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The Gluten Free Tortillaria: How to make Homemade Corn Tortillas
Posted By yum On July 24, 2007 @ 3:42 pm In Corn, Corn Tortillas, Mexican, Vegetarian, leftovers | 13 Comments
In 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.  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 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.
Next, 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!
Pico De Gallo Recipe
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
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
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
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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 Sauces & Condiments: http://www.bookofyum.com/recipes_v2/listrecipes.php#Sauces & Condiments
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