I was doing my daily food research online the other day and got an urge to try something that I had yet to do. I wanted to make my own homemade tortillas. So I went onto smile.amazon.com and ordered myself some masa harina and a tortilla press! This inspired another interest in making homemade beans instead of using the usual canned variety. Although there are many good quality canned organic beans readily available these days, none of them compare to slow cooked homemade (from dry) beans.
Let’s begin with the tortilla story. A friend of mine had warned me that my project could result in a floury mess with a less than perfect result. I began somewhat hesitantly and went online to watch a youtube video for the “how to” on making tortillas. Much to my delight, the process turned out to be quite simple and seemingly foolproof. It also helped that I had a crew around (my kids) to help with an assembly line to make it a seamless project. The dough itself is comprised solely of masa harina flour, water and salt. You mix it all together, let it rest and then begin the process of assembly and cooking. Making balls was a snap as was pressing the tortillas in my new tortilla press. A great tip from the kitchn blog told me to cut a gallon size plastic baggie down the sides and lay it into my press. That kept the tortillas from sticking to the press and allowed us to simply peel them off when done. Off to the pan for a quick toast and voilla – we had homemade corn tortillas!Although it only takes a couple minutes per side to toast them, it does need to be done on a hot skillet, so you may find that the first few take a bit longer than the proceeding tortillas. Once they are lightly browned in spots, they are done and you don’t want them to crisp up too much, so best to brown them quickly. After cooking, if you rest them in a clean dish towel, they will remain warm and will soften a bit from the steam.
Now on to my beans. Some more online research brought me to a recipe from someone’s grandmother who had written it in script many years ago on little sheets of paper. They transcribed it and it was posted in a New York times article. My husband said they were the best beans he ever had and I have to agree with him!
Before I began the recipe, I decided to search the question that everyone has about dried beans. To soak or not to soak! I was surprised to find quite a varying opinion on the subject. There are those that believe it is a wasted step and others who swear by it. I decided to take a middle of the road approach and soaked the beans overnight, drained “most” of the liquid but did not rinse them. This, I hoped would keep some of the rich color and retain the soaking liquid flavor without retaining all of the sugars that create gas. I believe the result speaks for itself as they were perfect!
To create a meal out of my two projects, I made two versions of vegetable tacos, guacamole, blistered padron peppers and all of the toppings to go with. My veggie combinations were roasted in the oven on separate sheet pans for ease and flavor. One pan held slices of delicata squash and red onions. The other had chunks of sweet potatoes, sliced leeks and sweet orange pepper slices. All tossed lightly with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. For toppings I served homemade tomato salsa, cotija cheese, shredded cabbage and cilantro.
The next day I used the leftovers to make vegetable and bean nachos and they were simply divine. You may not want to make your own tortillas and homemade beans every day, but for as simple as it was with the incredible difference in taste, you owe it to yourself to give it a try!
(click title for complete recipe and instructions)