Tamale Night: How to Find Happiness In a Rainstorm

Trista Signe Ainsworth


Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.

∼John Updike

Yesterday there was a deluge of rain. It was as if there was a river in the sky. We decided to celebrate the night with tamales, bringing a promise of joy and happiness to our hearts.

On my 100-day journey exploring abundance this winter, I find food nourishes us. It brings light to the darkness of our days.

Yesterday afternoon I contemplated what to make for dinner. It poured down rain all day. I mused about whether I should go out in the storm.

I knew that I needed to pick up some tomatoes at the store and some other things, to make the tamales. At the last moment, I went for it. The joy that the tamales would bring was worth every moment of discomfort.

As I started to prepare the ingredients, contentment washed over me. The smell of the chilies brought back memories of living in Mexico long ago.

In my first host home, the family had a talented cook. She used to make a smoky salsa that I loved. I used to relish eating it with every dish she served. Now I am happy to say that I developed a recipe for it and make it every chance I get.

When I lived in Mexico, in Leon, Guanajuato, there were many tamale vendors. Something that I loved was that none of these vendors had a name for their business. They had a specific place and time that they showed up. If you were lucky, they would be there.

I remember that sometimes on Wednesday nights, we would go to the "tamale lady on the corner." She would be near the convenience store. If it was a Sunday, it was the lady right outside the church.

My favorite tamales for the evening meal were the sweet ones, studded with raisins. I have tried to make those, but none have been the same. Perhaps it means a trip to Mexico is in order one day soon.

It was a beautiful, abundant evening last night. We enjoyed an overflow of laughter, smiles, and salsa. There is plenty of leftovers to share and to enjoy today.

There will be many rainy days ahead, especially here in Oregon. If you are an Oregonian, you know what I mean. We are all pioneers, forging our way forward in life, no matter what the weather brings. As I type this, it is now sunny outside. The rainstorm has passed, and rainbows are to come.

My intention for you is that you enjoy this recipe below. I hope that you can try it soon. I hope you have some delicious and nourishing food memories to carry you through the rainy days of life.

Vegan Tamales:

Makes 17 tamales


1 1/3 cups coconut oil

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3 1/2 cups dried masa harina* mixed with 2 1/4 cups water

1 cup vegetable broth

Kosher salt

  1. In a stand mixer, combine the coconut oil and the baking powder until fluffy.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the masa harina and the water.
  3. Add the masa mixture to the coconut oil mixture and combine.
  4. Slowly pour in the vegetable broth until you form a soft, hydrated dough.
  5. Add in kosher salt, one teaspoon at a time. Taste the mixture in between mixing in salt. Add salt to taste.
  6. Chill the masa mixture in the refrigerator for 1 hour before assembling tamales.


1 can of black beans


Parchment paper for wrapping ( I have found there is a shortage of corn husks available. This works as a great substitute.)

*I recommend PAN brand masa harina because it makes very soft tamales. However, any brand will work here.

You will need a large pot with a steamer basket or a large canning pot with a round metal piece with holes. I use a pressure canner without sealing and pressurizing.

I place some teacups at the bottom of the pot. Then put the round metal piece on. Then, I put a steamer basket or a pasta strainer on top of that. That is where I put the wrapped tamales to steam.

Tamale Assembly and Steaming:

  1. Cut rectangles of parchment paper that measure about 5x7 inches. You will need 17 of those.
  2. Place a parchment rectangle onto a dinner plate.
  3. Measure out 1/3 cup of masa mixture for each tamale. Place the mixture in the middle of the parchment paper. Flatten it out into a rectangle, about 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
  4. Place a tablespoon or two of black beans in the center. Then, a spoonful of salsa.
  5. Bring both edges of the parchment paper to the middle, rolling up the tamale. Fold up the bottom of the packet to seal it up. The top will be left open for steaming.
  6. Place all of the tamales into the steamer pot (as mentioned above) and steam them for 40 to 60 minutes.

Trista's Smoky Salsa:

5 Roma tomatoes, cut in half, then into quarters

1 onion, chopped into large pieces

5 garlic cloves, peeled

3 dried pasilla chiles, seeds removed

Kosher Salt (about 2–3 teaspoons, add 1 at a time and taste)

  1. Set your oven to the broil setting.
  2. Place the tomatoes, onions, and garlic on a rimmed metal baking tray.
  3. Sprinkle with olive oil.
  4. Broil until the tops of the onions, tomatoes, and garlic are blackened about 15-20 minutes. Turn the tray around every 7 to 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, place the dried pasilla chiles in a bowl.
  6. Heat some water to boiling and pour it over the chiles. Let them hydrate while you are broiling the other ingredients.
  7. Once you have let the salsa mixture in the oven cool, combine that mixture and the hydrated chiles into a food processor or blender.
  8. Blend until smooth. Add little bits of the liquid from the hydrated chilies as well.
  9. Then, add kosher salt to taste. Keep blending, adding liquid and salt until the salsa is thick but spoonable.

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I am a local food and drink adventurer! Find out the latest about delicious food around Portland, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Cornelius, Forest Grove, Oregon, and beyond.

Hillsboro, OR

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