Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Land of Tall Trees: Pumpkin and Black Bean Tamales

Our last day in the park was the day we left.  We had breakfast with the whole family, and then went our separate ways.  We headed out toward the South entry.  When we had first got in, I leafed through the map and details and noticed a little blurb about the Mariposa Grove, a grove of big trees, like redwoods or sequoias.  The kind of big trees that you can drive a car through.

The kind of big trees that dwarf a man (or child on a man's shoulder).

We didn't do a lot of exploring, just a short mile hike out to one of the larger trees.

The setting is incredible, and Thatboy, who had never been before either, loved being surrounded by the super tall trees.  

Trees as high as the sky!

Thatbaby seemed to be more impressed by the "broken" trees.  The ones that were felled, or lying on the ground.  He continued to point those out throughout the hike.

For some reason he just wasn't as interested in the trees that seemed to stretch on forever.

It was a really great way to spend our last moments in the park.  Good weather, beautiful scenery, and an easy hike.

It was amazing to think about these trees being there for thousands of years.  The big one we hiked out to was between 1900 and 2400 years old. The fact that these trees have survived, growing and getting stronger is remarkable.  I mean, I can barely keep a houseplant alive!  I don't have much of a green thumb.  I have determined I have quite the knack for tamales though.  Which is almost as impressive as a thousand year old tree.  Because tamales are a true labor of love.  It's not so much that they're hard to make, but they take a lot of time.  The problem is, they are totally worth it.  I love tamales and what an easy meal they are, and how well they freeze.  They're a food Thatbaby will never turn down.  And a food that is incredibly versatile.  Years ago Thatmom got me a tamale cookbook and I've been playing around with different masa recipes and different filling ideas inspired from the ones in the book.  This is a vegetarian version made because I had leftover pumpkin from some muffins I made earlier in the week.  Because I made these right before we left for Yosemite, I could throw half of them in the freezer for an easy meal when we got home.

 Pumpkin and Black Bean Tamales
1 8 ounce package of corn husks
1 can pumpkin 
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can chopped green chiles
4 oz goat cheese
1 3/4 cup masa harina
1 1/4 cup hot water
16 oz ricotta
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 cups cornmeal
3/4 cup vegetable broth
  1. Completely submerge the corn husks in water and  soak for 12 hours. 
  2. Combine the pumpkin, black beans, and chiles in a bowl and set aside.  (Keep the goat cheese separate)
  3. Make the masa - Combine the masa harina and water, stirring until a soft dough forms.
  4. Beat the ricotta, oil, baking powder, salt, and cornmeal in an electric mixer.
  5. Add the masa and veggie broth to the ricotta mixture and beat until incorporated.
  6. Make the tamales - place a corn husk on your work surface with the narrow end toward you.  
  7. Pat 1/4 cup of masa into a 3-4" square in the center of the husk or foil. Spoon 1-2Tbsp of pumpkin mixture in a line down the middle of the masa square.  Place a little goat cheese on top of the pumpkin.  Fold the sides of the husk in, then fold the bottom up.  
  8. Tear a strip off one of the husks and tie around the tamale.  
  9. Place a steamer basket in a large pot over an inch or so of water and bring the water to a boil.  Stand the tamales up vertically in the steamer basket.  Cover the pot with a lid and steam for 15-20 minutes. 


  1. I wonder how many people have rested underneath these beautiful, tall trees throughout the centuries!

  2. On Vancouver Island there is Cathedral Grove where the trees are giant size. It is quite the sight as well. As for the tamales I have never attempted them so am definitely intrigued by your pumpkin and black bean recipe.

  3. These huge trees look so majestic!!! These trees do make me realise that I'm such a tiny person being part of the world... Worse than being just a dot???

    Nice vegetarian dish... being environment friendly too using the rarely used corn husks for cooking :D


  4. Those trees are breathtaking!!

    I've actually never made tamales, mostly because of how time consuming I've heard they are...but pumpkin does sound so good.