Ran across an interesting recipe recently, was intrigued and decided to try it out. Referred to as “Bolivian cornbread,” it’s a variation on a traditional South American corn tamale.

I decided to put my own spin on this already-spun recipe and changed up couple of ingredients. Must admit, the results were good. Ran it by some testers — all with good taste — and now can pronounce it a success.

For our neighbors to the south it’s known interchangeably as humintas or humita and pronounced oo-MEEN-tahs or oo-ME-tah. The name comes from Quechua, a family of languages originating from the Andes, and is a Native American dish that dates from pre-Hispanic times.

However, you say it, it’s not only tasty, it’s versatile. Humitas can be savory or sweet, usually wrapped in corn husks and boiled or steamed before eating.

The recipe I found was quite cornbread-like in looks and texture. It was good warm from the oven and just as good the next day at room temperature. I’m planning to experiment further and try topping it with chili, with or without beans, like polenta topped with marinara or another Italian sauce.

Although the recipe called for bell or sweet peppers, I decided to substitute poblano. Another change-up, I replaced aniseed with whole cominos, but pretty much left the rest as is. Next time I’ll up the poblano quotient, didn’t have quite enough kick for my taste.

Sweet humitas contain cinnamon or cloves and cheese of choice is queso fresco. When savory, it’s onion, garlic, aniseed, basil or oregano and goat cheese. Either way, the recipe’s base is ground fresh corn, eggs, milk or cream.

Corn in savory humitas is often grilled or roasted almost to the point of charring, adding a smoky quality that pairs well with the robust spices.

You can roast fresh corn in an open skillet, in a 400-degree oven or on a hot grill. Leave it on the cob if oven or grill roasting but remove kernels for skillet method.

Loose kernels can be roasted in a preheated cast-iron skillet three to five minutes, stirring constantly, until lightly charred.

BOLIVIAN CORNBREAD (HUMINTAS)

2-1/2 cups finely ground* cornmeal

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cominos

2-1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)

1 medium-sized poblano pepper, stemmed and seeded

1-1/2 cups whole fat sour cream

3 cups fresh corn (about 3 to 4 ears)

4 large eggs (5 medium)

1-1/2 cubes butter, melted and slightly cooled

1/2 pound pepper Jack cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and dust evenly with cornmeal. Tap dish adding excess to medium-sized bowl. Add cornmeal, sugar, cominos, salt, baking powder and cayenne to bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside. Using food processor, pulse poblano with sour cream and corn until smooth. Scrape down sides as needed. When creamy, pour into large mixing bowl, add eggs and melted butter, whisk until well-blended. Add dry ingredients to corn mixture and whisk until smooth. Spoon half of the batter into prepared baking dish and spread to edges. Scatter cubed cheese evenly, top with remaining batter and spread evenly. Bake in preheated oven on rack set in middle for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes, cut and serve warm.

*If unable to find finely-ground cornmeal, pulse two cups in food processor until fine and mix with 1/2 cup coarse. Results will be flour-like but still retain a slight cornmeal texture.

Long-time Valley resident Elaine Revelle can be reached at thewoodenspoon@juno.com

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