Corn Tortillas

Making corn tortillas at home is probably not at the top of your to do list, but just maybe I can persuade you otherwise.

I used to make corn tortillas regularly when teaching visitors at the Santa Fe School of Cooking years ago. But I have to admit making tortillas at home fell by the wayside while living in Asia.
But I’m back in the Americas again where there are an abundance of ready made corn tortillas to choose from. Convenient, yes, but if you have ever tasted a freshly made corn tortilla you know there is no comparison.

Corn tortillas date back thousands of years to the Maya and Aztec cultures in Central America who developed a process of nixtamalizationof the corn that gives tortillas their distinctive flavor and also releases the nutritional values of the corn. You can read about this process in my post on Polenta ( click here)r Today corn tortillas are made using the same ground nixtamalized corn masa harina flour and the same traditional preparation methods. Corn tortillas fresh off a hot comal are colorful, aromatic, soft and pliable, and ready to be filled with whatever strikes your fancy.

So, with that in mind, let’s get to it!

There are only three ingredients required . corn masa harina,salt,  and water.

Masa harina is readily available in most grocery stores these days. Maseca is the standard white corn masa harina brand that iswidely available. There are also several other brands of both white and yellow and corn masa harinas that My recommend brands are Bob’s Red Mill organic golden corn flour masa harina for its rich yellow color, flavor, and texture. Or try King Arthur organic white corn masa harina. Both arevailable in somesupermarkets,as well as as Whole Foods, and online.

You will also need a tortilla press. I would recommend n economical and perfectly adequate aluminum tortilla press for around 16 $ on line. There are also a variety of heavier cast iron presses out there for the seriously committed at home tortilla maker!

For any press you choose you will need 2 plastic liners that are the same size as your tortilla press’s upper and lower plates. These plastic liners insure easy release of your tortillas once they are pressed. Freezer bag plastic works perfectly for this purpose. Just trace and cut them out to size. They are reusable. FYI, parchment or wax paper will not work!

Tortillas are traditionally cooked on a hot round cast iron comal, but a griddle, or a well seasoned cast iron skillet will be just fine..

And finally you will need a designated tortilla basket and a cotton cloth to wrap the tortillas in to keep them warm in the basket.

Corn tortillas: makes 116 tortillas or halve the recipe for 8.

  • 2 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill organic yellow corn masa harina or King Arthur organic white corn Masa Harina
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 2/3 cups warm water, approximately

Combine the masa flour and salt in a mixing bowl and mix to combine. Then, using your hand begin adding water while working it into the flour. Continue this process until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Slowly continue adding a little more water at a time until the dough comes together with the consistency of play dough. Ideally you want the dough to be moist, but not sticky. Then knead the dough for several minutes to allow the dough to absorb the moisture evenly throughout.

Then using an an ice cream scoop, d ivy out equal portions of dough and roll into 16 balls. Set them aside and covered with a damp kitchen towel.

Preheat your comal or skillet over medium heat for 15 minutes before you are ready to begin cooking the tortillas. You can adjust the heat slightly higher as needed once you begin cooking the tortillas.

Once you are set up and ready to go, place a plastic liner on the bottom tortilla press plate. Place a ball of masa dough in the middle of the press plate. Place the other plastic liner on top. Flatten the dough a little bit using your hand and then lower the upper press plate and apply pressure to pres the dough into a thin round tortilla. With a little practice you will be turning out perfectly round thin tortillas in no time!

Once pressed, lift the upper press plate and remove the tortilla and place it in the palm of your other hand. Gently peel off the plastic liner. Then flip the tortilla over inyour hand and peel off the remaining plastic liner. Then slide the tortilla onto the comal or skillet and cook for 30 or 40 seconds. Lift the edge of the tortilla and flip it over with a spatula, or fingers once you feel comfortable with the process. Let the tortilla cook another 60 to 80 seconds. Flip the tortilla over once again and cook another 15 or 20 seconds. You may see the tortilla puffing up slightly. Then transfer the tortilla to a basket lined with cotton cloth and cover while you continue making the remaining tortillas. This whole cooking process will become second nature in no time!

You can keep the tortillas warm in the basket for an hour or so. For longer storage, cool the tortillas to room temperature. Then stack them and slip them into a plastic bag, seal, and store in the refrigerator. Freezing is not recommended.

To rewarm the tortillas, remove them from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Then wrap the stacked tortillas in a cotton cloth and microwave for 10 to 15 seconds.

You may now congratulate yourself! You are on your way to becoming a tortilla master!

Well done!

…. and Buen provecho!

Stir frying is hands down the best way to cook a quick meal using the season’s freshest produce. I’ve been stir frying all summer long an I intend to carry on doing so with fall’s hardier produce bounty.

Stir frying is Asia’s gift for anyone who loves to kook and for all those they may be cooking for. A seasonal stir fry never fails to deliver a gorgeous healthy meal with complex flavors, textures, color, and aromas. A few helpful tips is all that’s required for success.

I’m sure you’ve seen the cooks in Chinese restaurants at their stations tossing ingredients in a big woks set over licking flames and clouds of aromatic smoke. All well and good, but you too can produce the same results in your very own kitchen sans the pyrotechnics!

Stir frying does requires Intense heat, but I’ve found that gas, electric, and induction heat all deliver the heat required if you are using a proper wok. An inexpensive carbon steel wok made in China or a domestic upgraded version is going to give you the best results. Carbon steel responds instantly to the heat source and the bigger the better because you are going to be throwing lots of vegetables and leafy greens into that fired up wok! The more hot surface space the better the results.

A trip to your local Asian market may also be required, but with the following list of basic ingredients on hand you will be set to go!

  • soy sauce
  • oyster sauce
  • fish sauce
  • Chinese cooking wine
  • Chinese lap Chong dry sausage
  • Thai basil
  •  jasmine rice

With fall’s arrival seize the moment and expand your produce choices including baby Brussels sprouts, squash, turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages, kale, mushrooms  and anything else that strikes your fancy.

An Impromptu Fall Stir Fry

Successful Stir frying is all about preparation and organization. Arrange all of your ingredients and cooking utensils within reach before you begin and you are set to go!

As mentioned use a large carbon steel wok or if not a large heavy bottomed skillet.


  • Two of the vegetables in this recipe quire some per-preparation as follows.I pint baby Brussels sprouts, trimmed and d steamed al dent, and set aside to used in the stir fry later.
  • ½ Napa cabbage, core removed, thinly sliced, placed in a bowl wit water to cover, and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes and drained before stir frying.
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 links Lap Chong Chinese dry sausage, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 small brown onions, peeled, halved, thinly sliced, and separated
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin batons
  • 6 red and yellow baby sweet bell peppers, trimmed, seeded, and cut into thin strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced, and cut into thine strips
  • 2 or 3 small fresh hot chiles, trimmed, seeded, and minced
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh ginger root cut into thin strips
  • 2 large bunches Bok Choy, trimmed, leaves halved on the diagonal
  •  1/3 cup Chinese rose cooking wine, or white wine
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce / more to taste
  • soy sauce to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • ½ cup chopped Thai basil leaves, or sweet basil
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon cold water
  • Jasmine rice for serving

Place the wok directly over the heat source on medium high. Add the oil and swirl the wok. Add the sausage and stir fry while continuously tossing until the sausage begins to color around the edges. Add the onions and fry while tossing until the onions begin to wilt. Add the carrots and continue tossing until the carrots begin to wilt. Add the sweet peppers and then the garlic, chiles, and ginger and continue tossing.

Slowly add the Chinese cooking wine and toss vigorously until most of the wine has been absorbed.

Drain the cabbage and add to the wok and toss until it wilts. Then add the Bok Choy and toss continuously until the leaves are wilted. Then add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, and fish sauce while continuously tossing.

At tis point if the wok is nearly dry add a half cup of water and continue stir frying. Toss in the Thai basil and  the steamed baby Brussels sprouts and continue tossing.

If you want to thicken the liquid in the pan, stir the cold water into the corn starch and stir. Then pour into the stir the stir and continue stir fry until the liquid thickens, about 3 minutes.

Finally stir in the lime juice and stir to combine just  before serving.

Serve the stir fry with freshly steamed jasmine rice.

Leftovers , not to worry. Reheat in a saute pan or microwave!


Raspberry Vinegar

There are many raspberry vine gars out there but making your own is very easy and a nice way to bottle a taste of summer that will brighten up salads this winter.

I have been using Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins raspberry vinaigrette recipe from their Silver Palate Cookbook since it was published in 1982. It is a simple master recipe that is open to endless variations for the occasion at hand.

Raspberry Vinegar

  • 8.5 ounces fresh raspberries
  • 12 fluid ounces white wine vinegar

Rinse the fresh raspberries and put them in a large jar. Pour the vinegar into t jar and seal with the lid. Place in the refrigerator for 14 days or longer.

Line a large fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth set over a large mixing bowl. Pour the contents of the jar into the lined strainer and using a silicone spatula press the raspberries to extract all the liquid from the berries. Discard the crushed berries.

Pour the raspberry vinegar into a sterilized jar or decanter and let it settle until it comes to room temperature. Seal the jar or decanter and store in a dark place for up to six or moor months.


Silver Palate Raspberry Vinaigrette

Makes ¾ cup

  •  1/2cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup raspberry vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pink or white peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream


Place all the ingredients in a jar and sake vigorously until the vinaigrette emulsifies.

Use at once or refrigerate.

Additions and substitutions you may want to try include

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon full fat Greek Yogurt in lieu of the sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon honey for a hint of sweetness.


Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico’s colorful  history, culture, customs and of course its irresistible food that is celebrated around the world on the 5th of May.

So let the celebrations start in your very own kitchen. The first thought that always comes to mind is guacamole that has been part of the Mexican diet since Aztec times and pairs well with any Mexican meal you may be planning. The process is quite simple and the results are sublime if you taste as you go. Avocados and chiles can vary greatly but can be brought together with a balance of heat, lime juice, salt, and an attentive palate. I’ve always find this ritual as comforting as it is ultimately delicious.

Ingredient quantities are approximated and  will vary to suit your own taste preferences.

Above all keep in mind this is an adventure in cooking that will continue to evolve every time you make a guacamole!

Best to prepare guacamole several hours before serving as it is best when chilled.



  • 2 or 3  ripe hass avocados, green with lumpy skin or Puebla avocados ,dark with smooth skin
  • a small yellow onion, finely diced, amount to taste 
  • serrano, jalapeno, and or red chiles, seeded and finely diced, amount to taste 
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly squeezed lime juice to taste
  • chopped cilantro leaves to taste
  •  a tablespoon of avocado or olive oil ,optional, but it does add a nice richness and  texture. 


Cut  avocados  in half around the seed and and twist to remove the seeds, saving one to use later. Spoon the flesh into a mixing bowl and mash together with a bean or potato masher just until combined. 

Add the diced onions, dced chiles, and salt and mash together bearing down enough to release the liquid in the onions and chiles as you mash away.

Add lime juice and swirl in until combined. Then add the cilantro and mix until well combined.

Taste and add more chile, salt, and lime juice as needed until the guacamole’s flavors dazzle like a chilled  fresh lime juice margarita wit an assertive lingering heat.

Transfer the guacamole to a non reactive container and place the reserved avocado seed in the center. Legend has it that this will help keep the guacamole fresh and green. Press cling film directly onto the surface of the guacamole. Put the lid on the container and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

Serve the guacamole along with margaritas and appetizers, with the main courses or a buffet. And do not be afraid to include guacamole with non Mexican meals as well. I’ll be having guacamole and salsa verde (see recipe here) with my Chinese stir fry tacos later this evening!

Chinese stir fry with guacamole

Buen Provecho!


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