Before I write about tortillas, I want to begin with:
Like many of you: I am juggling making a living/making change/making art/making a grocery list/making senators listen/making out/making beds/making time for the people I love/making eye contact/making dinner…just acknowledging the work we are all doing — big and small. Thanks for your thoughtful conversation about all the troubling things happening in our world right now. Let’s keep making a difference, together.
Now. Let’s make tortillas, the earthy, ancient Mexican flatbread.
We had dinner at our friends’ house last summer and they busted out a crock of fresh tortillas. They were, of course, far better than any corn tortilla one can buy at the store. Turns out they are also a snap to make and super affordable. Sold.
Ritual in our kitchen is a foundation in our family. We have many beloved ceremonial activities within those four walls. Over floured counters and pots of soup. In front of dish-filled sinks and rising dough. Our traditions are seasonal and beautiful and our traditions are weekly and mundane. We are together in the kitchen every single day, working to create and nourish. I believe in food as medicine and I believe the craft of making meals together is force for connection.
On a slightly different but same note, I am also keenly invested in my daughters having a healthy relationship with food. My eating disorder began when I was 12. My entire childhood, I was surrounded by women who were trying to lose 20 pounds. I am not blaming our cultural obsession with thinness for my addiction but it sure did fan my insecure flames. By high school, I clung to the low fat craze, obsessed over calorie counting and thought it was cool to exercise until I felt dizzy. By college, I threw up every meal. So these shared experiences in the kitchen are also about laying a foundation for food as a wonderful, delicious, fueling thing we get to feel good about. I want my girls to understand the science of fat, protein and carbohydrates. I want them to enjoy healthful meals where second helpings are neither encouraged nor discouraged. They will never hear me say I feel fat. They will never see me cringe when I look in the mirror. They will hear me say I feel strong (or when I do feel fat – because that still happens – they hear me say, ‘I am going to make time to exercise today’ or ‘I can tell my body needs some healthy food’) and they will see me express gratitude for my able body. My disordered eating history is a valuable tool in my mama belt. Being a mom is like redemption for all the sickness and torment I experienced, the silver lining: I get to mother daughters and I am an expert on body shaming, nutrition and overcoming addiction. I am healthy. Together, we cook beautiful food and talk about everything and I hope this continues forevermore.
Back to the tortillas.
Later that summer, the same tortilla-making pal hauled the fixings on a car camping trip. So I got to be a part of it all from start to finish, learning the ins and outs from Kara.
And then we dined on the best food.
And one more photo from this evening because as much as I love the snow, this looks pretty damn nice right now.
I waited a few months to invest in a few supplies, pulling the trigger when we discovered Ruby has a gluten sensitivity — nothing dire but less is more in our home. Supplies: cast iron tortilla press, masa harina, griddle pan and a lidded container (to store cooked tortillas). For the lidded container, I use a ceramic number I got at a thrift store ages ago. You could alternatively use a bowl with a damp towel on top. The goal is to keep heat and humidity in. Before we got that griddle pan I linked to up there, we used a cast iron skillet (which works great but you can only fit 2-3 torts at a time). Also helpful: parchment paper or cling wrap or baggie to line the tortilla press.
We make tortillas at least once a week. My kids can do it all, start to finish which is super fun for them. I am still a bit nervous with them around the stove – and I help there – but they prove, again and again, that they got this.
makes 18 tortillas / each person usually eats 2-4):
1. In a bowl: mix 2 cups masa harina with a pinch of salt (salt optional). Add 1.5 cups water and combine with a fork. Kara says:
There are water-flour ratios on the bag that are pretty spot on, but with anything I do in the kitchen I also like to learn by feel, because I usually keep my masa in a jar and can never seem to remember the exact ratio numbers. So the dough should feel as soft and smooth as possible with out being sticky.
2. Use your hands to gently squeeze the dough together into balls about the size of a golf ball. Kara says:
I always use my hands for mixing. It’s part of learning how the dough should “feel”
3. Place two small pieces of parchment paper in the press (you can use these same pieces for a long time). Press the balls into tortillas, only pressing as many as can fit on your griddle (otherwise they dry out). Kara says:
I like to take a zip lock and just cut off the seal portion and cut down the sides, leaving the bottom intact so the plastic looks like a book (opens from one side).
4. Cook a 1-2 minutes on each side over medium-high heat. Store in covered container until ready to eat. Kara says:
I feel like a very important part is to have a proper container to put them into after you pull off the heat. I use an old ceramic bean pot from the thrift store. Then key is that you want to have a lidded container so the torts can steam a bit. Its actually part of the cooking process that they get stacked up and steam each other. Otherwise they dry out and are not as good and pliable.
These tortillas are best when fresh but they will hold up ok for a few days. We keep leftovers in the fridge and use them for quesadillas (they dry out a bit and aren’t very bendy).