Eat Well: The Mamas & the Pupusas

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
The other day when I was gathering gluten free flours at the market to make America’s Test Kitchen flour blend, I spotted a bag of organic masa harina and thought to myself, “Hmmm… I‘ve never made homemade tortillas before.  That might be fun!”  So I bought the bag and made some tortillas to accompany our chile relleno dinner. I have no idea why I never have done this before…probably because I live in San Diego where authentic and delicious tortillas are everywhere. But I soon found that homemade tortillas are not only easy to make, they are light-years better than the standard processed tortillas you find in the store. Plus…you can make as many as you need.  (I am always throwing out tortillas because they come in big packages and I only need a few at a time and they get lost in the back of the refrigerator until they turn green.) 

Masa Harina is made from field corn, or maize, that has been dried, soaked in slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) to become hominy.  It is then dried again and ground into flour. This process turns the corn into dough when water is added so it can be shaped into tortillas. The liming process greatly increases nutrition by adding calcium and reacting with the corn to create a digestible form of niacin.

After my first attempt at making tortillas, I looked for other masa harina recipes.  It turns out that, once again, America’s Test Kitchen came through with a recipe for pupusas, which is a traditional dish from El Salvador. Basically a pupusa is a stuffed tortilla and is served with curtido, a cabbage salad.  You can stuff pupusas with cheese, meat, or beans. They are really easy to make and are FUN to prepare with kids. (Traditionally, loroco flowers are added to the cheese filling which can sometimes be found at Latin markets.) Children can participate in all steps of the cooking…adding water to the masa, kneeding it, making the “pinch pots,” adding the stuffing, and rolling out the pancakes. Pupusas were a BIG hit with the kids when I came up last week for Rebecca's birthday.
photo 1 (98) At the Calder + Van Gogh to Kandinsky exhibits at LACMA. Highly recommended!

Note: If you are trying to stay away from GMOs and Roundup, buy organic masa, as 90% of corn grown in the US is genetically modified, specifically “Roundup Ready.”

Basic Pupusa recipe
2 cups masa harina
1 1/3-2 cups warm water (roughly)
pinch of salt

Add warm water to masa (start with 1 1/3 cups) and stir until completely combined.  Kneed until smooth.  
If too sticky, add more masa. If too dry, add more water.  (It should feel like play dough.)  Cover bowl with plastic or a clean towel and let stand for 30 minutes.

Form the dough into 8 balls, about 2 inches in diameter. Make a pocket in each ball with your thumb and add about a tablespoon of filling. 
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Pinch the ball closed, making sure none of the filling leaks out.  Either pat the dough back and forth in your hands or roll with a rolling pin between two pieces of plastic until the dough makes a disk about ¼ inch thick. (I put it in baggies for the kids to flatten with their hands.)
Heat a lightly oiled heavy pan (preferably cast iron) until hot on medium high.  Cook pupusas, 2 at a time,  for 2-3 minutes on a side, or until lightly browned.  Serve with curtido. (Keep warm in the oven by covering with aluminum foil.)

Cheese Filling

About 6 oz Queso Fresco 
(or Monterrey jack cheese)

Optional additions:  beans, roasted and peeled Anaheim peppers, loroco flowers, squash flowers, chopped cilantro, thinly sliced scallions, chili powder to taste, lime juice…or whatever your imagination can come up with!

Curtido (Tangy cabbage slaw)

1/2 cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
½ onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons cilantro
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

Mix together vinegar, water, salt, pepper, oregano and sugar.  Pour over vegetables and press down with a spoon to submerge.  Allow to sit in refrigerator or at room temperature for at least 4 hours. Serve with pupusas.
And if you simply want to make tortillas, follow directions for making pupusas but don’t stuff.
photo 4 (63) 12 fabes2 fabes
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And for all you dreamers out there, tonight...