Let’s hear it for Mark Bittman, food writer extraordinaire and cookbook hero to all! The 10th anniversary edition of his best-selling How To Cook Everything Vegetarian focuses squarely on all things produce. From soups and salads to elegant, hearty main courses, this is the book to pick up if you’re looking to expand your repertoire. Ever had a naked tamale? 

This cornhusk-free tamale loaf is for the practical cook, not the purist, though you can make the husk-wrapped variation if you want the real thing (see “Cornhusk Tamales,” opposite). Forming one large tamale in a pan is easier than shaping individual ones, which means you might make it more often.

Traditional tamales are made with lard or vegetable shortening, because the creamy texture helps make the dough light and fluffy. The first is made from animal products and the second is fine only if you use nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening made from coconut oil and/or palm oil. The best solution, though, is solidified olive oil, which whips up very nicely, has good flavor, and makes for much lighter tamales than those made with butter (another option).

Much of this recipe can be done in advance: Put the oil in the freezer, prepare the onion and pepper mixture or any of the other fillings, and even make the sauce. After that, it’ll take only a little over an hour to get the tamales on the table, and most of that time is unattended. To add more flavor to the filling, you can roast both the red peppers and poblanos (see page 228), then peel, seed, and slice, but that’s totally optional.

Reprinted with permission from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian