According to Mayan legend, tortillas may have been invented more than 10,000 years BCC (before carbs counted).
Back then, tortillas were made of corn or maize cured in lime water (to release niacin and tryptophan), ground on a metate, kneaded into a dough called masa nixtamalera, pressed flat into thin patties, and cooked on a very hot comal (griddle). Flour tortillas are a relatively recent innovation, dating from the 16th Century.
Corn tortillas fresh from the tortilleria (tortilla factory) are the best; homemade tortillas, made with a press and comal, take a close second; but in The Perfect Pantry I keep a stash of versatile flour tortillas in my fridge or freezer.
Flour tortillas taste a bit bland, and that's a good thing. I've used them for wraps (filled with BBQ chicken, or roasted vegetables), for breakfast burritos (filled with hot-sauce laced scrambled eggs), for Asian salad rolls (filled with cold noodles, lettuce, sambal and mint), and of course for quesadillas (filled with cheese and anything you can imagine). I dry toast them — no oil — which keeps them light and clean-tasting.
It's easy, even in my somewhat rural part of New England, to find flour tortillas in the supermarket, in a range of sizes (6-10 inches, and sometimes larger), and colors (spinach- and sun-dried-tomato flavored tortillas add color as well as flavor). And no wonder — tortillas outsell all other ethnic breads (bagels, pita, etc.).
Flour tortillas have nearly double the calories and a third more carbs than corn tortillas. Those of us watching our carbs welcome the arrival of low-carb wheat tortillas. They're a bit more delicate than the regular flour tortillas, so don't fill them too far ahead of when you want to serve.
Roasted halibut tacos with mango salsa
This recipe, adapted from one Chef Eve Formisano shared with a Ninecooks class last year, is a summer winner. Serves 4; can be doubled, tripled, etc.
1 lb halibut steak, approximately 1” thick, bone in
8 leaves of bibb or other soft lettuce, trimmed
Salt & pepper
8 6” flour tortillas of your choice (plain, spinach, etc.)
Hot sauce (optional)
Make mango salsa (see below) and set aside.
Heat oven to 400°F. Place halibut on a rack in roasting pan (directly on pan also works), drizzle each side with olive oil and season each side with salt and pepper. Roast approx. 4 minutes per side. It will pull easily from the bone when done. Break up fish into small chunks and place in a separate bowl or plate, pouring any remaining pan juice over the fish. Roll up lettuce leaves and cut across into 1/8” chiffonade, or leave whole. Just before serving, place tortillas on oven rack to warm — about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Assemble with lettuce, fish and salsa. Have hot sauce on hand.
Yield: 2-1/2 cups
Adapted from: Miami Spice by Steve Raichlen
2 cups diced ripe mango (1 mango = approx. 1 cup)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 poblano chili, seeded and minced (optional)
1 jalapeno chili, seeded and minced
2 tsp minced fresh ginger, or more to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint or cilantro
1 Tbsp light brown sugar, or to taste
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and gently toss to mix. Correct the seasoning, adding salt, lime juice or sugar to taste. The salsa should be a little sweet and a little sour. Mango salsa tastes best served a couple of hours after making. Refrigerate, covered, until serving.
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