We said we'd do it, and here it is! As we say good-bye to March, we're leaving you with a customized, savory receipe featuring our Veggie of The Month - Spinach - courtesy of chef Arturo!
1 pound package of banana leaves, frozen or fresh (available at most Asian or Mexican markets)
2 pounds of already prepared tamale masa
3 dried ancho chillies
1 clove garlic
2 whole cloves
2 whole peppercorns
Calabacitas (Mexican squash)
1 cup chopped carrots (about 1 1/2 carrots)
1/2 cup chopped red onion (about 1/2 onion)
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 calabacitas, roughly chopped
2 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small bunch of spinach (about 15-20 leaves), rinsed, stems removed and discarded, chopped
12 ounces of Monterey Jack cheese cut into 3" x 3/4" x 1/2" pieces
Special Equipment Needed: A large stockpot with a steamer rack
PREPARE THE SAUCE
Working one chile at a time, use a paring knife to cut a slit all the way down one side of a chile. Open up the chile and remove the stem and seeds. Remove as much of the veins as you can. Reserve a few of the seeds or veins for adding later.
Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Flatten out the dried chillies as well as you can and place on the skillet heat. Press down on the opened chillies and leave for a few seconds. Turn the chillies over and heat a few seconds more.
Add the chillies to a small saucepan and add enough water so that they are just covered. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes, until the chillies have softened and plumped up.
Reserving the soaking water, remove the chillies from the pan and place in a blender. Add the garlic, salt, ground pepper, ground cloves and 1 1/2 cups of the soaking liquid. Puree for 2 minutes, until the sauce is completely smooth. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Pour the sauce that a sieve into a skillet. Add a tablespoon of olice oil to the sauce. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to maintain the simmer, cook for 10 minutes. Skim off the foam. Remove from heat.
PREPARE THE BANANA LEAVES
Cut away the thick edges of the leaves. Rinse the leaves. (If using frozen banaa leaves, rinse them under warm water to defrost.)
PREPARE THE FILLING
Coat the bottom of a very large saute pan with 1-2 TBSP olive oil. Heat on high heat. Add onions, garlic, and carrots. Saute for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes and calabcaitas. Saute for a few more minutes. Add 1/2 teasopoon salt. Add the spinach and cook, stirring until just-wilted. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup of chile sauce to the vegetables.
ASSEMBLE THE TAMALES
Place the masa on the lighter green, smoother side of the banana leaf.
Lay out rectangular pieces of banana leaf. Place 1/4 cup of masa on the center of the banana leaf and press down on it with the palm of your hand to spread it out.
Place 1/2 tsp. red chile sauce on the masa, place a strip of the Monterey Jack cheese on top. Scoop some fo the vegetable mixture on top of the cheese and masa.
Bring together the two long sides of the banana leaf and fold over, tucking one edge over the other. Fold the two remaining sides under the tamale. Secure with a piece of kitchen string.
STEAM THE TAMALES
Place a steamer rack in the bottom of a very large stockpot. Add enough water to almost come up to the level of the steam rack (about 3/4 to 1 inch.) ine the top of the steam rack with banana leaves.
Carefully place the tamales in layers on the bottom of the pan. After all tamales have been added, add another layer of banana leaves, then cover the pot.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Steam cook for approximately 1 hour.
Yields approximaltely one dozen tamales.