Ecuador(Quito)(SA) - This beautiful country sits directly on the Equator, southern and western hemisphere. It is located on the northwestern edge of South America and bordered by Columbia, Peru and the Pacific Ocean.The Galapagos Islands, which are a territory of Ecuador, are about 600 miles to it's west.
Although Ecuador has been marked by 25 years of civilian governance since 2004, the country has been besieged by political instability, as 7 presidents have governed Ecuador since 1996.
The indigenous populations mixed with those of European descent give Ecuador a unique cultural texture, including, of course, it's food.
Assembling the Humitas
Makes about 12 humitas, depending on the size of the cornhusks
A well-prepared humita is a gourmand's delight. These humitas are generally made plain, but some cooks prefer to fill them with a piece of cheese or chicken or some other tidbit.
· 6 to 8 ears corn (4 cups kernels)
· 1/4 cup chopped scallions (white part only)
· 1/4 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
· 3 large eggs, separated
· 1/2 cup commeal, or more if needed
· 1 teaspoon baking powder
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 1 teaspoon sugar
· 6 ounces Chihuahua, mozzarella, or Muenster cheese, shredded
· 1 tablespoon brandy
· Kitchen twine, cut into twelve 15-inch lengths
· 2 cups water
1. Have a large pot of water boiling. To remove the husks from the corn, use a sharp, heavy knife to cut through the corncob at the stem end, where the kernels start. Carefully remove the husks. Select the largest for wrapping and blanch in the boiling water for a couple of minutes to make them more pliable. Remove from the water with tongs and set on paper towels to drain. Save the rest to cut into strips for tying or to cover the humitas before steaming.
2. With a brush, remove the silk from the corn and rinse. Use the knife to cut the kernels from the cobs (you need 4 cups). Place in a food processor or blender along with the scallions and process until finely ground. Add the butter, egg yolks, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar, cheese, and brandy. Pulse until everything is well incorporated and smooth. Transfer to a large bowl; the mixture should be thick, not runny. Add more cornmeal if the batter is runny.
3. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Carefully fold just enough into the corn mixture until it mounds.
4. To assemble the humitas, dry the cornhusks and place 2 on the worktable, overlapping them a little. Place a heaping 1/2 cup corn batter on the lower half of the husks, fold the left side over the center, fold the pointed end over, and finally fold the right side over toward the center. Tie around the middle with twine or cornhusk strips.
5. Place a quarter in the bottom of a steamer, add the water, and line the steamer basket with small cornhusks. Place a few humitas standing open end up in the steamer. Cover with leftover husks and a clean kitchen towel. Place the cover on the pot, bring to a boil, and steam until the humitas feel firm to the touch, about 30 minutes if small, 45 minutes if large. Add more boiling water if needed (the quarter will stop making noise when all the water has evaporated).
6. To serve, remove the twine and place on a plate with the husks opened to expose the humita. Serve with a dish of aji on the side.
NOTE If using dried cornhusks, soak them in hot water for a few minutes, dry, and use as instructed.
Creole Hot Pepper SalsaAji Criollo
Makes about 3/4 cup
Hot pepper salsas similar to this Ecuadorian version are never missing from the South American table.
· (or leave seeds in for an even hotter salsa)
· 6 tablespoons water
· 1/2 teaspoon salt
· 1/4 cup minced scallions (white part only)
· 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
1. Place the hot peppers, 2 tablespoons of the water, and the salt in a blender and process until smooth.
2. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the scallions, cilantro, and remaining 4 tablespoons water and mix well. It is best to use this salsa the same day it is made.