Devra Gartenstein is a fixture of the Seattle farmers market scene, selling quesadillas and 1,500–2,000 hand-rolled tamales each week through the Patty Pan Cooperative.
The daughter of a rabbi and an atheist, she grew up around heated discussions about food. “We’re the people who ask questions, and I was brought up thinking about the world and food from different angles,” Gartenstein says.
Gartenstein arrived in Seattle in 1987 with “a bunch of liberal arts degrees — and virtually unemployable — but I could cook, having worked at a vegetarian restaurant and a natural food store post-college,” she says. She started a food business, which morphed into another business — the Patty Pan Cooperative — and eventually wound up at the farmers markets. Patty Pan is now at a dozen markets, from Mercer Island to Edmonds to Broadway, and everywhere in between. She’s also the author of The Accidental Vegan and Local Bounty: Seasonal Vegan Recipes.
Tomatoes top her list as a summertime favorite. “I remember the first tomato of the season,” she says. “One year I bought both a brownie and a tomato at the market, and although I was excited about the brownie, a bite of that tomato made me only want another tomato.”
Roasted Serrano Hot Sauce
Yield: 1 cup
Prep time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 45 minutes–1 hour
- 2 medium-size tomatoes
- 2 serrano chili peppers
- 1 T red wine vinegar
- ½ tsp salt
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Rinse the tomatoes and peppers, and dry them with a towel. Using your hands, rub them with oil. Roast them for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the skins soften and turn brown.
2. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove the stems from the peppers and the cores from the tops of the tomatoes. Blend them in a food processor or blender with the vinegar and salt.
Roasted Veggie Filling
Enough to fill 15 Tamales
Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 30 minutes
- 1 onion, peeled and sliced into rings
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
- 2 zucchini, sliced
- 2 red or yellow bell peppers, diced
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 tsp mild chile powder
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp oregano
- ½ tsp salt
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
2. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and spices and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, until they start to brown.
3. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, chop them coarsely in a food processor or with a knife.
Roasted Veggie Tamales
Makes 15 tamales, enough for 5 to 6 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes. Cooking time: 15 minutes
- 15 corn husks
- roasted vegetable filling
- 2 c water
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 T canola, corn, or olive oil
- 2 c masa harina
1. Soak the corn husks in hot water. Prepare the filling.
2. Combine 2 cups water, salt, and oil in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, slowly add the masa harina, and stir until it forms a smooth dough. When the masa mixture is cool enough to handle, roll it into 2½-inch diameter balls. Wet your hands as needed to prevent sticking. Lay down a corn husk with the narrow end closest to you, and place the ball of masa in the center. Flatten the ball, and then lay a spoonful of filling in the middle.
3. Cook the tamales in a vegetable steamer for 15 minutes, until the masa is soft and they are heated through.
How to Wrap a Tamale
- Hold a large husk (which has been soaked in warm water for about an hour) in the palm of your hand. Spread about ¼ cup masa in a thin, even layer on the husk, making sure to leave about an inch on the sides and 2 inches on the top and bottom.
- Add about 2 T of filling into the middle of the masa.
- Turn the husk the other direction, then fold the ⅓ narrower bottom half of the husk up over the bottom of the filling. This serves as the bottom of the tamale.
- Gently fold the right side and then the left side in toward the center. If you need to keep the tamale together, wrap a thin length of husk around the tamale like a present.
Tips from Devra
If you have corn husks that are too small or torn, save them to tie other tamales shut. You can also tie them in a few ways to distinguish different fillings. If you see Summer Run Farm at the market, make sure to buy some of their gorgeous orange tomatoes. Let Us Farm also produces a beautiful product that is incredibly sweet.
Tamales are a perfect Shabbat dinner starter. Serve them with fresh corn on the cob and a Mexican salad bar with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, black beans, crushed tortilla chips, chopped cherries, fresh corn, and chopped cilantro. Alongside, serve a bowl of salsa. You can also serve a watermelon gazpacho in individual glasses. — Keren Brown