This spring a mom visited my daughter’s class for a cooking project. She made corn tortillas with them, using a tortilla press. I heard the kids had a great time with it and, not wanting to be left out of the fun, I had to try it for myself.
Immediately I could see the appeal. The dough comes together like play dough – no wonder the kindergarteners took to it so readily. And because there’s no gluten in the flour, you don’t have to worry about over- or under-working the dough. The flour is masa, which is made of lime-treated corn (like the hominy used in grits). It’s really very easy. I just followed the directions on the bag of flour (which I am basically repeating below). I’m sure that using a tortilla press to flatten the dough down makes the project even more of a Play-Doh Fun Factory. Alas, I don’t have a tortilla press but I did just fine with a rolling pin. And the extra work was rewarded when I got to build a colorful stack of my favorite fresh summer ingredients on top of the tortilla.
Instead of the traditional cotija cheese, I used ricotta salata. I love adding this cheese to salads and some pasta dishes too. It has a clean, milky flavor, with just enough tang and salt to add flavor without being overpowering.
Makes 8 tortillas
Preparation time: 45 minutes
For corn-tomato salad:
3 ears fresh corn, cooked
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 small sweet green or bell pepper, diced
juice of about ½ lime
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
1 cup corn masa flour (such as Maseca brand)
2/3 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh fully cooked crabmeat (you can also defrost frozen crabmeat, which I did but it’s just not the same)
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
½ lime, quartered (use the other half of the lime for the salad)
Guacamole, see recipe
8 small butter lettuce leaves, washed and dried well
½ cup crumbled ricotta salata
- Prepare the tomato corn salad: Remove the kernels from the cob by holding the cob vertically on a cutting board or into a steady bowl and slicing the kernels off in strips with several downward motions of a chef’s knife. Toss vegetables together. Dress with lime juice, olive oil, and salt to taste. Refrigerate the salad while you prepare tortillas.
- Prepare tortillas: Mix together tortilla ingredients until they come together as a soft dough similar in texture to play dough. If the dough is somewhat dry or crumbly when you try to roll a portion of it, stir in another tablespoon or so of water. Roll dough into 8 balls.
- If you have a tortilla press, you can use it to press the balls into 6-inch tortillas. Otherwise, roll out the tortilla between two sheets of wax paper or silicone liner. If you want the tortilla to be perfectly circular, use the rim of a cereal bowl to cut out circles. Keep both the unrolled balls and the rolled-out tortillas moist by covering them with a damp towel while you work.
- Heat a comal, griddle, crepe pan, or cast iron skillet with low sides over medium-high heat. Cook tortillas for about 1 minute on each side. When they are done, they should have a dry appearance on the surface but still be tender and pliable. Place tortillas in a dish covered with a napkin to keep warm and soft.
- Serve crab and other fillings: Put the crab in a serving dish and garnish with chives. Serve the lime wedges alongside. Serve guacamole, lettuce, and cheese in small dishes so that each person can assemble their tortilla as they like.