Mini Bean and Corn Tamale Pies

When it comes to dinner, Mexican food is my big weakness. I don’t go out to eat too much anymore, especially compared to five plus years ago when Brandon and I dined out more days than we ate at home, but I can’t give up my Mexican food. I go to my favorite Mexican restaurant at least every other week, sometimes more often. Whenever we move to a new town, finding a Mexican restaurant with a decent chimichanga and good queso blanco is my number one priority. And there have been some places (*cough* Jacksonville) where that meant trying out pretty much every Mexican restaurant in town.

I know I shouldn’t eat at the Mexican restaurant so much, though. It’s probably one of unhealthiest meals you can have. So whenever I see a Mexican-ish recipe in one of my many low fat/light cookbooks I always try it in the hopes of finding something satisfying that’s not totally unhealthy. Most of the time I’m disappointed. I got this recipe from Martha Stewart’s new Light cookbook and I was expecting it to be disappointing up front. Not only is it low fat, but it doesn’t even have meat in it. I gave it a chance anyway, mostly because of how easy it was, and I’m happy to say this recipe totally surprised me.

Mini Bean and Corn Tamale Pies

These are called “pies” because there is a layer of polenta at the bottom that forms a soft crust. I’d never had polenta before, but it’s basically just cornmeal and it acts as a nice base for the filling which is a mixture of cooked pinto and black beans, tomatoes and onions. I added corn to the recipe because you really can’t go wrong with more vegetables. (Plus it adds some nice color to the brownish filling.) Everything is topped with spicy pepper Jack cheese and baked until bubbly and melt-y. Basically, it’s comfort food without any of that annoying guilt!

I’ve made this recipe 3 or 4 times now. The last two times were in the span of a few weeks because it’s just so easy to whip up and it seems to taste better and better the more I make it. I know I’ve found a keeper when I make something that doesn’t have meat in it and Brandon doesn’t complain at all. In fact, he likes this dish just as much as I do. I especially know I’ve found a keeper when I’m craving it instead of a chimichanga. I’ll never completely give up going to my favorite Mexican restaurant, but this recipe makes it okay to skip a couple of weeks.

Mini Bean and Corn Tamale Pies

Mini Bean and Corn Tamale Pies

adapted from Everyday Food: Light – The Quickest and Easiest Recipes, All Under 500 Calories

Dinner | Yield: 8 pies (4-8 servings)
Prep time: 20 min | Cook time: 25 minutes | Total time: 45 min

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. safflower or canola oil
  • 2 bunches scallions, trimmed white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Course salt and ground pepper
  • 2 cans (15.5 oz. each) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes*
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tube (16 oz.) prepared plain polenta, patted dry and sliced into 8 equal rounds**
  • 1 packed cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 tsp. (or more to taste) hot sauce (like Tabasco)
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded pepper Jack cheese
  • Salsa and low fat sour cream, for serving (optional)

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).
  2. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add white parts of the scallions and the garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, stirring constantly, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Tip: You can use the back of a spoon to mash the beans, but I found a potato masher got the job done much easier and faster. Add beans, tomatoes, corn and water. Mash a quarter of the beans. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the mixture has thickened, 10-15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, spray or brush eight 6 ounce ramekins with oil. Place a polenta round in each dish.
  5. Remove bean mixture from heat and stir in the green parts of the scallions, cilantro (reserve some scallions and cilantro for garish if you want) and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins (pile it up above the rim if necessary) and sprinkle with cheese. Place all the ramekins on a baking sheet for easier transfer to and from the oven. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the filling is bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra cilantro and/or scallions. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Recipe Notes:

*Spice this up by using fire-roasted tomatoes or tomatoes with green chilies. You can also increase the hot sauce to 1 tsp. or more.

**If you’ve never bought this polenta before, look for it in a refrigerated part of your produce section. In my store it’s with the tempeh, tofu and other vegetarian meat substitutes.

You can make a full size version of this in two deep dish pie plates instead of ramekins. Slice the polenta into 16 thin rounds and line each pie plate with 8 of them. Top with the bean mixture and cheese. Bake as directed.