29. Homemade tortillas

The best way to eat well without spending loads of money is to find an ethnic grocery store in a neighborhood near you. No, probably not the one with Chianti and truffles and Belgian chocolates, though Europeans do eat about 40% less meat per capita than Americans so perhaps even la cuisine fran├žaise could reduce a dedicated carnivore's budget. Well, make that la cucina italiana. And see Saturday's post about our trip to two Caputo's stores.

If Mexican food is more your thing--or if you'd like to see pretty pictures while learning more about it--check out the Mexican Foodie blog. I shamelessly copied their picture of a tortilla press because it looks just like mine except for the tablecloth, and their camera is better. My late mother-in-law bought us our press in Nogales, the border town south of Tucson, many years ago. You can go there, or you can find one online. Just be sure to get the inexpensive metal hand-operated variety, not the expensive fancy electric kind that, a friend of ours tells us, can really mess up the tortillas.

For corn tortillas, you need to buy a bag of masa harina, aka instant corn masa mix. It is not corn meal or corn flour. It has to say masa on the bag, or it won't work. You can probably find it at your grocery store.

Whenever you're in the mood for la cocina mexicana, scoop out about 1/4 cup masa harina per person and mix it with however much warm water it takes to make it the approximate consistency of pie dough. I usually find that I need almost as much water as masa. It has to be wet enough to roll into a ball without falling into little flakes, but dry enough to roll into a ball without sticking to your hands.

So... roll it into one ball for each serving. Squash each ball in the tortilla press (you'll save yourself a lot of grief if you line it with wax paper or plastic wrap). Toast each tortilla on a hot griddle for maybe 30 seconds on each side. And that's all you have to do.

If your tortilla press is small, like mine, your tortillas will be thick. No doubt too thick to be authentic. But they sure do taste good. If you like yours thin, you can of course make smaller balls. Or you can buy a larger tortilla press.

I lay my tortillas on a plate and then stack interesting things on them. Last night it was a fry-up of onions, tiny white potatoes (halved and steamed before frying), and a poblano chili pepper (seeded, deveined, and browned under the broiler before dicing and adding to the mix). I topped this with some leftover white cheese, and then I crowned the whole stack with a mixture of diced tomato, diced avocado, and chopped cilantro.

Tonight David is at a meeting in Orlando, no doubt eating in some fancy restaurant at somebody else's expense. Also, it's 73 degrees there and 27 degrees here. What--me, jealous? However, my meal of leftovers wasn't bad: two fried eggs, sliced cheese, Brussels sprouts with garlic and pecans, sliced tomato, and cashews for dessert.

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