I’ve mentioned a few times before that the best thing I’ve learned about cooking during my informal training (that is, living with Mike) is the flexibility of any recipe I find. I *used* to think that if I picked a recipe I wanted, I needed to go to the grocery store and buy every single thing in order to end up with a palatable dish. Nowadays, I shoot for about 25% of the same ingredients, and then anything above that is a bonus!
Moosewood Restaurant has released a few cookbooks that I’ve heard about but never actually held in my hands. I googled a few recipes as a way of deciding whether or not I’d buy my own copy. This recipe for Tamale Pie is from their low-fat cookbook, though I’m not sure it is particularly low-fat in any way. Essentially, it’s a bunch of vegetables with a bit of cheese covered by cornbread. And it’s GOOD. It’s vegetarian, though you could add cooked meat if you wanted to–maybe ground beef, or sausage, or bacon…yum.
The version of the recipe I came across calls for onions, garlic, carrots, yellow and red bell peppers, zucchini, chiles, crushed tomatoes, and beans. I had onions, garlic, carrots, a green bell pepper, golden acorn squash, dried ancho chiles, crushed tomatoes, and frozen corn on hand instead…so I went with it! I think any kind of veggie would work, really, as long as you dice it and let it cook for an appropriate amount of time. Essentially, onions should go in first, other veggies in the middle, and tomatoes last.
Since there is a lot of wait time between each step, I didn’t cut everything ahead of time–I just prepped the vegetables for the next step while the latest set was cooking down. I made the topping batter after I added the tomatoes, too, so everything came together nicely. From beginning to end, this took about an hour to assemble, then 30 minutes to bake.
Adapted from Cloudberry Quark’s adaptation of Moosewood’s recipe for Tamale Pie.
2 tsp olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
3 tbsp minced garlic (5 cloves)
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1½ tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 cup water
2-3 medium carrots, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 golden acorn squash, seeded, peeled, diced
½ small dried ancho chile (ground up)
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
About 2 cups frozen corn
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated cheddar
¾ cup cornmeal
1 tbsp unbleached white flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
2 egg whites, beaten
½ cup nonfat buttermilk (I used Lactaid milk with 1 tsp of lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes)
2 tsp canola oil (I used olive oil but canola is probably better)
Over medium heat, cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil with a big pinch of salt, covered, for about 10 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, Italian seasoning, the water to prevent sticking, and the carrots. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Add bell pepper, squash, chile, and another big pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 10 more minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and corn, a big pinch of salt, cover, cook for 10 minutes. If it looks very wet, remove the cover half-way through. After a few minutes, taste; if it needs more salt, add it. Add pepper to taste. While it’s cooking, prepare the topping (see below). Remove from heat.
Coat a casserole dish with cooking spray or butter and spread the vegetable mixture on the bottom. Sprinkle cheese on top.
In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, mix together the beaten egg whites, buttermilk, and oil. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just mixed. Pour the batter over the vegetable mixture, spreading gently with a rubber spatula. Make sure your dish has enough room above the topping for it to rise. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 400°F, until the top is golden.