Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Inspired Dish

Today's recipe thought is inspired by a frozen dinner.
It's usually the other way around, eh?
I like to stock one or two frozen dinner options for myself for days when I want something dinner-ish without the effort. My picks are a few items from Trader Joe's (heart their roasted vegetable enchiladas and Thai veggie potstickers), and a couple from Amy's Kitchen. Amy's has a great frozen line that is low in fat and sodium but rich in whole grains like brown rice and proteins of the non-meat variety. Last week, I tried a new one, the Black Bean Tamale Verde.

I don't write many product reviews here, but this one gets my two thumbs up! I was really pleased with the flavor and nutritional value, and how satisfied I was when it was gone (for me the most important thing). The serving of seasoned brown rice gave me an extra helping of whole grains that day, which is a bonus. After 330 calories I was full, which is great praise for a frozen dinner.

Now to the make-at-home version. I'm not equipped to create my own tamales at home: I have no idea how, and everything I've heard says that tamale making is a group activity. I haven't written about many Latin dishes before, but we do love Mexican and Spanish flavors. What I don't like are these dishes in restaurants- they are always overly cheesy, salty, and heavy. Unlike my favorite pasta or Asian dishes, a visit to a Mexican restaurant feels more like diet crashing and a set-up for a hangover the following day.

~:~ Enter my kitchen- I should say my new kitchen (!!)
After two years in our house we're doing a little work in here- hanging shelves and a second kitchen island against the wall. No more awkward non-kitchen furniture with items stacked on top of each other. We have three more shelves to hang, but already we've increased the square footage, visual appeal, and functionality. Our white board calendar has to hang a little lower now, but we're short people. Check out my flours all in a row- a dream for a bread baker. Yay!

Part birthday present (on Jan 29th I will be 27- eeck!!), part general home improvement.

Ok, enough show-off. Back to my story and the food. Recipe creation in the new space ~:~

To imitate the corn masa, I used cornmeal (did you see it on the far right next to the flours?) as the topping for this casserole. I sauteed all of my favorite components in a pot with spices, then topped them with the cornmeal and a lot of cheese. The results have all the flavor without the grease, so you can be a little more generous with that cheese!

Tamale Casserole
serves 4

1 red bell pepper (about 1 cup)
1 yellow bell pepper (about 1 cup)
1 yellow onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup frozen roasted corn
1 cup cooked or canned beans (I used a mix from TJ's with black eyed, cranberry, pinto, and black beans, any one or combination would work nicely)
1 Tbsp prepared taco seasoning
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, plus more for garnish
2 cups water
1/2 cup cornmeal (aka polenta, not the quick cooking stuff)
1/4-1/2 tsp salt to taste
4 ounces grated cheese (extra sharp cheddar, pepper jack, or gouda)
Adjust your top oven rack second from the top, and preheat the broiler. Place the bell peppers and sliced onion on a baking sheet lined with foil (saves you from the mess) and place in the oven. Turn the peppers and onions every five minutes until blackened on all sides, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and coarsely chop.
Turn off the broiler and move the racks back to their usual spots. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Meanwhile, boil the water in a small pot and slowly add the cornmeal. Stir vigorously with a whisk until incorporated, then lower the heat and continue to stir for 5-10 minutes, until the cornmeal is smooth. Add the salt (to taste, your call), as well as additional water by tablespoons if necessary. After a few minutes, you can stir the cornmeal occasionally as you prepare the vegetable mixture.
Heat a large pan or saucier over medium heat and add the frozen corn, beans, bell peppers, and onion. Add the garlic clove, taco seasoning, cumin, and red pepper flakes and saute until everything is well heated and the spices are aromatic.
Transfer the vegetable mixture to a small baking dish and spread evenly. Pour the salted cornmeal on top of the vegetables, and top with the grated cheese. Sprinkle with a little more red pepper flakes if you want.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and the sides bubble happily. Let cool for a few moments before spooning on to plates, attempting to preserve the layers.
Serving suggestions: some lightly steamed spinach and extra red pepper flakes.
A little plain yogurt or sour cream on the side is lovely too.

*For more yummy stuff from Amy's Kitchen and where you can find their products, check out



Erica said...

book marking this and SO making it! Can't wait- looks totally yummy. The kitchen is looking just beautiful. I love how you have easy access to all of your ingredients! Fabulous. I promise to email you back soon ;)

Unknown said...

love your "new" kitchen!! and totally trying this recipe :) i think i have given up on frozen meals, as I'm always looking for more. i think it's all in my mind sometimes...