The other day, while gazing blissfully into the abyss that is my pantry, I noticed the sad little bag of masa harina (MAH-sah ah-REE-na) sitting on my baking shelf. Masa harina is the powdered corn that is used in such delightful things as corn tortillas and my tamales. In fact, the last time I even used the masa was for my tamales!
I hate wasting food so I started thinking of things I could do with it. Eventually I came up with a tamale bake that is kind of like a version of Mexican lasagna (which I also haven’t made in a year! whoops!) but has delicious masa crust.
Masa harina is very readily available these days. Check near the flour in your “baking needs” aisle, and if you can’t find it there, see if your store has an “ethnic” or “Latino” section. Please don’t use corn meal or a corn bread mix, they aren’t the same thing.
My favorite thing about recipes like this is how variable they are — you can add chicken, pork, or tofu and you can pick your very favorite salsa, mild or hot! I like cilantro and I like spice, so I ended up getting a hot cilantro salsa that rocked my world. I also added additional spice on top of all that. What is up with me and spicy foods lately? I am my mother’s antithesis.
So give masa harina a chance and make this great vegetarian dish soon. But perhaps not for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, as cheese + beans does not equal romance.
Tamale Bake (serves 4)
1 cup masa harina
1/2 cup water
1/2 T chili powder
2 cups cooked black beans (drained!)
2 T lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup salsa of your choosing
1/2 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese
sour cream or Greek yogurt for topping (optional)
Heat your oven to 425*. In a small mixing bowl, combine the masa harina, water, and chili powder. Mix with your hands for best results. When you can incorporate all of the masa into a ball, place in the center of an 8×8 (square) baking dish. Press down and into the corners, creating an even, flat crust. Bake in the oven for 7 minutes to set it. Remove from the oven and turn the oven down to 350*. In another mixing bowl, combine the black beans, cayenne (optional), salt, and lime juice. Once mixed, spread on top of the tamale crust that has just come out of the oven. Top the black beans with a layer of salsa and finish with cheese. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is nice and melted. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt!