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!

dried pinto beans


To read my original post, Dried Beans; how to cook (Basics) published April 2013 (click here)

As much as I do love the idea of a pot of aromatic dried beans bubbling away on the stove for hours on end, more efficient cooking methods are now a consideration well worth exploring. I had been using my finicky old pressure cooker as an alternative to slow cooking beans, but it was sadly lost in transit. Enter the Instapot! I admit I was reticent at first about taking a leap, but my utility bill spurred me into action. After much research I placed an order.

I have to say my Instapot is a marvel! It is a pressure cooker without all the hissing and fuss, or a lingering t thought of a steamy explosion. My very first go around with my Instapot delivered perfectly cooked dried pinto beans in just 30 minutes!
I followed my no old standby cooking methods. No pre- soak for the beans and no salt until the beans were fully cooked.
A few words about sourcing your dried beans. This is tricky business. Know your source! The age of dried beans vary widely and this does matter. Buy organically grown dried beans from a reliable vendor rather than relying on supermarket varieties that may be old and take hours rather than minutes to cook. I have been sourcing dried beans from Rancho Gordo in California for years. They offer an extensive selection of top quality dried pulses at competitive pricing, and wonderful customer service.

Cooking dried beans using an Instaapot

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans, rinsed
  • 6 or 7 cups water( hot water speeds up the process)
  • aromatics of choice and sea salt to taste after the beans are fully cooked.

Suggested aromatics: peeled garlic clove ,¼ cup diced onions, a pinch of ground clove for pinto beans, and epazote (click here for info) small chipotle chile (optional)
Add the beans to the Instapot along with the aromatics and water.
Move the lid of the Instapot into the locked position.
Choose pressure cook and then choose manual high pressure.
Set timer for 25 minutes or 30 minutes for very soft beans.

The Instapot will shut off automatically.

Cancel the keep warm button and Let the Instapot cool for at least 10 minutes.
If you want to release steam manually move the valve to the venting position and release steam carefully. Or do as d I do and just let the pressure reduce naturally.

You can then salt the beans to taste.

Before serving transfer the beans to a container using a slotted spoon and pour the cooking broth into a separate container. Add just enough reserved cooking broth to just cover the beans before serving or before refrigeration.
If you prefer a richer broth simply mash some beans into a paste and stir into your beans, then warm as needed and serve.
Be sure to save any cooking broth that is left over. The broth is ideal for adding to stir-fries or when sauteing.

Keep in mind cooked dried beans have a lovely earthy flavor all their own their own. Season accordingly.

Buen Provecho!


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!


Huitlacoche omlette

Huitlacoche omlette

An abundance of freshly picked sweet corn always reminds me of several opportunities I have had to indulge in savoring one on Mexico’s most unusual delicacies, huitlacoche.

Huitlacoche is the Aztec name for a fungus that grows on maturing corn during the wet season in central Mexico and parts of north America.



Anyone who has wandered into a corn filed in mid summer would more than likely encounter a spongy foamy fungus in various shades of gray on some ears of corn. This is called corn smut in the US and huitlachoche in Mexico. Corn smut is not a particularly enticing descriptive, but putting that aside, think of huitlacoche as Mexico’s truffle with a unique delicate earthy mushroom like flavor with an umami note. Huitlacoche has been prized in indigenous cultures in the American southwest and Latin America from ce pre-columbian times.

Fresh huitlacoche may be available when in season in some select Latin American markets. It is also available in jars and cans from various sources online, though the flavor is altered in processing and really not worth purchasing.

With that in mind I came up with a huilacoche alternative years ago that has satisfied my own cravings for those sublime flavors savored while in Mexico. Rest assured, all the ingredients required for my recipe are readily available in your local supermarket.

Drawing from recollections, my favorite huitlacoche dish would have to be a grilled corn omlette filled with huitlacoche set atop a mild fresh milk cheese and garnished with a few fresh cilantro sprigs and a picante salsa verde. It was perfection!


My huitlaoche alternative

Makes enough for 3 servings

A little multi tasking before you get started requires grilling or broiling the mushrooms and corn before you proceeding with the recipe.

  • 2 tablespoon sunflower oil, divided



  • 4 ears fresh sweet corn, husk and silk removed
  • 2 largish portobello mushrooms / 6 oz/ 70 g
  • 1 plump garlic clove, peeled and finely grated
  • 6 oz/ 70 g baby spinach leaves, well rinsed
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon fish sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon epazote or oregano
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)

Fire up grill grill or preheat your oven broiler. Brush the portobello mushrooms and corn lightly with oil. Place on the grill or on a baking tray and grill or broil all, turning both the mushrooms and the corn until nicely browned. The mushrooms will require less cooking time so keep an eye on them. Remove them when they have softened and are giving up their moisture and set aside to cool.

Continue grilling or broiling the corn until the kernels are well browned on all sides. Remove and set them aside to cool. Save any pan juices if you have used the broiler to use later.

When the mushrooms are cool slice and dice them and place then in a non-reactive bowl. Add any reserved pan juices and cover.

When th corn is cool slice the kernels off the cobs, place them in a mixing bowl and set aside until you ready to make the omelettes.

To finish the huitlache mixture add the remaining oil to a skillet set over medium low heat and add the garlic. Saute 30 seconds and add the spinach and saute until wilted. Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing until the spinach is very soft. Add the salt, tamari, fish sauce, epazote or oregano, and the cream if using. Lower the heat and continue to saute until all the ingredients are very soft, and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the mixture warm while you make the omlettes.

Grilled Corn omlettes

For each omlette:

  • 3 organic eggs
  • pinch of  salt
  •  a splash of water
  • 1 teaspoon salted butter
  • 1/3 cup grilled corn kernels
  • 4 thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
  • salsa verde (see recipe here)
  • sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • Crack the eggs in a bow and add salt and a splash of water and whisk vigorously until foamy.

Place a large non stick skillet, or my preference, a 10 inch nonstick crepe pan, over medium low heat. Add the butter to the pan and swirl to distribute evenly. Add the corn and saute for a minute or two and the spread the corn evenly over the surface. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the surface and tilt the pan so the egg mixture covers the entire surface of the pan. As the eggs begin to cook and firm up tilt the pan so any remaining liquid mixture fills in any gaps.

Place slices of fresh mozzarella over the surface and then spread warm huitlacoche mixture across the center of the omlette. Once the omlette is firm, using a silicone spatula, gently nudge the omlette away from the sides of the pan and fold it away from you over the huitlacoche filling. You can then nudge the omlette over the remaining exposed omlettete and slide the omlette onto a plate for serving.

Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and salsa verde to one side and serve.


Buen provecho!


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