Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Tortilla time: The basic platform for Mexican treats is easy and economical

By JANINE GILBERTSON June 05. 2018 10:54PM

A bag of masa harina and some water are all it takes to make basic corn tortillas. Chopped chives or other herbs can be added to the mix for a tasty upgrade. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

I love fresh corn tortillas. I tend to buy the ones that are sold in the refrigerated section instead of on the shelf because they have a more substantial flavor and don’t taste as dry.

What’s even better than fresh store-bought tortillas is making them at home. This might sound like a daunting process, but all you need is a bag of instant corn masa, also known as masa harina, and some water. This product is becoming more widely available in the Granite State and many large grocery chains and Walmart Supercenters carry it. Masa harina is a good choice for the gluten-free crowd and is also a good source of folic acid.

I brought home a bag of instant corn masa and decided to try my hand at making my own tortillas. It’s as simple as adding water and mixing the dough, then shaping the tortillas and dropping them on a hot skillet. (I initially followed the instructions on the bag, then decided the end product was a little drier than I liked, so I adjusted the amount of water.)

I also picked some chives from the herb garden and worked them into the dough. I can see how a tortilla press would make the whole operation go more quickly, but a tortilla press is one of the few kitchen gadgets I don’t own so I used a rolling pin and a couple of pieces of plastic wrap to roll them out on the counter. Once the tortillas are rolled out, all you have to do is lay them in a hot, dry skillet and cook on each side for under a minute.

Of course, once you have a pile of fresh, warm tortillas, you have to use them for something, so I decided to make a fish taco filling. I had a piece of cod left over from dinner the night before and used it, along with some little bay scallops, vegetables and seasoning. A little Southwest seasoning along with some fresh cilantro and lime added some fresh flavor and the fish tacos were a hit.

I also used Mexican crema, similar to sour cream, as a garnish, and along with the homemade tortillas, I must say the dish was muy bueno.

If you make homemade tortillas, don’t forget they can be cut into triangles and quick fried in to tortilla chips. You can also brush them with some vegetable oil or olive oil and stick them in a hot oven and let them get crispy, and you have tostadas.

One thing I especially like about the masa harina is that the four-pound bag cost around $2.50 and I hardly put a dent in it after making two batches of tortillas. One package of the tortillas I get at the grocery store cost around $3.50 for 10 tortillas. ¡Fantastico!

Chive Tortillas

2 cups instant corn masa, such as Masa Brosa

1 1/2 cups water

1/8 tsp Kosher salt

2 tsp fresh chives, minced

Add the masa to a medium bowl and add the salt and chives. Stir to distribute the salt and chives, then add the water. Stir until a firm dough ball forms. 

Pinch off a piece of dough and roll it into a golf ball size. Using a tortilla press, flatten the dough into a circle. You can also roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap; roll until the circle is 6 to 8 inches wide. 

Set a dry skillet over high heat and place the tortilla in the skillet. Cook for about 30 seconds or until the tortilla begins to brown, then flip over. Remove from skillet and serve warm. 

Repeat with remaining dough.
Today’s fish taco recipe features cod, scallops and fresh vegetables with citrus and spice kick. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Fish Tacos

1 lb cod

1 lb bay scallops, rinsed and patted dry

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small zucchini, sliced thin

1 small summer squash, sliced thin

1 small purple onion, sliced thin

1 colored bell pepper, sliced thin

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tbsp fresh lime juice

2 tbsp orange juice

2 tsp Southwest seasoning

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup red cabbage, shredded

1/2 cup iceberg lettuce, shredded

2 tbsp Mexican crema or sour cream, if desired, for garnish

1/4 cup fresh salsa, if desired, for garnish

1 dozen fresh corn tortillas (recipe above)

Add the olive oil to a sauté pan and set over medium high heat. When the oil is warm, add the garlic and cook for about one minute or until the garlic is fragrant. 

Add the scallops and cod and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently and breaking the cod up into smaller pieces as it cooks. 

When the scallops and cod are cooked, add the zucchini, squash, purple onion, bell pepper, cilantro, lime juice, orange juice, Southwest seasoning, and Kosher salt. Sauté for about 6 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. 

Use the fish and vegetables as filling in the tortillas and garnish to taste with crema, shredded lettuce, shredded cabbage and salsa.
Quickly baking a fresh tortilla creates the platform for this chicken and black bean tostada. (Janine Gilbertson)

Chicken and Black Bean Tostadas

3 cups chicken, cooked and shredded

1 cup black beans, cooked

1 cup iceberg lettuce, shredded

1 cup purple cabbage, shredded

1 cup fresh salsa

1/2 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Mexican crema, or sour cream, if desired as garnish

1 dozen fresh corn tortillas (recipe above)

1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and preheat an oven to 400 degrees. 

Generously brush each tortilla on both sides with oil and set on baking sheet. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes on each side until they are crispy, then remove from oven.

Evenly divide the chicken and black beans and spread on each tostada. Do the same for the cabbage, lettuce and salsa, then garnish with cheese, cilantro and creme before serving.


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