Monday, September 21, 2009

homemade tortillas

Yesterday was spent helping a good friend chop, saute and simmer all afternoon in preparation of a dinner party. We talked about how, at least for us, cooking with a friend would either make or break the relationship, depending on each person's distinct kitchen personality and adaptability, and how recently, we've noticed a trend among our friends and other people our age to rediscover the fun of making things ourselves rather than buying them at the supermarket. Not just dinners and cereals, but pantry basics like tomato paste, cheeses, enchilada, barbeque and hot sauces. There is this rejection of outsourced processing that we've grown up with, which is exciting; this all feels like fresh and new territory, when, in reality, people were making these things in their kitchens for a hundred years before the factories took over. We are beginning to appreciate our food by hand-crafting the contents of our cupboards.

This conversation was inspired by Justine's recent purchase of a tortilla press. We were, each for the first time, going to make tortillas from scratch.

Justine had purchased masa, and the instructions were simple: mix masa with water until a firm dough forms. Form small dough balls, place between two sheets of wax paper, and press. Easy enough. Long story short, twenty tortillas later, we'd figured it out. Justine formed balls and pressed (between plastic wrap, not wax paper), and I cooked them in a hot skillet for about thirty seconds on each side. The trick, I learned, was to lay the tortilla in the skillet for about two seconds on each side, then thirty seconds on each side. I still don't know why, but the quick flip kept one side from cracking. Whatever works.

To stuff the tortillas, we made roasted potatoes with fennel and poblano peppers, grilled green beans, and fried tempeh. On the side, we had fried green tomatoes and African Tomato Peanut soup. It sounds like a lot of flavors, and it was, but they were all rooted in seasonality; this was late summer's windfall.

This soup is
incredibly easy and so delicious. I was shocked that so few ingredients could work together and create a really complex flavor.

African Tomato Peanut Soup
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs roma tomatoes, skins removed
2 tbs natural peanut butter
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp minced, dried chilies
s/p to taste
1.5 c cooked basmati rice

Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until translucent and fragrant. Puree the tomatoes in a food processor and add to the onion and garlic. Bring to a boil. Add the peanut butter, turmeric and chilies and stir well to combine. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add water if soup has become to thick, and stir in the rice. Simmer for another 5 minutes and serve.

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