Posts tagged tortillas

How to toast tortillas

Please don’t eat hard taco shells. Soft, toasted corn tortillas are so much better. They’re cheaper. And they’re more authentic.


For some of you toasting corn tortillas might seem fairly basic, but for others you might still be clipping coupons for the hard shells. Put the scissors down.


Here’s what to do instead:

Look for white corn tortillas in the refrigerated section of your neighborhood store, or try to find a more local brand at a Mexican grocers. The brands at the store don’t tend to be as fresh or pliable, but they’re still an improvement over the hard shells.

If you have a gas grill you can go ahead and light the burner–or burners to medium heat (I use all four at once). Then place the white corn tortillas right on the grate. For those with electric ranges, it’s a bit harder to get the tortillas toasted; use a heavy-bottomed skillet that’s heated to medium-high heat.

The tortillas will begin to puff slightly as they bake, flip after about 1 minute then toast on the other side.

Last step, and this is important for flexible tortillas, place them in a tortilla warmer or a kitchen towel.

Often, when I’m serving tacos I’ll place the warmer in the middle of the table and then put a variety of fixings on each person’s plate.

More ideas for Cinco de Mayo:

Homemade corn tortillas

Fresh chile salsa

Lime-spiked shrimp

Your turn–are you already a toasted corn tortilla fan?

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Homemade tortillas in 5 steps

Your kids will love making tortillas

Cinco de Mayo is Saturday! I’m counting down the days until this American celebration of all things Mexican by posting ideas and recipes every day.

Today’s post is all about homemade tortillas. These are so easy and perfect for kids who want to help out in the kitchen.

These pictures will guide you through making tortillas. Easy peasy!

Step 1:

Mix water and PAN (white corn flour, NOT Masa which makes for harder tortillas) according to package directions.

Step 2:

Make dough into 1-inch balls and place at the center of your tortilla press that has been covered with plastic wrap on both sides (cutting boards will work too, but it’s a little harder to get the tortillas as thin).

Step 3:

Press the tortilla ball until thin.

Optional step: Use a large biscuit cutter to make the tortillas uniform in size.

Step 4:

Bake the tortillas on a preheated cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet.

If you've never purchase PAN, here's what to look for at the store.

Step 5:

Keep the cooked tortillas in a tortilla warmer or a clean kitchen towel until you’ve worked your way through all of the dough.

Here's what my $10 tortilla press looks like.

Looking for more specific directions? No worries, check out my detailed post about making homemade tortillas at Wandering Educators.

Having fun making tortillas

Kids’ reactions:

“Mom, we should have made more.” That says it all.

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Zucchini quesadillas

Zucchini and Mexican spices were just made for each other. When I saute zucchini, I often add a little ground cumin, ground ancho powder and a dash of cayenne. But around our house a plate of sauteed zucchini does not a meal make. I do like using it instead of meat in enchiladas, but for a quicker meal, I go with zucchini quesadillas.

You can keep it simple, with just sauteed zucchini and Monterrey Jack cheese, or make your own refried beans to slather on the tortilla too. You might even want to try white corn tortillas instead of the usual flour.

To make this meal a stand-out (and when pineapple is on sale, which it is here right now), I’ll take a slice of pineapple, make slits and then stand the quesadilla wedges up in the slits. And yes, if I’m fumbling through my drawer and find a little umbrella, I pop that on too.

*Side note: I prefer green zucchini to yellow, it just seems to hold its shape better when it’s sauteed versus the squishier yellow.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes (including cooking)

Servings: 4-6


Ingredients

1 large green zucchini, sliced into thin quarter pieces

1 small onion, diced

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 can vegetarian refried beans (or make your own)

1 ½ cups Monterrey Jack cheese

4 flour or corn tortillas

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Add olive oil to a large skillet and bring to medium-high heat, toss in the zucchini and onion and cook until just barely tender.
  2. Meanwhile, using a kitchen knife add about 1/8-1/4 cup refried beans to each tortilla. Repeat with four tortillas.
  3. Remove the peppers and onions from the skillet and place the bean covered tortilla, uncovered side on the pan.
  4. Place ¼ of the sautéed zucchini and onions along with a generous handful of cheese onto the bean-covered tortilla. Add another plain tortilla on top.
  5. Flip the tortilla over in the heated pan (as you would with grilled cheese) once the tortilla begins to crisp.
  6. Heat the other side of the quesadilla until crisp. Cool for 3-4 minutes before cutting with a pizza cutter.
  7. Serve with salsa for dipping.
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Kids in the kitchen: Mexican fiesta for Father’s Day

Are you ready for Father’s Day? More important—are your kids? We did a dry run this week of the fiesta we’re planning for dad’s big day. (Don’t worry, I’m not usually practicing for every holiday meal a week ahead but I needed pictures for this post and, well, we had a lot of fun putting this together.)

Appetizers: Heart-shaped quesadillas

Putting it together: Heat a skillet to medium high and place a flour tortilla in the center, top generously with Monterrey Jack or mozzarella cheese and add another flour tortilla. Flip after 3 minutes, or when crisped. Repeat with as many quesadillas as you need. Let the quesadilla cool for 3 minutes and then make shapes using a cookie cutter. Our theme for the meal is heart-shaped–1)because it’s Father’s Day and 2)because that’s the cookie cutter I had on hand. (I really need to get a few more cookie cutters!!)

Kids’ favorite part: Making the cut-outs of course. And decorating the plate with shredded lettuce and tomatoes.

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Entrée: Shredded pork tacos

Putting it together: Simple and delicious. I put a pork roast in the crockpot for the day along with a can of salsa verde. You could also throw in onion (whole, don’t even bother cutting), fresh chile peppers, along with one cup of a liquid that will give the pork a bit of flavor (chicken broth is good too). Cook on high for 5-6 hours and shred once it’s done. Add 1 teaspoon canola oil to a large skillet at medium-high heat and crisp the shredded pork. Add salt to taste and a little cayenne and cumin powder. Toast corn tortillas over a medium-high heat flame (if you don’t have a gas oven, use a skillet to toast the tortillas). Once they’re just crisped put them in a tortilla warmer or clean kitchen towel until you’re ready to use them. On each plate place two tortillas along with a heaping mound of pork, salsa, fresh cut-up tomatoes, lettuce and a dollop of sour cream (if desired). We found these pork tacos were so tasty they didn’t need much dressing up–the secret is the flavoring in the crockpot and the crisping afterwards.

Kids’ favorite part: Well, swiping little pieces of pork as it was crisping. My oldest liked being able to work with the skillet and my youngest liked having tomato topping duty (my middle daughter was busy setting the table).

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Dessert: Cinnamon sugar tortillas with honey and fresh berries

Putting it together: You didn’t put away the cookie cutter, did you? Use it again to make heart-shaped pieces of flour tortillas. Spray a baking sheet with cooking oil, add your flour tortilla cut-outs, spray again and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar; this has the flavor of a light churro. Bake at 375 for 8 minutes or until just crisped. Cool slightly and serve on a plate drizzled with honey or chocolate sauce and top with fresh berries.

Kids’ favorite part: Every step–I mean, this is dessert!

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If you’re looking for ideas outside the kitchen to make Father’s Day special, check out these ah-inducing stories from Motherboard moms. I looked through these as part of the Motherboard crew and I must say I enjoyed every one, especially the military family who shares the day with the families of those who’ve lost husbands and fathers. We shared our Mother’s Day meal with a friend who’d recently been widowed and it made the day so much more special to celebrate together.

Dressed up heart quesadillas

Heart-shaped tortilla crisps

Your turn–what are you doing to make the dads in your life feel special on Father’s Day?

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Cinco de Mayo Time! Homemade Tortillas & Sopes

Photo credit: MMChicago

For those with Mexican heritage, Cinco de Mayo is a day to commemorate a strong and vibrant culture—and for all of us, it’s a great excuse to cook up some amazing food.

Literally translated, the 5th of May commemorates a battle that took place in Puebla (just east of Mexico City) where the Mexican army stationed at the city’s walled fort fended off, and then defeated, the much better equipped French army in 1862.

Our family visited Puebla a couple years ago and happened wander in during flag day, or Día de la Bandera on February 24th. At exactly 5pm, city representatives and members of the army walked through the streets carrying a large, Mexican flag. In the shadow of the Cathedral of Puebla and with the sun setting as they hoisted the flag into place, everyone in the city’s crowded central plaza stopped to honor the flag. The crowd sang together Mexican National Anthem. My three girls who had endured a long day of sight-seeing (and who were anxious to try out a caramel-filled churro) stood still as they felt the crowd stiffen and come to attention with everyone’s eyes drawn to the flag, which stretched out at nearly16 feet or so from my vantage point. The goosebump moment was pure bliss—and I felt more than a tinge of the overwhelming pride that the people there must have for their rich heritage.

Truth be told, my love of the Mexican culture is closely tied to my love of their food. And the experience was all the more wonderful because after the ceremony we did pick up a few churros—the dried dough cylinders that are crispy on the outside and chewy and sweet inside—from street vendors near the square (think: donuts fashioned into a easy-to-carry stick). Of course, we had to try the fresh paletas too, which are creamy popsicles that don’t have equals in the U.S. Local vendors create their own varieties using fresh berries, fruits, coconut and a long list of flavors I couldn’t always identify. (I’ve seen jumbo packs of Michoacan paletas at Costco; they’re good, but not nearly as tasty as the real thing.)

To create your own taste of Mexico for Cinco de Mayo, I wanted to share something that would be fun to do as a family. Fresh tortillas and sopes are easy to make and don’t require a lot of hard-to-find ingredients. In fact, the only ingredient that’s really essential is masa (also called masa harina), a Mexican corn flour that’s available at most grocery stores (it’s not the same thing as cornmeal).

To create your own tortillas, you combine two parts masa to one part water. The dough should be slightly sticky, but firm (I toss in just a pinch of salt). If you have a tortilla press, line it with plastic wrap on both sides and then place a ball with about two tablespoons of the masa dough in the center and flatten. We also use two cutting boards pressed together to form tortillas. They don’t get nearly as thin as they should—but they taste just as good. Handmade tortillas tend to be less pliable then the kind you find at the grocery store, but the fresh, corn flavor is worth the added chewiness. Once you form your tortillas, cook them briefly on both sides on large, flat-bottomed skillet. They should just be getting slightly browned when you pull them off the heat (remember to cook both sides). Tuck the cooked tortillas into a folded kitchen cloth, or a tortilla warmer until you’re ready to serve them.

Making sopes with dad

If your kids haven’t had fresh tortillas before, they may be a bit thrown off by the rustic flavor at first. In Mexico, traditional tacos are made using a fresh tortilla, which is then filled with meat or another spiced ingredient. The tacos are topped with diced onion and cilantro. That’s it. No fried shells, no cheese.

For those looking for a little more pizzazz, sopes are thicker corn disks that are usually slightly fried on the bottom and filled on top with refried beans, sometimes a meat, fresh Mexican cheese, like Queso Fresco, diced lettuce, and then a dabble or two of Mexican crème and/or salsa. Sopes require a little more time (and heat-resistant fingers) to put together. Using a rolling pin, roll out the masa dough as you would cookie dough. Keep the dough about ¼” thick. With a biscuit cutter, or alternatively a large-rimmed glass, cut out dough disks, enough so that there’s two or three per person. Cook the disks on a large, flat-bottomed skillet that’s been brought up to a medium-high heat. Here’s the tricky part: As the sopes are cooking, you need to use your fingertips the pinch together the outside of the disk on one side so that it forms a ridge. This will hold the ingredients inside the sope once it’s filled—after all sopes are a handheld food. If you’re sensitive to a little heat, you can skip this step and just plan on a little messy eating. Keep the cooked sopes in either a kitchen cloth or a tortilla warmer until you’re ready to plate the meal.

We used a 2-inch biscuit cutter for our sopes


You can make the sopes a day ahead, store them in the refrigerator, and reheat them when you’re ready to eat. To serve, add ½ Tablespoon of canola oil to a large, flat-bottomed skillet on medium-high heat. Briefly fry the bottom of the sopes until they become just barely browned and slightly crisp. Top with warm, refried beans, a teaspoon or so of your favorite salsa, diced lettuce (with a little fresh lime squeezed onto the pieces), a sprinkling of cheese (grated Munster or Monterey Jack cheese is a fine stand-in for crumbled queso fresco) and then a dollop of sour cream (which substitutes just fine for Mexican crème).

A sope ready for the grill


To make the sopes a little fancier, we put the sour cream into a Ziploc baggie and add just a little milk. Shake the bag and then push all of the air out. Cut a small hole in a corner of the bag and then drizzle the top of the sope with the crème mixture. Add a sprig of fresh cilantro to finish it off and you’re ready to serve. You can add meat to the dish—pieces of rotisserie chicken are an easy option, but you honestly won’t miss the meat. Promise! Although these sopes seem small, they’re filling. Just three will leave you satisfied, four stuffed. Add even more fun to this dish by letting your kids create differently shaped sopes. My husband made heart-shaped ones for Valentine’s Day—any large-sized cookie cutter should work. Creating these simple, fresh flavors together as a family is the perfect way to infuse a little Mexican culture at your dinner table.

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