Tamales de col y espinacas

In Ecuador, some of our tamales are made using banana leaves instead of corn husks, similar to what our fellow Puerto Ricans call pastelitos.  I love cooking with banana leaves because they infuse a sweet flavor into whatever you fill them with.  Banana leaves also make a great container – no need for a plate with this one.   Although my favorite banana leaf-contained food is ayacas de papa, this tamal de col y espinacas is a close second.  I warn you that when you go back to see the ayaca recipe, the pictures may scare you, but the recipe is awesome!

This tamal is more like a souffle because we separate the eggs, and beat the whites into a meringue, which are folded into the rest of our mixture towards the end of the preparation.  You can serve this tamal with some aji criollo, some encurtido, or both.  And if you are looking for something without any meat involved, I got your tamal right here!

Cookery instruments needed:

A large stock pot, an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment followed by a whisk attachment, a “tamalera”, or steam pot.  You can finagle your own steam pot by fitting a steel colander into a larger pot where you will pour the water to steam; just make sure the colander doesn’t touch the water at all.

Cookery ingredients needed:

Butter; eggs, separated; crumbled queso fresco, minced red onion, salt, pepper, all-purpose flour, baking powder, shredded cabbage, spinach and banana leaves.  Sorry, no picture this time; use your imagination.

Banana leaves

Here are the banana leaves.  They are normally found in the Hispanic frozen food section aisle, or the Asian food section too.  These banana leaves are long, so we need to cut them in smaller pieces –  squares, about 10in x 10in.  Set aside.

Blanching cabbage

In a large stock pot, bring abundant water to a boil. Once boiling, add the shredded cabbage and blanche for 3 minutes. Remove from the water, and lay out to dry, removing as much liquid as possible.

Blanching spinach

Repeat this same step with the spinach, squeezing out as much liquid possible once blanched. You will end up with a tight and small amount.

sifting flour

In a bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour with the baking powder.  Set aside.

Creaming butter

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy.  Using a big mixer was kind of a pain in the but, so if you have one of those hand held electric mixers, that would work much better.

Adding eggs

Add the egg yolks, one by one and keep beating for another 10 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl every so often.  This mixture will be bright yellow.  It will make you happy.

adding cheese, onions, salt and pepper

Add the crumbled queso fresco, the minced onions, salt and pepper. Continue to beat until incorporated.

Beating in flour

Add the sifted flour/baking powder combo and continue beating until all is incorporated. The dough will have a sticky consistency, and it will be relatively dense.

Adding cabbage and spinach

Add the blanched cabbage and spinach, and mix with a spatula until the ingredients are incorporated.

Making meringue

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites plus a capful of plain, white vinegar, until you have a meringue. The egg whites will form stiff, short peaks.

Folding in meringue

Gently fold the meringue into the other mixture until all incorporated, but without deflating the egg whites.  Don’t forget: fold, not beat, or mix.

Making the tamales

Tamal pocket

Lay a banana leaf flat on the counter and scoop a ladle of mixture in the center. Add some sliced queso fresco in the center.  Queso fresco makes the world a better place.  Then, fold the sides of the banana leaf in, followed by folding in the bottom and top ends, enclosing the mixture in the banana leaf, like a small packet.

Steaming tamales

Place the tamales, sides down in a “tamalera” (a pot made for steaming tamales that has an insert + a pot for the water), or another steaming pot. You can create your own steaming pot by fitting a steel colander in a bigger pot, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom. Fill the bigger pot with water and turn on the heat to medium.  Or if you are lucky like I am, you will have a rice cooker that comes with a steam basket.  I win.

Steam cook for 30 minutes.

Tamales de col y espinacas

Enjoy warm.  You can serve them right on the leaf, or lay out the tamal by itself on a plate.  Top with some ají criollo, or some encurtido if you like.  However, you can’t go wrong eating it by itself.  It is so soft and airy, you won’t be able to eat just one.  This recipe yielded me 7 tamales.

Tamales de Col y Espinacas: Cabbage and Spinach Tamales

Yield: 7

Serving Size: 1 tamal

Adapted from Michelle O. Fried's Comidas del Ecuador. This recipe yielded 7 tamales.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups firmly packed shredded cabbage
  • 2 cups firmly packed fresh spinach, ends removed
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 oz crumbled queso blanco
  • 1 tbsp red onion, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 egg whites
  • Banana leaves
  • Extra queso blanco for filling

Instructions

  1. Cut the banana leaves into squares, ~ 10inx10in. Set aside.
  2. In a large stock pot, bring abundant water to a boil. Once boiling, add the shredded cabbage and blanche for 3 minutes. Remove from the water, and lay out to dry, removing as much liquid as possible.
  3. Repeat this same step with the spinach, squeezing out as much liquid possible once blanched. You will end up with a tight and small amount.
  4. Sift together the all-purpose flour with the baking powder. Set aside.
  5. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy.
  6. Add the egg yolks, one by one and keep beating for another 10 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl every so often.
  7. Add the cheese, salt, pepper and the minced onions. Continue to beat until incorporated.
  8. Add the flour + baking powder and continue beating until all is incorporated. The dough will have a sticky consistency, and it will be relatively dense.
  9. Add the blanched cabbage and spinach, and mix with a spatula until the ingredients are incorporated.
  10. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites plus a capful of plain, white vinegar, until you have a meringue. The egg whites will form stiff, short peaks.
  11. Gently fold the meringue into the other mixture until all incorporated, but without deflating the egg whites.
  12. Lay a banana leaf flat on the counter and scoop a ladle of mixture in the center. Add some sliced cheese in the center.
  13. Fold the sides of the banana leaf in, followed by folding in the bottom and top ends, enclosing the mixture in the banana leaf, like a small packet.
  14. Place the tamales, sides down in a "tamalera" (a pot made for steaming tamales that has an insert + a pot for the water), or another steaming pot. You can create your own steaming pot by fitting a steel colander in a bigger pot, making sure it doesn't touch the bottom. Fill the bigger pot with water and turn on the heat to medium.
  15. Steam cook for 30 minutes. Serve warm.
http://www.tstastybits.com/2012/02/tamales-de-col-y-espinacas-cabbage-and-spinach-tamales/