The second in a series: the first installment, Vegetarian Spring Rolls + Cauliflower Roast, is here.
My friend Katie is a farmer, a grad student, a mother, and a crazy good cook. We visited her family at their farm a few weeks ago, and for dinner she whipped up tacos with homemade tortillas and winter vegetables from their fields. (I, oh so helpfully, got to run up to the top field to pick the kale.) Topped with spicy citrusy crema, they were packed with flavor.
When we got home I realized I had a few bags of masa harina sitting in the pantry. They had been intended for pupusas, which are tasty and fun to make, but when I saw a tortilla press sitting on the shelf at Cookin’, our local secondhand cookware shop, it all came together.
Cookin’ is one of those off-center neighborhood treasures that drew me to San Francisco – those dusty, creaky shops that never seem to have customers but go on chuggin’. The owner is usually cranky, the aisles are precariously stacked with supplies, the labels are handwritten in spidery script, and a pricey almost-new enamel pot may perch next to an ancient $2 doohickey. I love it; it’s the reason I own half the weird kitchen shit I do, including my beloved 15-piece milk glass punch bowl set.
But back to the tacos (…always). When my parents arrived in town after a few days driving up the California coast. They had been eating richly and well, and requested something nutritious. Veggie tacos to the rescue!
First I halved, seeded and roasted butternut squash, then diced and browned it in olive oil and sage. (I try to keep cubes of herbs frozen in olive oil on hand in the freezer – it’s ridiculously convenient, and keeps me from ever wasting fresh herbs.) I sliced and roasted brussels sprouts and kale, then caramelized an onion and diced it as a topping.
To make the tacos, I used 2 cups of masa to 1 1/2 cups of hot water and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt – in all, I tripled the recipe to have tortillas to freeze. I kneaded until the dough was no longer sticky, and let it rest for half an hour. Then I rolled ping-pong sized balls of dough and placed them in the press in between a sliced-open plastic bag, to prevent sticking.
Each tortilla went on a hot griddle for a minute or two on each side, until the surface was pebbly and the slightest bit browned. I kept them wrapped in a towel and served them hot.
Everyone assembled their own tacos to their liking – my mom wasn’t in the mood for squash so she skipped it; my dad remains highly skeptical of brussels, no matter how many times I explain they’re nothing like the overboiled mush he grew up with. We all used a high volume of the fake crema, which I made by mixing full-fat Greek yogurt, lime juice, salt, and a chipotle powder from the farm that we call shprankle. Shprankle is mysterious magic – you can use any smoky chili powder you prefer.
It took a bit of time, but in the end we had toothsome, warm tortillas that were to your store-bought tortillas what a warm loaf of bread fresh from the oven is to Wonder Bread. The fillings were healthy and comforting, with just enough zest and acid from the crema to offset the rich squash. It’s also endlessly adaptable: I plan to work in grilled asparagus and peas in the spring, then squash and corn in the summer. And fresh salsa! Guys, fresh salsa. Something to look forward to.
BTW, if you’re interested in Katie’s farm, here are some more posts from the archives: