The Unbearable Lightness
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SUMMARY OF INTRODUCTION
SAMPLE CHAPTER: MASA
"Hi. My name is Lisa Consumer and I am a cookbook addict. I stopped by a bookstore before coming here, so it's been about 25 minutes since my last purchase.
I was hoping to find a cookbook that would help me to have a healthy Mexican culinary experience at home—not filled with page after page of gut-busting recipes that leave me feeling, ironically, hollow. Nothing will stop me from searching for that perfect Mexican cookbook."
The definitive guide to Cal-Mex cuisine. It's all here: from Mexico's history of native ingredients, to how these ingredients enhanced the world's culinary landscape as arriving cultures influenced native dishes. From how to make a pot of beans, to classic comfort foods, such as rich turkey mole and hibiscus tacos, this book contains concise instructions, a clean graphic layout and storage tips that any home chef can use.
This is a cornerstone cookbook for every kitchen.
Few Americans will stamp ravioli, or roll their own sushi, but plenty are happy to cook with tortillas. Here are four reliable segments of the population for our cookbook:
Today's women are a powerful consumer force and account for 85% of all consumer purchasing. They now control $3.3 trillion in consumer spending and more than 50% of the wealth in the U.S. When women stop shopping, consumerism will be dead. Until then, women will continue to buy 65% of cookbooks sold.
There are eighty million millennials in America alone, representing about a fourth of the entire population. With $200 billion in annual buying power, Gen Ys are looking for products that are not necessarily big brands—they want authenticity and value healthy, organic, unprocessed foods. To this generation, ethnic food is what they were raised on and have eaten on a day-to-day basis. Their eating habits are proving to be unlike any generation before them.
Latinos are no longer just a sub-segment of the economy—they are emerging as a powerhouse of economic influence. With Latinos making up more than a quarter of the U.S. population, the American culinary experience will continue to be influenced by Mexican cuisine.
NORWAY? NO WAY!
Yes way! Norwegians are crazy about tacos. In fact, nearly one million Norwegians enjoy tacos every Friday night. The generation Y of Norway have coined the term “fredagstaco” to describe the cultural phenomenon of starting the weekend off with tacos. Let's blow their Northern European minds and introduce them to the likes of ceviche!
There are many promotional avenues available for BEANS. Melanie and I plan to cover a great deal of ground by utilizing the following:
Virtual book tour. We will have a pre-arranged series of guest posts on book blogs.
We will make a series of how-to videos for YouTube.
A press release will be sent to magazines and Features editors of newspapers.
We will create a ten page teaser book. Free. If they like the content they’ll be back.
We will use Annette's Amazon Author Page and add an image of our cookbook and a link.
I will spread the word on the Latino email list I started while writing Homegrown Healing. The updated email list includes Reforma, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos.
PBS pledge week. Donating a stack of books makes the fundraising breaks much more tolerable to watch.
We are planning signings at bookstores and food festivals.
With cookbook clubs being the new way to entertain, Mel and I will speak at these home events. We will teach food-lovers of all ages how to make the dishes, straight from the pages of our cookbook.
Cookbook lovers also subscribe to cooking magazines. Melanie has already started writing food articles. Here is her latest.
I can't imagine a
world without Mexican food.
If you could have anyone in the world prepare a
dinner of your favorite Mexican dishes, would you
choose Diana Kennedy, Rick Bayless, Fiona Dunlop,
Susan Feniger, or the “Taco King,” Alex Stupak?
Maybe you would prefer a Mexican chef
prepare your meal, like Roberto Santibañez,
Margarita Carrillo, Marcella Valladolid,
Zarela Martinez, her son, Aarón Sánchez,
or my abuelita?
Each cookbook narrator has contributed in many different ways to Mexican cuisine by changing perceptions and exposing us to a wider range of food preparation. Mexican cuisine offers an incredibly unique means of experiencing a culture, its people, and the journey through America and around the world.
Our collection of recipes shares many surprising similarities to the dishes my mother brought with her from Mexico. In THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEANS, Melanie Rogers (holistic chef) and I have gathered recipes that highlight the vitality of traditional Mexican cuisine, while supporting healthy lifestyles. Offering unique anthropological perspectives and origin stories of native foods, BEANS is a cultural and culinary adventure in health-supportive dishes.
Melanie and I are not celebrity chefs. We are two saucy women with a passion for comfort food from the vantage point of a Mexican country kitchen. Good simple cooking, healing recipes and family stories.
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
History of Mexican Cuisine
History of Avocados
CHILI CUMIN POPCORN
CHORIZO (SOYRIZO) STUFFED MUSHROOMS
AVOCADO DEVILED EGGS
EASY STUFFED POBLANOS
MOORISH CAKES WITH AVOCADO CRÈME
PINTO BEAN FRITTERS
DIP A CHIP IN IT
History of Tomatillos
BLOODY MARY SALSA
SPICY CILANTRO CASHEW CREMA
CHIPOTLE QUEMADO – ROASTED CHIPOTLE SALSA
EASY BLENDER TACO SAUCE
GRILLED CORN SALSA
PICO DE GALLO WITH ORANGE ZEST
PUMPKIN SEED SALSA
ROASTED SALSA VERDE
SALSA CRUDA - RAW SAUCE
TOMATILLO AVOCADO SALSA
WARM CHORIZO SALSA
THE SPICY ONE - SALSA DE CHILE HABANERO
SLOW COOK MOLE
MOLE DE CACAHUATE - GROUND PEANUTS MOLE
MOLE DULCE - SWEET MOLE
MOLE MANCHAMANTELES - TABLECLOTH STAINER
BROTHS, SOUPS AND STEWS
History of the Potato
BASIC CHICKEN BROTH
BASIC VEGETARIAN BROTH
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH CHILE DE ARBOL
SAFFRON BROTH WITH SQUASH BLOSSOMS
CALDO TLALPEÑO - SPICY CHICKEN SOUP
CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP (SOPA AZTECA)
CHILI AND CHOCOLATE STEW
CHILLED AVOCADO SOUP
COOL CUCUMBER & CILANTRO SOUP
DRIED SHRIMP BROTH
FAVA BEAN SOUP
POTATO KALE SOUP
LENTIL SOUP WITH PANELA CHEESE
MUSHROOM JALAPENO SOUP
POBLANO POTATO SOUP
PORK AND SQUASH STEW
SMOKEY BEEF BROTH
SOPA DE FIDEO - NOODLE SOUP
SOPA DE PESCADO SIETE MARES - SEVEN SEAS SOUP
SPICY GARBANZO SOUP
History of Avocados
AVOCADO, ORANGE AND JICAMA SALAD
CUMIN SCENTED BEET SALAD
NOPALES SALAD WITH SPICY PICKLED ONIONS
CHILE POBLANO SALAD
CORN, BLACK BEAN, AND CHARRED RED PEPPER SALAD
AVOCADO SALAD WITH ARUGULA AND LIME
ROASTED SQUASH SALAD WITH PEPITAS
TOMATO SALAD WITH QUESO FRIER AND CILANTRO
GARLICKY SHRIMP SALAD
RAW TOMATILLO SALAD WITH LIME DRESSING
ROASTED STREET CORN SALAD WITH QUESO FRESCO DRESSING
WINTER SALAD WITH CHORIZO DRESSING
History of Masa
TORTILLAS CON SAZÓN
THE LITTLE FAT ONES - GORDITAS
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
THE DOUGH TEST
THREE WAYS TO FOLD TAMALES
MASA CON SAZÓN
BEANS AND GRAINS
History of Amaranth
ARROZ A AL JARDINERA - GARDEN RICE
MUSHROOM CHIPOTLE BARLEY PILAF
ARROZ HUÉRFANO - ORPHAN’S RICE
AMARANTH CORN FRITTERS
HISTORY OF AMARANTH
CILANTRO LIME RICE
QUINOA WITH SQUASH AND SAFFRON
FRIJOLES DE LA HOYA
AVOCADO LIME BLACK BEANS
FRIJOLES A LA CHARRA - BEANS WITH SAUSAGE AND CHILIES
FRIJOLES BORRACHOS - DRUNKEN BEANS
YAMS AND WHITE BEANS
History of Nopales
TOMATOES WITH NOPALES AND ONIONS
CALABACITAS CON ELOTE - ZUCCHINI WITH CORN
CAMOTES AL HORNO - BAKED YAMS
FRIED AVOCADO SLICES
ROASTED CORN AND POBLANOS
SAUTED MUSHROOMS WITH CREMA
SPICY SQUASH PUREE
STEAMED SPINACH WITH SESAME SEEDS AND CHIPOTLE
MEAT, POULTRY AND FISH
History of the Turkey
APRICOT, TEQUILA GLAZED TURKEY
ALBONDIGÓN - MEATLOAF
ROAST PORK ROAST IN WHITE WINE
PORK WITH POTATOES AND ORANGE
CHORIZO DE CAMPECHE
PORK RIBS WITH LENTILS
BEEF STEW WITH PINEAPPLE
BEEF BISCUITS IN CHILE PASILLA
BEEF TONGUE IN PEANUT SALSA
CHICKEN IN LIVER AND CHIPOTLE SAUCE
CHICKEN IN GRAPE SAUCE
OLD SCHOOL CEVICHE
HALIBUT IN CREAMY CHIPOTLE SALSA
SUCCULENT SNAPPER WITH TOASTED ALMONDS
SALPICON – SHREDDED BEEF
AL PASTOR OR TACOS DE ADOBADA
BAJA STYLE SHRIMP
BAJA STYLE FISH
History of the Papaya
PAPAYA HABANERO SORBET
ALEGRÍAS - AMARANTH DESSERTS
ARROZ CON LECHES – RICE PUDDINGS
BIONICOS – FRUIT SALADS
BUÑUELOS - FRITTERS
HOT MOLE FUDGE SUNDAE
SPICED AVOCADO CHOCOLATE MOUSE
PALETAS - POPSICLES
PASTEL DE QUESOS - CHEESECAKES
History of Chocolate and Vanilla
AGUAS DE HORCHATAS – RICE WATERS
AGUA DE FRESA – STRAWBERRY WATER
AGUA DE SANDIA – WATERMELON WATER
ATOLES - CORNMEAL DRINKS
JAMAICA – HIBISCUS TEA
PONCHES – FRUIT PUNCHES
ROMPOPE - EGGNOG
"Keep it simple, stupid." That's what I say to myself when I picture the book jacket.
While at a friend's kitchen for the first time, I noticed her shelved cookbooks were wrapped in grocery bags with the handwritten titles on the spines. It took me back to the days when we used to make paper bag covers to protect our school books.
With such nostalgia in mind, I see a brown cover with a spare pastel drawing of indigenous fruit or vegetables (ie. tomatoes, avocados, potatoes, chocolate, vanilla beans...). The font on the book should be handwritten.
A single bean sprout should appear on the spine.
SUMMARY OF INTRODUCTION
Despasio se va lejos
Slowly one goes far
When my mother first arrived in this country, she was given a goat. It was 1958, and being from one of the scattered pueblos in Jalisco, Mexico, Felicitas was deeply touched. Now she would be able to add tangy goat cheese to her beans, soups, and tortilla dishes...
In the introduction, I explore my mother's culture shock as the fifteen-year-old bride realizes the "C" on the faucet does not stand for "Caliente"; her food epiphany as she stands in a Safeway grocery store for the first time; how she alters her outmoded recipes to American standards by adding cheddar, flour and heavy meat dishes to her family's diet.
The chapter ends with my culinary odyssey—deconstructing the Mexican dishes of my childhood to create healthier dishes. Imagine my surprise as I discover that my healthy “makeovers” share many similarities to the original recipes my mother brought with her from Mexico, over fifty years ago.
HISTORY OF MEXICAN CUISINE
Mexican cuisine is the unique language of a millennia-old culture. An oral history; pardon the pun. When you eat Mexican food you are learning about not only the people, but the climate, the agricultural practices, the religions, traditions and rituals of the country. In 2010, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the cuisine of Mexico as a cultural heritage. Also honored was a place called France.
Mexico's traditional food chain can be traced back several thousand years to indigenous Mesoamerica. The people inhabiting Mexico developed a comprehensive food culture when they first planted corn, beans and squash together on a mound of soil. Early observers noted the symbiotic relationship of these three plants. The maize grows first, providing a stalk for the beans to scale toward the sun. The squash leaves stay low to the ground keeping water from evaporating, while guarding its flourishing companions against weeds.
This nourishing trio of plants known as the "three sisters" formed the staple diet in Mexico's ancestral agriculture. Corn, beans and squash also complement each other nutritionally. Corn supplies carbohydrates and a variety of amino acids. Beans are protein rich, and supply the amino acids that corn lacks. Summer squash is a rich source of Vitamin A and C, magnesium, fiber, folate, riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium and Vitamin B6. When planted together, the trio reduce the nutritional strain on the soil. Corn is nitrogen leaching and beans are nitrogen fixing. At the end of the season, the crop residue was used by the early farmers to build up the soil’s organic matter.
As the Mexica (early Aztecs) became skilled at farming, they planted more seeds and rotated crops. They grew amaranth, sage, chile peppers, annatto, chia, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yucca, jícama, cassava, chayote, nopales, and peanuts. Fruit, such as guavas, papayas, pineapple, mamey, and chirimoyas, were also harvested. Popcorn was a favorite snack as were sweet treats made from the baked leaves of the maguey agave.
In a world void of beasts of burden, and with a growing urban settlement on Tenochitlan, space on the island was at a premium. The early Aztecs developed a sophisticated farming system involving raised beds they called "chinampas" or "floating gardens." The chinampas were extremely fertile pieces of land, and yielded several crops annually. With the advancement in agriculture—and barring heavy rainfalls or swarms of insects—a farmer only needed to work three months a year to harvest enough produce to feed his family for a full year.
To get enough protein, deer, iguana, peccary, raccoon, wildfowl, and rabbit were hunted. In the swamps and the sea, fish was caught and frogs, tadpoles, and shrimp collected. A variety of insects and larvae were also consumed. Algae, made into cakes, provided a rich source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Now that the people were living a sedentary life, turkeys (totolin), dogs (xoloitzcuintles), ducks and honeybees were domesticated.
Daily meals were prepared with a metate y mano (mortar and ground stone). Made from lava rock or stone, the surface is slightly concave and used to mash the ingredients. Another tool used was the molcajete (mortar and pestle). The food was cooked in a comal (griddle) or olla (cooking pot) over a stone hearth. Meat was often wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled or steamed.
By the 1400s, the Aztec Empire was thriving, and social status determined what people ate. Aztec campesinos (commoners) had a low fat and predominantly vegetarian diet. They ate twice a day; the first meal after a few hours of morning work. The main meal was consumed during the hottest time of the day. Tortillas, beans, squash, avocados, fruit and salsas were common fare. Noble Aztec families ate more and had a greater variety of foods which included meat dishes and chocolate.
The turning point in Aztec history began when the eastern and western hemispheres first met. It was on a Good Friday in the year 1519, when Hernan Cortés landed near present-day Veracruz. The worldly travelers brought with them their own culture along with their historical exchanges in Europe, including the Romans, the German nomadic tribes, and Moorish influenced Spain.
Being that it was Montezuma’s first encounter with people from the wider world, he welcomed the weary travelers with a great banquet the likes of which the Spaniards had never seen before. One of Cortés’ rodeleros (shield bearers) by the name of Bernal Díaz del Castillo would later write of the banquets he witnessed in Teotihuacan:
First course: "Fowls, turkey, pheasants, partridges, quails, tame and wild geese, venison, musk swine, pigeons, hares, rabbits, and numerous other birds and beasts."
Second course: "Tortillas, kneaded with eggs and other sustaining ingredients, and these tortillas were very white, and they were brought on plates covered with clean napkins, and they also brought him another kind of bread, like long balls kneaded with other kinds of sustaining food, and pan pachol, for so they call it in this country, which is a sort of wafer."
Third course: "Every kind of fruit which the country produced."
Drink: "Every now and then was handed to him a golden pitcher filled with a kind of liquor made from the cacao."
Eventually, tensions mounted between the Aztecs and the Spaniards and octli or pulque-induced fights broke out.
After the conquest of Teotihuacan and its remaining inhabitants, Cortés sent his ships back to Spain filled with gold, silver, fine textiles and the ingredients that would forever change the gastronomy of other cultures. It's difficult to imagine Italy without tomatoes, Ireland without potatoes, and cold winter nights without a cup of hot Swiss chocolate.
The ships returned to Nueva España with the flavors from their beloved homeland: garlic, olive oil, onions, oregano, coriander, cinnamon, cloves and other herbs and spices. Aztec jaws must have dropped as unimagined animals arrived in their former city: cows, pigs, chickens, goats and sheep. With the new animals, new foods and methods of preparation were introduced, such as cheese, butter and lard. The Spaniards also introduced products from other parts of the world.
Finding the local quality of the native dishes to be inferior to their own, the encomenderos (the Spanish soldiers who were granted a village and its Indian inhabitants) expected their Aztec women not only to learn to speak Spanish and adopt their religion, but recreate their foods. The women got around the latter by absorbing the Spanish flavors while keeping their own form of cooking intact. The scarcity and cost of the ingredients kept the Spaniards from demanding a total gastronomic assimilation from their entrusted natives.
The Catholic Church’s influence was reflected when missionaries began arriving in 1523. The Spanish nuns invented much of today's more sophisticated Mexican dishes. They created cajeta, buñuelos, and an eggnog called rompope. Other dishes that originated in the colonial period include Lomo en adobo (pork loin in a spicy sauce), chiles rellenos, guacamole, and escabeche.
Mole poblano is the most famous of the nuns' creations. Mulliwas a typical sauce of the Nahuas which combined a variety of chiles. For a dinner in honor of the new archbishop, one of the nuns of the Convent of Santa Rosa thought it would be best to alter the mulli to keep it from being too spicy for their respected guest. She added chocolate, peanuts, sesame and cinnamon to the sauce and mole was created.
During the tumultuous colonial period (1580 to 1640), approximately 200,000 African slaves were brought to Mexico as a labor force to fill the gap left by the decimated native population. One of the most important contributions of African cooking was the use of the peanut in dishes. Although the peanut originated in the Americas, peanuts were brought to Africa by the Portuguese. The peanut recipes returned to Mexico with the African slaves in the form of meat stews, fish and vegetable dishes. Ground with onions and chiles, the Africans created such seed-based sauces as pippins and salsa macha.
After Mexico's independence was declared in 1821, there was a strong anti-Spanish sentiment in the fledgling country. Many of the cooks of the period preferred to highlight the non-Spanish elements of their cuisine, so the indigenous dishes acquired a nostalgic cachet. Some of the native dishes had evolved with European ingredients (such as the adding of lard to tamales), from which there was no turning back.
A great wave of migration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought Mennonite, Welsh, Italian, Lebanese, and Chinese immigrants to the new nation of Mexico. With the assimilation of each new culture, came worldly gastronomic influences.
The Welsh were the first to arrive in the 1820s, where they worked in silver mines in the northeast of Mexico City. The Cornish introduced a number of leisure activities to Mexico, including the sport of soccer. They also brought pasties, now known as pastes. These small pastries are stuffed with a variety of sweet or savory fillings, and still considered a local specialty in Hidalgo.
In the aftermath of the Mexican-American war of 1846-48, the southwestern borders may have shifted as the United States acquired New Mexico, but the Mexicans remained behind. Many Mexican ingredients and culinary techniques entered the diets and kitchens of the North American pioneers. New Mexican and TexMex styles of cooking were born.
Speaking of TexMex...
A Southwest American Indian legend connects chili to a Spanish nun named Sister Mary of Agreda, a town in northeast Spain. She is believed to be the one who put the first chili recipe on paper in the 17th century. How the recipe made it from Agreda to America is unclear, as is the case with most legends.
Mexico was invaded, once again, in 1862 and this time by the French. Ferdinand Maximilian’s reign in Mexico was brief and tragic, but French cooking left its mark. French-inspired Mexican dishes include chiles en nogado (stuffed chiles in a walnut sauce), and conejo en mostaza (rabbit in mustard sauce). Also left behind were a variety of breads such as bolillos and conchas.
In 1882, a group of five hundred Northern Italians settled in Puebla, Mexico. The Northern Italian diet was similar to that of the immigrants’ new country, although there were key differences in the preparations of these ingredients. Corn was made into polenta rather than into masa-based dishes. Rice was prepared as a risotto. The altering of main dishes aside, the Northern Italian legacy continues in Chipilo cheese and butter.
Chinese immigrants came to Mexico in the 1880s as cheap labor for major projects including railroads and irrigation. As a result, Chinese ingredients like soy sauce became a regular part of some Mexican diets. That influence can still be tasted in dishes like pescado zarandeado. Chinese migrants also brought stir-fry to northern Mexico, particularly the state of Sonora.
In 1890, 450 German families arrived in the southern state of Chiapas. Extensive coffee cultivation quickly made Sosonuco one of the most successful German colonies. They also brought beer brewing techniques, and today, the German’s influence can still be tasted in two popular beer brands, Negra Modelo and Dos Equis Ambar.
Beginning in the late 1800s, the first wave of Lebanese immigrants arrived in Mexico, driven from their homeland by the oppressive Ottoman regime. During the Six Day War of 1948, a second wave of immigration brought thousands of Lebanese to settle in Veracruz. They developed a dish adapted from shawarma-style or spit-grilled lamb. A century later Lebanese spit turns out tacos al pastor, now made with pork.
In 1920-22, roughly 6,000 Mennonites migrated from Canada to Northern Mexico. They brought Northern and Eastern European culinary traditions to their new country. The cheese they created was first known as queso menonita, but eventually spread in popularity to the rest of Mexico and took on its present name of queso Chihuahua.
Mexican cuisine had minimal importance or prestige in the 1970s. It was thought that the national cuisine should not reach the big tables, leaving aside national traditions and ingredients. As a result, many traditional ingredients of pre-Hispanic cuisine began to disappear. In the 1980s, Mexican cuisine experienced a renaissance. Chefs created the nueva cocina mexicana in order to restore as well as reinvent traditional dishes.
A tour through the cuisines of Mexico is a history lesson for the palate. Years of conquests and waves of immigration have resulted in the introduction of new ingredients and techniques that have enhanced Mexican cooking and expanded the country’s definition of authentic cuisine. At the same time, at its roots are the native foods and dishes that were known to the Aztecs and continue to be enjoyed today, not only in Mexico, but around the globe.
The Origin of Masa
“Tita knew through her own flesh how fire transforms the
elements, how a lump of corn flour is changed into a tortilla,
how a soul that hasn't been warmed by the fire of love is
lifeless, like a useless ball of corn flour."—Laura Esquivel
Teosinte grass originally grew in Central America and Mexico during Pre-Columbian times. When the plant was cultivated into corn, several thousand years ago, the kernels were small and resembled the seeds on a wheat stalk. Since maize could be eaten fresh or dried and stored, the domestication of the plant was critical to the early survival of the Aztec, Maya, Inca, and native North Americans.
The Mesoamerican civilization discovered the process of nixtamalization in 3,000 BC. "Nixtamalization" from the Aztec word "nixtamalli,” a combination of the words for ashes and dough, involves cooking and steeping corn in an alkaline solution to soften the kernel’s tough outer layer. After the liquid is drained and the pericarp, or skin, removed, the batch of corn is ground into the dough known as masa. Not only does nixtamalization allow the grain to absorb water quickly and grind more easily, but it also increases the bioavailability of the then-unknown niacin.
The Aztecs revered corn and honored the plants with deities. Per Aztec legend, Quetzalcoatl, the God of civilization, collected precious bones from the underworld and sprinkled them with his blood. He took the sacred bones to Coatlicue, the mother of the gods, who milled them. From the kneaded dough, she created the first two humans.
The gods watched as their fledglings became weak with hunger. While the gods were trying to figure out what to feed us, Quetzalcoatl noticed a red ant carrying a corn kernel out of a mountain. He turned himself into a black ant, and then went into Tonacatépetl, the Mountain of Our Sustenance. Quetzalcoatl found the hidden corn and brought it back to where the deities lived. The gods chewed the corn and put some of the corn paste into our mouths. And that was our first taste of food.
For thousands of years, maize had spiritual and religious significance. From birth, when the umbilical cord would be cut over a maize cob, to death, when a small piece of maize dough was placed in the mouth of the deceased, maize played a central role in the cultures of Mesoamerica.
The Aztecs ate twice daily, with the main meal being served during the hottest time of the day. This mid-afternoon meal consisted of "tlaxcalli" a flat maize bread eaten with sauces and served with whole beans, avocados, squash and fruit.
Pozole, from the Nahuatl "potzolli" which means foamy, is a soup that was served during special occasions and rituals. Hominy boiled with the skin of sacrificed human prisoners—was served in communal ceremonies.
For the Spanish conquistadors, the story of masa began in 1519, when Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico. The first mention of corn appears in a second letter from Cortés to King Charles V of Spain. In the letter dated 1520, he wrote, " . . maize, in the grain and in the form of bread, preferred in the grain for its flavor to that of the other islands and Terra-firma..."
The Aztecs served the Spaniards "tlaxcalli," a name they changed to "tortilla" in honor of the "little cake" of their homeland. Other masa-based dishes served were "chīllapītzalli" the Nahuatl words for "chili" and "flute" The dish eventually became known as enchiladas, and "chīlāquilitl" known today as chilaquiles.
At Coyoacán the Spaniards also enjoyed the "tamalii," a word they altered to "tamale." The “wrapped food,” as the Nahuatl name translated, was filled with a variety of meats, seafood, vegetables, insects, worms, fungi, nuts and fruit and wrapped in corn husks, avocado leaves or banana leaves. These portable morsels would prove beneficial for the conquistadors' future travels.
Corn (batches of tamales and stacks of tortillas) was among the foods taken back to Europe. The plant quickly spread throughout France, Italy, southeastern Europe, and northern Africa. By 1575, corn was making its way into western China, and had become important in the Philippines and the East Indies.
Back in Mexico, Franciscan Friar Bernardino de Sahagun (1450-1590), assembled a compendium of all things relating to native history and customs that might be useful for Christianizing the Aztecs. The following is Father Sahagún's description of a tamale vendor: "He sells meat tamales, turkey meat packets, plain tamales, tamales with chili,…frog tamales, pocket gopher tamales: tasty, tasty, very tasty."
In 1845 the Republic of Texas was annexed to the United States and became the 28th state. The country’s borders shifted, but the Mexicans remained, along with their food and culture. Taquerias of Tejas, now Texas, grew in popularity and spread throughout the southwest. When Mexico’s revolution of 1848 brought an influx of Mexican refugees to the states, the demand for Mexican food grew.
In 1914 a Midwestern housewife, Bertha Haffner-Ginger, recorded the first masa recipe in English. “California Mexican-Spanish Cook Book" introduced authentic Mexican food to Anglo-Americans.
Equivalent to that embarrassing 7th grade yearbook picture, the tortilla's least flattering moment occurred in 1938. To make tortillas available to more Americans, El Paso began selling a canned version. Although almost extinct, canned tortillas are still manufactured by companies for survivalist rations.
In the 1940s, electric motors powered wet-grain grinders began making masa for the first time. By the 1970s, tortilla-making machines produced hot tortillas every two seconds! Despite mechanization, corn tortillas in Mexico are still far from standardized. They are made from white, yellow, blue, or red corn and are anywhere from two inches to 12 inches in diameter.
The ancient process of making masa is still used today to make tortillas, tamales, gorditas, hominy and a variety of regional dishes. Masa is a culinary mainstay of the Mexican culture and is consumed daily by 94 percent of the population, regardless of social class. As one of Mexico’s staples, tortillas constitute more than half the daily calories and protein for the poor.
Although maize is no longer sacred in Mexico, it is still considered bad luck to drop a tortilla.
Origin of Corn
The tortilla is the perfect food, and serves also as a delicious plate and spoon. Tortillas’ high carbohydrate content make them a great source of energy. They are also rich in calcium, potassium and phosphorus. Tortillas provide fiber, protein and some vitamins such as A, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin.
2 cups masa harina
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 cups hot water (more or less) from the tap
For more supple tortillas add 1 tsp. cornstarch
Mix masa harina and salt in a bowl with your fingers, and then shape into a volcano. Pour hot tap water slowly and knead until it looks like Playdough. If it’s too sticky add more masa harina, or, if it’s too dry add a bit more water. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Preheat a griddle or flat surface. Divide the dough into 2 inch balls, about the size of a walnut.
WITHOUT A TORTILLA PRESS
Place a dough ball on one of the parchment sheets, and place the other sheet on top. Use a glass pie plate to press the tortilla to about 6 inches diameter and 1/8 inch thick.
WITH A TORTILLA PRESS
The easiest way to make tortillas and keep the masa from sticking is to line a tortilla press
with a couple of plastic freezer bags. Press the dough to about 6 inches diameter and 1/8 inch thick. Keep in mind that the tortilla press does not work well with flour tortillas, due to the elasticity of gluten.
The uncooked tortillas can be pressed and stacked between layers of wax paper and stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator overnight. Extra dough can be placed in a freezer ziplock bag and frozen for up to one month.
Heat an ungreased skillet (we like to use cast iron, but use what you have) over medium heat. To gently dry the surface of the tortilla, using your palms, pass the tortilla between your hands a few times before placing on the hot skillet. Cook for approximately two minutes per side—when cooked, the tortilla will be dry, and lightly browned. Wrap in a cloth napkin or kitchen towel to keep warm while you continue cooking remaining tortillas.
Las nuevas ideas provienen de tradiciones muy antiguas.
New ideas come from very old traditions.
TORTILLAS CON SAZÓN
Infusing tortillas is surprisingly easy. By
replacing the water with a flavored liquid or
adding ingredients to the dry masa, you can
add unimagined flavors to your meals.
Broth Infused Tortillas --
Garlicky Parmesan Tortillas --
Jalapeño & Lime Tortillas --
Poblano Chile Tortillas --
Ancho Chile Tortillas --
Guajillo Chile Tortillas --
Achiote Tortillas --
Bell Pepper Tortillas --
Sweet Corn Tortillas --
Cilantro Lime Tortillas --
Beet Tortillas --
Cannabis Tortillas --
Substitute beef, chicken or vegetable broth for water.
Add 3 cloves (roasted or raw) minced garlic and 2 tablespoons of finely grated of parmesan cheese
Add 1 teaspoon minced jalapeño 1/4 cup lime juice
Add 2 poblanos, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
Add 2 dried chile anchos, peeled, seeded and diced
Add 2 dried chile guajillo, seeded and pureed
Dissolve 2 tablespoons of achiote paste into water
Add 1 roasted (red, green or yellow) pepper, peeled, seeded and diced
Add 3-4 tablespoons of sweet raw corn kernels
Add 3 cups cleaned chopped cilantro (1 large bunch), to blender, then add water up to the 1 1/2 cup water mark
Add 2 boiled red beets, peeled and pureed
Substitute1 cup marijuana flour (see About Cannabis)
NO-FRY CRUNCHY TACO SHELLS
Forget about buying taco shells. Baking your own is healthy, easy and inexpensive! What I like best about these shells is that they remain slightly pliable and can be overstuffed without crumbling.
Preheat oven to 350°.
To keep the tortillas from cracking, steam in batches of 6 over boiling water for 1 minute. Another way to soften the tortillas is to place a stack of 6 on a plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave tortillas for about 30 seconds to soften.
The tortillas will be hot. Carefully drape each tortilla over rung of the oven rack. For wider tacos drape over 2 rungs.
Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes, or until crispy.
JUST FOR KIDS
Nurture your kid's creative spirit with edible arts-and-crafts.
You may not want to mention these treats are healthy.
Pre-heat oven to 350°.
Carefully fold each tortilla into cone shapes and secure with a toothpick. In an ungreased cookie sheet, bake cones for 10 to12 minutes, or until crispy. Remove cones from the oven and let cool. Remove the toothpicks. Fill with the normally ignored vegetable and place a scoop of guacamole on top.
CINNAMON TORTILLA CHIPS
These chips are still more healthy than
fried tortilla chips and taste like like dessert.
Brush coconut oil over one side of tortilla.
Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.
Place slices on an ungreased baking sheet (sugar side up).
Bake at 350 degrees 10 minute or until light brown.
SWEET SALSA RECIPES
Pineapple and Mango Salsa
Peach and Mint Salsa
Blueberry, Strawberry and Jicama Salsa
Pomegranate and Pear Salsa
Meyers Lemon Salsa
Hot Bananas and Coconut Salsa
PRESSING EDIBLE FLOWERS
Pressing fresh flowers into homemade tortillas adds color and beauty to this culinary staple. Before you begin, ensure that you are using organic flowers, free of pesticides, and that the flowers are indeed safe for human consumption. A small selection might include squash blossoms, pansies, rose petals, marigolds (which are also used during Day of the Dead observances as offerings), and hibiscus. The delicate leaves of herbs, such as parsley, chives, and cilantro would also make beautiful and tasty additions. I’d recommend sampling the flower petals before pressing them into your masa to ensure that the taste is agreeable, as flavors may become more intense after cooking.
Use the master tortilla recipe, or any of the variations, proceed as instructed. Arrange your flowers or herbs as desired, then gently press again to adhere the flowers in place. Pan fry as instructed to finish.