The Gluten Free Tortillaria: How to make Homemade Corn Tortillas

July 24th, 2007 yum Posted in Corn, Corn Tortillas, Mexican, Vegetarian, leftovers 13 Comments »

tortillas.jpgIn many ways, mexican food can be one of the easiest or the hardest cuisine for the gluten free diner. Because many Mexican restaurants in the US rely so heavily on flour tortillas and use flour to thicken sauces for enchiladas etc., restaurants like Jose Muldoons often give us few dining options. Even those items naturally gluten free like tacos made from corn tortillas or nachos made with corn chips can be cross contaminated by shared cooking surfaces or fryers, causing many of us to despair. Some restaurants are willing to work with their customers to reduce risks of cross contamination, but you can’t always count on them to provide you with a safe meal. However, at its heart, Mexican cuisine has a lot to offer the gluten free chef, including a rich array of corn based products from its Aztec heritage. As Wikipedia informs us, “when Spanish conquistadores arrived to the Aztec capital, they found that the people’s diet consisted largely of corn-based dishes with chiles and herbs, usually complemented with beans and squash.” This diet was modified by ingredients introduced by the conquistadores, along with “indigenous foods of pre-Columbian Mexico, including chocolate, maize, tomato, vanilla, avocado, papaya, pineapple, chile pepper, beans, squash, sweet potato, peanut and turkey.” These ingredients are ideal for a gluten free diet, and the corn tortilla is a wonderful staple. I’ve heard many recently diagnosed people basing their entire menu on the tortilla- using it for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese “sandwiches”, and other traditional sandwich fillings. Personally I’ve never been all that crazy about pre made corn tortillas, but the homemade corn tortilla is another thing entirely. Devoid of the preservatives present to increase the lifespan of the packaged tortilla, a homemade tortilla is soft and malleable, with a sweet, fresh flavor that surely rivals, if not surpasses, that of its wheat cousin. I recently purchased a bag of Maseca Corn Flour that has a lovely “Gluten Free” seal on the side and includes an easy recipe for tortillas. Of course it would be gluten free, as the ingredients are simply “selected corn treated with lime” – but it’s nice to have the extra reassurance.

I decided to make 16 tortillas, combining two cups of corn flour, 1 1/4 cup water, and 1/4 tsp salt and stirring/kneading for a few minutes. The dough was a bit dry, so I added one or two tablespoons of water. doughballs.jpgWhen I had a lovely ball of dough, I separated the dough into sixteen balls and placed them in a bowl, covering them with a damp cloth so that they wouldn’t dry out. Then I cut open a thick ziplock bag, quart sized, and used it to line my tortilla press, placing one ball of dough in it for each tortilla. After pressing out a tortilla, I placed it on a plate, then alternated cut open plastic bags between tortillas so they wouldn’t stick together. I heated my cast iron pan and cooked each one for 50 seconds on each side, setting a timer to avoid overcooking any one of them. I layered the cooked tortillas under a cloth to keep them warm.

tortbreak4.jpgNext, I got out some mixed shredded cheese and made quesadillas out of my homemade tortillas, filling them with cheese and cooking them on the cast iron skillet. When the cheese had partially melted, I cut them into triangles and put them back on the griddle surrounding the next whole quesadilla, to brown them a bit more. For side dishes, I made a black and pinto bean cake that I sauteed in a nonstick frypan, and made delicious pico de gallo. I garnished the quesadilla triangles and bean cakes with pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole, and DH pronounced them delicious. And, since I made extra tortillas, I had leftovers for the next night… Post to follow.

If you’re unimpressed by pre made corn tortillas, try making your own. The texture is entirely different, and the flavor of the fresh tortilla enhances any recipe. They are wonderful in homemade corn tortilla fajitas, enchiladas, simple tacos, of course in quesadillas, or simply eaten as a flatbread. I also recommend purchasing your own tortilla press- IMO, rolling out each tortilla takes way too much time, and I’d rather spend the time on some extra side dishes or sauces!

tortbreakcls.jpgquesadilla.jpg tortbreak3.jpg

Pico De Gallo Recipe
Ingredients
2 1/2 cups diced fresh tomato
1/2 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoons stemmed, seeded, and minced chili (I used serrano)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Directions
Combine ingredients and mix well, adding salt and lime juice last. You can leave at room temperature while you prepare the rest of your other food or put in refrigerator. Liquid separates over time so you may want to strain the pico de gallo before serving. But, don’t throw away the delicious, salty broth. It’s tasty!
Homemade Corn Tortilla Recipe
Bread  Corn  Mexican  
Ingredients
two cups of masa harina, corn flour for tortillas, (Maseca is a good brand, and labeled Gluten Free)
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt

Will make 16 tortillas

Directions
Thoroughly combine ingredients, kneading or mixing for a few minutes. The dough was a bit dry, so I added one or two tablespoons of water. When I had a lovely ball of dough, I separated the dough into sixteen balls and placed them in a bowl, covering them with a damp cloth so that they wouldn’t dry out. Then I cut open a thick ziploc bag, quart sized, and used it to line my tortilla press, placing one ball of dough in it for each tortilla. After pressing out a tortilla, I placed it on a plate, then alternated cut open plastic bags between tortillas so they don’t stick together. I heated my cast iron pan and cooked each one for 50 seconds on each side, setting a timer to avoid overcooking any one of them. I layered the cooked tortillas under a cloth to keep them warm.
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Gluten Free Living: Leftovers Transformed

July 2nd, 2007 yum Posted in Allergy Grocer, Dessert, leftovers, tofu 6 Comments »

shortcakeyum2.jpg Those on the gluten free diet find early on that preparing their own food from scratch (or close to it) is the best way to eat well. Ever since I became responsible for my own diet, I started preparing food with leftovers in mind. Even if I was cooking for one or two, I’d make enough for several meals, and enjoy my creations for breakfast, lunch, and even the next day’s dinner. This works very well for me and bringing my own GF bento (lunchbox) to school or work means I don’t have to risk getting “glutened” by a substandard lunch out. Recently I’ve started freezing especially successful meals in semi disposable Tupperware, labeled with the date and content, which is great when I come home tired from classes, can’t justify the calories in Amy’s delicious GF Mac and Cheese or other frozen meals, but still want a convenient, microwave fast meal.

While I love the convenience of leftovers, they can get tedious the second or third time around, so I often make a little effort to make them even better the next time around. Here is one example of a meal I recently transformed three different ways, with very satisfying results. I may continue this as a series, but we’ll see how interesting I manage to make my leftovers!

gravytrio.jpg Meal One: the Southern Vegan
Biscuits made from an Allergy Grocer mix (similar to Bette Hagman’s bisquick recipe), Big Bubba tofu from page 117 of Cookin’ Southern Vegetarian Style (tofu breaded in soymilk with a little egg replacer powder, cornmeal, brown rice flour and nutritional yeast, then fried and simmered in a GF onion gravy), and Roasted Sweet Potato, Potato, Onion and garlic mash, served with sliced organic tomatoes.

sweetpotmash.jpg Evaluation: The biscuits were scarfed up by everyone in the house, including two Gluten Fiends who proclaimed them “just like regular biscuits” and “impressive.” The Big Bubba Tofu was ok, but thick and the coating started coming off the crispy tofu the longer it stayed in the gravy. Also the soymilk I used, although plain, was sweetened so the dish failed to be properly savory. DH ate some, but wasn’t as enthusiastic as he is about my other Nutritional yeast tofu recipes. The Roasted Sweet Potato mash had good flavor, but because I mixed it in the food processor was not as fluffy as it could have been. All in all, the meal was probably a 6/10, although the biscuits individually would probably be more like a 8-9/10.
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shortcakecloseup.jpg How did I use these ingredients to make a new meal?

Biscuits: I cut the biscuits in half and topped them with whipped cream, Kozy Shack GF Vanilla Pudding, Yoplait Raspberry Yogurt, and fresh strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. I then garnished the dish with fresh mint. Everybody loved them, and they were a wonderful easy summery dessert.

swpotatodish.jpg Roasted Sweet Potato Mash: I added some Gluten free bread crumbs and brown rice flour to the mash and then coated them in bread crumbs and seasoning and then sauteed them in olive oil. I threw some chopped kale into the pan and added a teaspoon or two of artichoke pesto for flavor. I served the croquettes with the kale, some pre made artichoke salsa, broccoli sprouts, and a dab of yogurt. It was even better than the original dish and made a fantastic breakfast/brunch.

bestloadedbakepot.jpg Big Bubba Tofu: As I mentioned, I wasn’t that crazy about this dish, so finishing it off became something of a chore. I had it with rice, including my special rice, and with some biscuits, but it was getting pretty old when I suddenly got an urge for a loaded baked potato. I microwaved a delicious white potato until almost done, then cut it open, added a little margarine, put a layer of fresh spinach and then a serving of the Bib Bubba Tofu. I added some drops of vietnamese hot sauce and fresh coarsely ground black pepper and it was hearty and absolutely delicious. I might even consider making the recipe, or a similar recipe again just for this purpose.

So, there you have it- one elaborate meal was transformed into a dessert, a lovely light gourmet brunch, and a hearty evening snack. Just because you’re eating leftovers doesn’t mean they have to taste like the same old thing you had for dinner!

Question: How do you use your leftovers creatively? Recipes welcome!

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