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It's too hot to grill in Tucson

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Well, I could be wrong but with the temperatures over a hundred degrees and extreme-heat warnings being issued down here, grilling in the back yard wouldn't be my first choice for dinner.

This is a good time to remember that many dishes can be grilled indoors, using the broiler of your oven and/or roasting things like corn wrapped in foil. But meanwhile we can embrace the Hispanic heritage of the Southwest with one of its famous comfort foods, Tamale Pies.

If you have never tried a Tamale Pie, you are in for a treat. And with this recipe that I have adapted, you can make individual pies and cook them in the oven, or even a toaster oven if it is big enough to hold four individual baking dishes.

You can modify this recipe further by adding a touch of crushed chili peppers, which you buy in the Latino section of the supermarket, for more spice if you like it that way. And these little pies will benefit just as much as a large casserole from the addition of sour cream, shredded cheese, guacamole or whatever you would like to serve them with.

MEXICAN TAMALE PIES

Ingredients:

For the pies:

1-15-ounce can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1-15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 small zucchini, diced fine
1-3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn
1-1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon each: onion and garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt

For the topping:

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-2/3 cups water
2 teaspoons cooking oil

Combine the first ingredients in a small pot and cook on low-medium for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally as it bubbles.

Meanwhile combine all the polenta topping ingredients and bring them to a boil, stirring occasionally. As soon as it starts to boil, lower the heat to a simmer and stir constantly as it thickens.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees while the filling is cooking and portion the filling into four small oven-proof dishes. Top with the polenta, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes.

A short cut for this recipe is to use ready-made polenta, slice it and use it to top the tamale filling.

You can eat the pies in the individual dishes or turn them over to a serving plate over the polenta top.

If you use a toaster oven, you can brown the polenta after it has cooked with the broiler setting.

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