Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lentil Tacos with Homemade Tortillas

I have friends who constantly inspire me- making amazing food, passing along recipes and making me try things I wouldn't usually try.

This post is thanks to Jenn and Bri for their inspiration to try making homemade tortillas and lentil tacos. It is also thanks to my sister for buying me a tortilla press and some masa harina to get me started on this exciting food adventure!

For less than $15 you can get a tortilla press ($13) and a bag of masa harina ($1.50) to get you started too. Masa harina is a dried and powdered cornmeal that looks like white flour. We got both items from Que Pasa Foods in Richmond- http://www.quepasafoods.com/ . This is a super fun project for the kids, family or roommates to get involved with making dinner. You mix the flour and water together to make a soft playdough-like dough. Then the kids (or your hunky roommate?) will love to get involved by using all their strength to flatten the tortillas.

As soon as we tried our first tortilla hot off the pan, we were hooked. It took me back to a few years ago, when our neighbour often travelled to his other home in Mexico and would bring back fresh tortillas as a treat for our family. He said that they wouldn't usually make their own tortillas in his hometown because they had people making tortillas on every block. This is so easy I am not sure I would walk a block to buy tortillas now...

These tender corn tortillas can be filled with anything your heart desires...beans, chicken or beef. Or, you can try the lentil tacos that were adapted from my friend Bri's recipe.

These tortillas are also great as a snack, straight off the pan, sprinkled with a few grains of salt and rolled up!

If you want a super quick tutorial on just how easy it is, check out this short video my sister recorded: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JIZLOI7yqg

I am on the search for organic or non-GMO masa harina and will update when I find out where to get it.

Homemade Corn Tortillas
Makes approx 20 small tortillas
The recipe that the ladies at Que Pasa told us was 2 cups masa harina to 1 1/4 cups warm water. I made a 1 1/2 times recipe. You will need a tortilla press or a large flat surface to press with...a flat underside of a frying pan might work. Our tortilla press came with non-stick paper that is similar to waxed paper or parchment paper that is folded in half to cover the top and bottom of the press. My neighbour would often bring flaxmeal tortillas from Mexico, so I tried substituting a few tablespoons of golden flaxmeal for the flour and it worked quite well. The thinner you can get these babies, the better!

3 cups masa harina flour
1 3/4 -2 cups warm water
cooking oil
non-stick paper

1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix flour and 1 3/4 cup warm water together with a fork until it comes together.
2. Form into a soft dough by kneading it a bit in the bowl. Add more water (up to 1/4 cup) only if needed to form a soft dough with no cracks.
3. Heat cast iron pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Rub the pan with a paper towel that has a drop of oil on it.
4. Take a small, ping-pong ball sized amount of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten slightly and place just off centre (closer to clamp end) of tortilla press. Press down hard. Open and peel from paper.
5. Place on hot cast iron pan and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Turn over and cook for about the same amount of time. It should be cooked but not browned. If it sticks, add a bit more flour to your dough. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
6. Keep warm in tea towel or make a bunch and heat up again in pan or place a bunch under broiler in oven for a few seconds.

Lentil Tacos
I adapted my friend Bri's recipe based on what I had and what spices I like. Bri uses red lentils and chicken broth in her recipe but I had green (ahem, brown) lentils and thought they made it look "meaty", which is weird for this vegetarian to say, but something I sometimes desire texture-wise. I cooked them in lots of water with bay leaf, a couple cloves of garlic and 1/4 of an onion for 30 minutes and then drained them before proceeding. Canned lentils would work fine as well but you may not need to add any salt to this recipe.

2 tbsp cooking oil (sunflower, grapeseed, etc.)
1 onion, minced, grated or chopped in food processor
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4- 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
3 cups pre-cooked or canned lentils (I used brown)
3/4 cup water or chicken broth
optional: 1 tbsp tomato paste

1. Heat oil in large saute pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for a few minutes until softened by not overly browned. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
2. Add spices and cook for a minute to bring out the flavour. Add salt and lentils. Cook for a minute or two and then add liquid to make a nice mix that is neither too dry or saucy. Cook for a few more minutes until ready to serve.

Taco Accompaniments

Fresh Salsa: Chop and throw in together: 3 tomatoes, 1/4 of a red onion, 2 garlic cloves, a handful of cilantro, the juice of 1 lime and a touch of salt.
Salted Cabbage: thinly slice green cabbage and sprinkle with a touch of salt before serving.
Lime Cream: Mix together 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup plain yogurt and the juice of 1 lime.