Monday, August 29, 2011

Stuck inside during a hurricane, dreaming of Mexican fiestas...

So it's Monday morning, post-Hurricane Irene, and I am deeply grateful that our neighborhood was spared from the destruction faced by other areas in her path. Other than some tree limbs and other debris in the streets, there was very little evidence where we live of her passing through at all. I am also grateful that because I woke up early Saturday morning to cook a ridiculous amount of food in case our power went out, we have plenty of leftovers and I might not need to cook again the rest of this week!

At any rate, because of the hurricane, we stayed inside all weekend long which was actually really relaxing and wonderful. And while we did have plenty to eat, I was still dreaming of the incredible vegan tamales that we were treated to at my friend Patricia's house a couple weekends ago. Patricia & her man Neil are always raving to us about this place Nixtamal, which is in Corona, Queens, and I'm pretty sure they go there on at least a weekly basis for (non-vegan) tacos. But when Patricia & Neil moved into their new home recently, they invited us over for a housewarming dinner and we got to sample some all-vegan, off-the-menu tamales, thanks to the lovely Shauna from Nixtamal who was willing to make these for us (and for another vegan friend at the dinner).

What can I say, other than that these were AMAZING and the best, most authentic tamales I have ever had? Nixtamal is all about making their own masa for their tortillas and tamales (fascinating description of the process here) and trust me, not only does this result in a much healthier product, but you can truly taste the difference. Because they make their own, their masa is naturally gluten-free and free of preservatives, lard/shortening, salt, and MSG. They taste like pure corn, which is exactly what they should taste like. Shauna, if you are reading this, thank you so much for making these, and PLEASE PLEASE add these vegan tamales to your menu. I guarantee that if you have these on your permanent menu, the vegans will trek any distance to Corona to eat them!

The tamales were filled with rajas, which are simply strips of roasted chilis cooked with onions and seasonings (not to be confused with these, which are a different kind of rajas). Check out these beauties:
Platter of vegan tamales, waiting to be unwrapped like gifts under the xmas tree.

Vegan tamale topped with spicy green chili salsa

Vegan tamale topped with less spicy red salsa
I lost count of how many tamales I ate, but just when I thought I had reached my fill, Patricia brought out this platter of vegan taco fillings, also courtesy of Nixtamal. Like a trooper, I rallied and somehow found room for tacos too.

Vegan taco fillings, from top: Mushroom (corn fungus) with fresh corn & herbs, sauteed zucchini & squash, and verduras (sauteed mixed vegetables)

Taco #1 filled with pinto beans and mushroom/corn mixture
Taco #2 filled with black beans, verduras, and guacamole
And if you thought the fiesta ended there, well you would be wrong. Knowing that there was a Mexican theme to the evening, I came armed with the Tres Leches cake from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan! Have you made this recipe? If you have not, order this cookbook right now and make this cake immediately. It's the kind of recipe (of which there are a few, in Viva Vegan!) where you have to plan ahead. I made the cake and the soaking syrup the night before the party, so the cake would have time to absorb it all, and then made the coconut topping the morning of the party, still giving it a few hours to chill and set in the fridge before going. The result is an unbelievably moist, sweet, sticky, coconutty, lemon & orange-scented cake so full of goodness that nobody would ever suspect that it was vegan. I got really nervous right before we served it because 1) I had never made this recipe before, 2) the vegans were in the minority at the party, and 3) one of the dinner guests declared himself a huge fan of Tres Leches Cake, so the pressure was really on to impress. And did it ever!

Vegan Tres Leches Cake, topped with fresh berries

So my deepest gratitude goes out again to Patricia, for being the most gracious hostess with the mostest, to Shauna, for the incredibly delicious tamales & tacos that she made vegan especially for us, and to Terry for giving me an amazing recipe that made my friends think I was some kind of genius in the kitchen. And to Irene, for not flooding us, or breaking any windows, or wreaking any other kind of havoc on our apartment. Muchas gracias damas!

1 comment:

  1. Um yeah, those tamales look so delicious! I could have a couple of those right now. I am on a Mexican food craving....YUMMMMY cake too!