Monday, April 20, 2009

Vegan Pozole Rojo

Pozole is like chili with hominy. Although it's made throughout Mexico, I think of it as a Native American (Indian) dish. We opt to make it with the most exotic sounding ingredients we can like avocado leaves and such. It makes us feel very fancy and we get to talk to the nice ladies at the Latino produce market who have given me lot's of tips and recipes over the years. Pozole is traditionally made around Christmas time. It requires a ton of different chilis pulverized into a paste using a morter and pestle, chilis like guajillo, ancho and chili de arbol. Pozole can be made white (blanco), green (verde), red (rojo) with beans (de frijole) or with corn and squash (elopozole). Hominy is made by a process called nixtamalization. Traditionally this meant soaking corn in lye until the hull is gone and the germ is left. Nowadays limewater is used (calcium hydroxide). This is the same process used to make tamale masa so now you know that tamales are essentially made with dried ground hominy.

I'll tell you another little tidbit. Achiote is a strange little tree/shrub that grows like a weed all over the southwest straight through to South America. I first encountered it in the Ecuadorean rainforest (I know that sounds exotic doesn't it) where the natives use it to dye their hair. It wasn't til I returned to the states that I realized it's culinary uses. Achiote is the same thing as annato which is the dye used to make cheddar cheese orange. I use this to to give the Pozole a rich color. This is a good tip for a vibrant chili as well.

Another thing we do with the Pozole is a little pork substitution using Shitake mushroom stems. We shred the stems so that they look like shredded pork and then we soak them in a little liquid smoke (which is actually a natural thing. They basically just condense water in a smoker and viola, liquid smoke). This is a labor intensive ordeal but we think it's worth it.

I first got the idea to make Pozole from a cookbook I bought at the American Indian museum in DC where I also puchased some dried blue hominy which really ups the fancy factor.

I think next time I'll make a Pozole blanco.

4 Guajillo Chillis, rehydrated

5 Chilis de Arbol, rehydrated

2 Ancho Chilis, rehydrated

1 lb dried hominy, soaking in water

2 onions, diced

1 head of Garlic, cleaned

2 Avocado Leaves

2 T. dried Oregano

1 T. Achiote

1 T. Cumin

1 cup shredded mushroom stems soaking in a little soy sauce and a dash of liquid smoke

Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Vegetable Stock

Start by cooking the hominy in a big pot with the onions, salt, oregano, avocado leaf and cumin. Cover the hominy with just enough veggie stock to cover it. It may take at least 30 minutes for them to start getting soft. You can add small amounts of stock as needed but I like my pozole thick.

In the mean time grind up all of your chilis in a chop chop with the garlic. When the pozole is soft, add the chili mix and continue to cook. It should take about an hour from start to finish. When the hominy is done it will split and crack. Add the mushroom stems and a little achiote for color. Cook for another 10 minutes and your done.

Garnish with radish, avocado and shredded cabbage.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Breakfast Tamales

I've been making a lot of tamales lately. They've been a big hit at the Bayou City Farmers Market
This one is pretty cool. When people ask what's in the tamales I tell them that it's migas ( a Mexican scrambled egg dish) Then after they've tried it and said, "wow" or "yum", I tell them that it's tofu migas so it has no cholesterol. I'm surprised by the number of big burly meat eatting types who buy them anyway.

We make the tamales in three steps and we make giant batches so I'll try to estimate a smaller batch but it's not exact.

Start off by soaking your corn husks!

Basic Tamale Dough

2 cups Masa

1and 1/2 cups warm Vegetable Stock

1/2 cup Peanut Oil

3 teaspoons baking powder

4 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup cold water

Start by putting the masa in your mixer and turning it on. Add the veggie stock and let it mix for 3-5 minutes. Add the peanut oil and let it mix for another 3-5 minutes. While that's mixing combine the rest of the ingredients in a little bowl. After five minutes add the rest of the ingredients and mix again for 3-5 minutes.

The Creative Part
At this point in our tamale process we add some kind of vegetable. For the breakfast tamale I add about a half a can of tomato sauce and a half an onion ground up in a blender. I also add fresh sage to this tamale dough.
You can add all kinds of veggies to your dough. I've added onion, chayote, spinach, herbs, sweet potato and beets at one time or another to my different masas. I find that this does gives the masa character and tenderness so the masa doesn't come out dense like a hockey puck, or bland like a corn tortilla.
Tofu Scramble
about 1 cup finely diced onion, bell pepper and hot pepper combo (easy on the hot pepper, Tiger)

2 large packages of medium or hard tofu (crumbled up really good)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoons miso

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon each freshly chopped oregano and parsley (most herbs can be used here)

2 cloves fresh minced garlic

This can all be mixed together and it doesn't need to be cooked. It will steam in the steamer.

OK now your ready to assemble. Take a nice big corn husk and lay it out on the table. Spread a thin layer of masa onto the husk in a rectangular shape about 3" wide and 5" long. The masa should be about a 1/4 inch thick. Now add a strip longways down the middle of the tofu filling.

Now you want to fold the two exposed masa sides together so that in the end you have a tube of masa surrounding your delicious filling. Fold the extra flap of corn husk up and lay the tamale down so that the flap doesn't pop back up

Steam that tamale for 30-45 minutes.

I realize that this is going to require some better pictures so we will do that next time we do tamales (every week) so stay tuned.