8 teaspoon dried oregano
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring often until the garlic is fragrant, but not brown. Add the flour and whisk constantly for about 1 minute. Whisk in the red chile and cook only until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the chile or the sauce will taste bitter.
Slowly add the water, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil. Add the salt, pepper and oregano. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, uncovered, until thickened. Remove from the heat and serve with the tamales.
Rachel Shreve is the communications coordinator for Cooking with Kids, created in 1995, which provides nutrition education programs in school classrooms and cafeterias in Santa Fe and Española. Visit cookingwithkids.org for kid-tested recipes, how-to videos and other resources.