Thursday, March 31, 2011

Warming up to Spring, Tagine style; or: Toddler approved Tagine

It is still chilly here, but the shelves of the supermarkets are beginning to fill with signs of spring, like in season fennel bulbs, beets, and many others. I wanted to try an easy recipe that would incorporate these new findings with something still warming for the body and soul.

I need to get to Morocco ASAP!
This recipe is a stovetop 'tagine', a stew of meats, vegetables, herbs and spices. Traditional tagines (or tajines - from North African countries like Morocco and Tunisia) are made in conical clay pots, with a flat bottom. Inexpensive meats and additions gently bake and simmer; meat is tender and falling apart, vegetables are aromatic with a flavourful sauce.

For your kitchen (if you don't have said pot), a heavy sauce pan with a cover will work just fine. Also, there is no long baking required to get all the mentioned qualities (although that is not a knock against the traditional method!), just simmering on the stovetop.

Additional vegetables I would try next time would be artichokes, halved baby potatoes, asparagus segments and snap peas. Add the first two along with the fennel and carrots, the last two I would add to the last 15 minutes of cooking. I think lamb would be lovely here, as would pork! The beauty of tagines is the endless possibilities of deliciousness.

For stews and braises, I like to do these the day before. The flavours intensify and you get more bang for your effort, making a perfect do-ahead meal.

Chicken Tagine with Spring Vegetables
Recipe inspired from Bon Appetit, April 2003
Makes 8 servings
Serve with cooked pasta, or couscous

1/2 cup (about) olive oil
1 pound onions, chopped
8 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons (packed) grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
8 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
8 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

4 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 beets, peeled, cut in 3/4 inch wedges
3 fresh fennel bulbs, trimmed, bulbs quartered vertically
5 large carrots (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cut into 1-inch lengths


Heat 1/4 cup oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
I crush the garlic clove with the flat of the knife, then mince away

Cumin and coriander powdered together - excellent scent
 Add next 7 ingredients and 6 tablespoons each parsley, dill, and mint; sauté 3 minutes longer. Scrape contents of skillet into heavy large pot (used a Le Creuset cast iron pot); reserve skillet .
Wow - the smell here is amazing

 Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 of chicken and sauté until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to pot with onion mixture. Repeat with remaining chicken in 2 more batches, adding more oil by tablespoonfuls if needed. Add broth to skillet; bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Transfer broth to pot; add fennel and carrots.
Chicken thighs - cheaper and tastier

All the browning is perfect for adding flavor to the tagine

Deglaze the pan with stock (or water) 
I thought the yellow beet adds a nice touch of colour and sweetness

Bring tagine to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chicken is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and simmer until chicken and all vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken and vegetables to large bowl.
Ready to simmer away!

Just needs the sauce reduction and you are ready to go!

Boil sauce until reduced enough to coat spoon, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Return chicken and vegetables to sauce. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated.)
Rewarm tagine over medium heat. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons each of parsley, dill, and mint.

Toddler and adult approved!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kitchen garden

Like the compost bin, starting seeds has become my way of welcoming spring (or what there is of it) this year. In past times, I would purchase plants later in the season that will be a source of fresh produce once the summer hits.
This year I think (!) it will be fun to start a few select plants from seed. Figure out your last frost date, and you will be able to determine when to start your plants indoors (check with your local extension service).
The first round of seeds will be my 'Mexican medley' - all vegetables that I can't wait to make into salsas, add to carnitas, and top onto tacos: jalapeno, tomatillos, habenero, ancho gigantes. In there is also broccoli, an early grower. Next up will be tomatoes, cucumbers....and more!

I simply planted as instructed into peat pots, and followed the instructions on the seed packets for soil depth. Keep 'em damp, and watch them grow! Now where to plant them.....
This kit comes with a see-through lid, to keep everything happy

4 days in, and the broccoli sees the light!

Parsley-Nut Pesto

This impromptu condiment came about as I was preparing gluten-free sweet potato gnocchi. I wanted to give the buttery-fried dumplings a little hit of freshness, and a touch of bitterness too, to counter the rich texture of the gnocchi.

Traditional pestos contain basil (excellent here too), but I don't have basil! I do have Italian flat-leaf parsley, and this will work very well. In fact, pestos can be made with a number of different ingredients (like peas!), but that is for another post. I also used leftover hazelnut meal (see the gnocchi recipe) to complement the flavour of the nut in the dumplings. I like parsley stems (high in nutrients), but you can leave them out if you don't.

Helpful tool: food processor

Parsley-Nut Pesto
Makes about 1/2 cup pesto

2 cup loosely packed fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
1/8 cup hazelnut meal
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional), heat in frying pan over medium heat, tossing until browned lightly
1 small garlic clove (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

In food processor, add first 6 ingredients. Process for 10-20 seconds. With processor running, pour oil slowly until pesto is smooth. Fini!

Gluten free Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Quite the mouthful! A lovely reader requested this recipe - one I have never tried, but since this is a curious kitchen....

Gnocchi (nee-yo-kee), a soft Italian dumpling made of traditionally flour and potato, can be as delicate as a fluffy pillow, or as heavy and dead as its name implies (nocchio, knot of wood). The key is to have as little flour as possible, enough to hold the dough together, otherwise the gnocchi becomes leaden in the mouth. The wonderful thing about these dumplings is they can be dressed as you like, fried in butter, tossed in pesto, coated in your favourite pasta sauce with any variety of vegetables or meats, even broiled like a gratin. They can be a main course or an appetizer for a party; either way, gnocchi are versatile and delicious!

So what of our friends who must stick to gluten-free diets? Are they left out of the party? No way! With increasing understanding of food allergies, there are more products on the market catering to people afflicted with a gluten allergy. Supermarkets carry a wide variety of flour alternatives that do not contain gluten (Bob's Red Mill have a number of products). If you are making these for a 'GF' friend, check if you need to clean your utensils properly to remove any residual gluten (just in case!).

Here is a recipe I gleaned off the internet, adjusted to my specifications. In place of potatoes, are sweet potatoes (not as starchy and more moist than regular potatoes) - adds an additional sweet flavour and hit up of vitamin A etc. And in place of flour are a 'Gluten-free all purpose baking flour' from Bob's Red Mill, and hazelnut meal. To hold the dough together, whole milk ricotta cheese (do not substitute skim milk ricotta).

Helpful tools:
*food processor or blender
*food mill, or potato ricer, or potato masher

Gluten-free Sweet Potato Gnocchi
2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 medium-large)
2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour, plus generous amount for the work surface
1/4 cup hazelnut flour/meal (can purchase, or make by processing to a fine powder, whole hazelnuts. See below for pictures)

Makes approximately 100 gnocchi.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Slice sweet potatoes in half. Bake the sweet potatoes until tender and fully cooked, between 40 to 55 minutes depending on size. Cool slightly. Cut in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl.

Handy food mill - a potato masher is just as effective

Finished product - any extras can go straight to baby!
I processed the sweet potatoes through a food mill, which is highly effective for drier potatoes, but perhaps for these, may not have made a difference. Measure out 2 cups of sweet potato puree, and place in large bowl.
Add the ricotta cheese, salt, and pepper and fold in until well mixed.

Blend flours together in a separate bowl. Add the flours, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing gently each time. This dough does not become a solid dough like the regular potato-flour gnocchi, so look for the 'dough' to come together, but still quite wet.
A lone hazelnut on a field of his fallen comrades

Ready to go, mise en place

Folding in the flour - it is becoming 'dough-ier'

After becoming alarmed at how wet this dough was, I took a breath. Should I add more flour to this dough? So instead of likely ruining the batch, I generously floured the work surface before beginning the next step. The outer coating of flour helped the dough from sticking and helped with its shape very well.

Scoop out a handful of dough. On the floured surface, roll out each ball into a 1-inch wide rope. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. Re-flour surface in between each scoop.
Roll dough, moving hands from the center out, taking the dough gently with you

Still sticky! Just sprinkle a bit more flour and keep going

If you like, roll the gnocchi over the tines of a fork. This dough does not handle it very well, but the ridges formed help to hold sauce, and it just looks cute! I tried a few, but left the rest plain.Transfer the formed gnocchi to a large baking sheet. Continue with the remaining gnocchi.

I left the extras on the tray - pop them in the freezer , bag when solid. Instant supper!

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
Salting the water after it has boiled gives the gnocchi a hit of flavour
Add the gnocchi in 3 batches and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the gnocchi using a slotted spoon onto a baking sheet. Tent with foil to keep warm and continue with the remaining gnocchi.

From here: you can do any number of methods to finish the gnocchi. I fried these darlings in butter (over medium-low heat) until crispy and browned, turning occasionally (about 5-7 minutes), and tossed with a Parsley-nut pesto. This browning caramelized the sugars in the sweet potato and gave that 'extra' something. The resulting gnocchi went as follows: bite, crispy-sweet-savoury, soft-gentle-light texture, smile.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Composting kitchen

Nitrogenous green goodness

In hopes that snow will disappear, and the days become warm, the kitchen compost has started up again for the season. If you are both a kitchen and garden person, the twains meet in many ways. The output of the kitchen goes into the compost, the compost goes into the soil, the vegetables grow happily, and then return to where their ancestors came from. Compost adds nutrients and aerates the soil, making it the perfect soil amendment at the beginning of the growing season (and throughout the year).

The compost can accept most any food product that is not protein (meats, bones), or fat (grease, oil). All fruit, vegetables, coffees and teas, cooked pastas and grains, rinsed egg shells, are great additions. These are considered 'green' materials (nitrogen-rich), and to make optimal compost have to be balanced with 'brown' materials (carbon-rich yard waste such as leaves, grass, garden soil). 30:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen allows for effective heating and decomposition into 'black gold'.

Check out this blog and this site for lots of the science and how-to behind composting.

While I am preparing dinner, a bowl on the counter is ready to accept scraps, which goes straight to a stainless steel lidded compost container. I used to just use a plastic container (which is great), but the lidded container is forgiving if you don't get out to your compost bin right away. Whether you use a larger contained compost bin outdoors, or a worm compost bin, you will be secure in the knowledge that you are building great soil, one carrot peel at a time.

Hidden love in the loaf

Got a picky vegetable eater (i.e., doesn't eat vegetables)?. Do they happen to love meatloaf? Here is something I whipped up last Sunday that is not only mouthwatering comfort food, but you can be comforted to know that you are giving multiple vegetables and healthy fiber in each serving to the one you love. This meatloaf has a slightly sweet, savoury flavour, with a hint of smokey bacon - a nice change of pace. Perfectly paired with mashed potatoes or polenta.

My inspiration was a fridge full of leftover Swiss chard (from the fantastic recipe from last week), and other vegetables just languishing in the crisper. The great thing about this recipe is that you can pull out anything in this category, as it will be finely chopped beyond visual recognition. So before we get into an ethical debate on non-disclosure ingredients, I pull the desperate times desperate measures card.

Useful tool: food processor or chopper (I just put all the vegetables in at the same time and finely chop)

I apologize for no photos for the next couple posts - it has been a busy couple weeks!

Hidden Love Loaf
Serves 6
Total Time: 1.5 hours
Inspiration recipe from Gourmet, February 2008

  • 1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices whole wheat bread)

  • 1/3 cup whole milk

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (optional)

  • 1 cup swiss chard (or other greens: kale, spinach), finely chopped

  • 1 pepper (sweet bell, poblano, anaheim), finely chopped

  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, skip the pom. molasses)

  • 1/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 1/4 pound bacon (about 4 slices), chopped (I try to use brands without nitrates)

  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes, chopped

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck

  • 1/2 pound ground pork (not lean)

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
    Soak bread crumbs in milk in a large bowl.
    Meanwhile, cook onion, garlic, greens, pepper, and carrot in butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low, then cook until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in soy sauce, molasses, vinegar, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Add to bread-crumb mixture.
    Finely chop bacon and prunes in a food processor, then add to onion mixture along with beef, pork, eggs, and parsley and mix together with your hands.
    Pack mixture into a 9- by 5-inch oval loaf in a 13- by 9-inch shallow baking dish or pan.

    Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meatloaf registers 155°F, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let stand 10 minutes before serving, with a secret smile of satisfaction.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Vegetable of the Week: Swiss Chard

    Taken on a stroll in Richmond, outside London (sigh) - thanks E!
    A lovely reader in London, England sent in a suggestion for an excellent recipe. Spring is sprung in many places (even in these snowy climes!), and one of the vegetables soon to be truely in season is Swiss chard. A member of the beet family (in fact descends from the native English sea beet), it is not only green and leafy, but has a tasty and colourful stem.

    Whether you pan fry, stream, bake or broil, it will add the flavour of 'green' to your dish. The leaves can be used like cabbage, and wrapped into Gołąbki (cabbage rolls), with a juicy center of meats studded with sweet raisins, or meaty mushrooms. You could use them in place of pasta sheets, and make a very healthy lasagna. I very much love to use them in wintery or early spring pasta dishes, in combination with red onions, currants, and walnuts. The stems also add flashes of white, yellow, and red (try to find 'rainbow chard') to a quiche (or anything else), and might spark the interest of a young (or old) eater. Chard is also very high in vitamins A, C, and K, so why not? This vegetable is at the top of my 'to plant' list, and I can't wait to try some baby chards - would make a lovely salad!

    Onto the recipe, from the famous Mark Bittman, who has come to embody (to foodies) everything simple in food (think simple chop+heat=hearty, healthy meal). Swiss Chard with Citrus and Shallots - earthy, green chard; bittersweet shallots (small purple onion); tangy, bright orange; and a complex splash of sherry vinegar (highly recommend adding this to your pantry, wonderful for salads). Makes a standout side or filling vegetarian main course. 

    Chard with Orange and Shallots   

    Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

    Chard with Orange and Shallots

    Makes: 4 servings

    Time: 25 minutes

    A perfect winter dish, this warm salad has vibrant color and tangy sweet-sour flavor. The skin of the orange or tangerine becomes almost candied and provides a nice chew, but if you’d rather not eat it, simply peel before chopping.

    Other vegetables you can use: any chard, bok choy, kale, or any cabbage. For the citrus, use kumquats (quartered) if available.

    1 pound chard, washed and trimmed

    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    2 shallots, thinly sliced

    2 tablespoons sugar

    1 small orange or tangerine, seeded and coarsely chopped

    2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    1. Cut the stems out of the chard leaves. Cut the leaves into wide ribbons and slice the stems (on the diagonal if you like); keep the leaves and stems separate.

    2. Put the oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the shallots and sugar and cook for a minute, then stir in the orange or tangerine bits and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, until everything is caramelized, about 10 minutes. Stir in the vinegar.

    3. Return the heat to medium and stir in the chard stems. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften a bit, just a minute or two. Add the chard ribbons, cover, and turn off the heat. Let the chard steam for 2 or 3 minutes, then stir and re-cover the pan for another couple of minutes. Sprinkle with salt and lots of pepper and serve immediately or within an hour or two at room temperature.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Menu for a Springtime birthday

    Our house celebrated a special 2 year birthday, with kiddies and loads of parents too. With the piles and piles of snow, the inspiration was the coming springtime. With a little planning (and help from a lovely mother-in-law), the menu and party went off without a hitch.
    These cupcake toppers are printed clip art images pasted to wooden party forks

    Along with Buttermilk cupcakes with orange and raspberry Cream cheese frosting, we had an array of tea sandwiches. Think dainty two-bite size bundles of flavour between soft, fresh bread. Not only are they simple to prepare, but are great for feeding a crowd, and perfect for little hands to hold and munch on.

    First, the cupcakes: along with regular sized cupcakes, miniature cakes were prepared just for the little ones. Mini muffin pans are easy to find at kitchen supply stores these days, along with little cup liners. Using the recipe for buttermilk cupcakes, simply fill the paper liners with about a 1/4 inch left at the top, and bake for approximately 11 minutes. The recipe allowed for about 18 regular cupcakes and 20 miniature cupcakes.
    For kiddies and adults alike, cupcakes rule!
    For the icing, the biggest hit of the two flavours was raspberry. Not only can you get a wonderful berry flavour, but you will have a frosting that's a lovely shade of pink without having to use artificial colour. To the frosting, slowly add coulis (mixing constantly), until shade of pink required is attained. Remember to chill the frostings before using!

    Raspberry Coulis
    1- 11 oz package frozen raspberries
    1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

    • In pan, heat raspberries and sugar on low for approximately 5-8 minutes until broken down
    • Pour mixture through a fine sieve, pressing on solids (the solids make a delicious jam!)
    Below are links to the various tea sandwiches prepared for the party - all were hits! In order to get everything prepared on time, a little planning was needed. 

    • All spreads were prepared the day before
    • Thinly sliced vegetables were done with a Japanese mandolin cutter - an essential kitchen tool!
    • Pre-ordered bread from bakery (of course not necessary!), but a good way to get what you want the day of your party
    • Have helping hands to do an assembly-line preparation of sandwiches, Henry Ford had it right

    Tasty memories

    As I was making fresh pasta with organic spring vegetables and free-range roast chicken for my in-laws, I spied amongst their bags the above.

    These crunchy corny cheesy knubby pegs (thus, Cheezies), brings me back to a childhood in the Northern regions of Canada. The taste of this wonder from Belleville Ontario gives me flashbacks to countless Friday nights at the arena, skating round and round to Tears for Fears and Bryan Adams, curling bonspiels, after a Jackrabbits class in the hilly snowy woods, or after a swim in the frigid summer lake.

    A lone bag of Cheezies reminds me that even though tastes may change, nothing beats the flavours of childhood. Oh yes, I ate half the bag and licked my fingers too.

    Readers are welcome to comment on their favourites too!

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Fresh pasta

    One luxury in this world, in relation to the mouth, is fresh pasta. In fact, it is a relatively cheap and simple luxury, and well worth the time, if you are so inclined.

    Your Italian ancestors (or any ancestor with noodles in their cuisine) would say that you can do this by hand, and they are correct. But if you are going to get this process done efficiently (especially for beginners), a pasta maker is a good tool to invest in. It may collect dust for the first 3 years (looking in my direction), but if you can find a good go-to recipe, it will become an important kitchen tool. I use an Imperia brand hand crank machine, but there are many others on the market that work great. Stand mixers also come with this as an attachment too. Think of this as the talking piece to a fun pasta party night, glasses of red wine, and good cheese.

    I have recently found an excellent recipe that produces a strong, resilient egg dough, which produces silky noodles, perfect for an infinite number of recipes. The basis of most egg noodles is eggs and flour, sometimes water, sometimes oil. Traditional recipes call for durum wheat, but if this can't be found, all-purpose flour is good too. A mixture of different grain flours can also be incorporated for textured noodles with interesting flavours. Vegetable purees (spinach, squash etc.) can be incorporated into the eggs before mixing to make a colorful noodle. But here is the basic recipe that is sure to please, from The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters (of Chez Panisse, Berkeley). This dough will be the basis for any shape and form of pasta, so have fun!

    Fresh Pasta
    For 4 servings

    Measure into a bowl 2 cups flour
    Measure into another bowl 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks.

    • Make a well in the flour and pour in eggs. Mix with a fork, as if scrambling eggs, incorporating flour bit by bit. If using a stand mixer, combine with paddle attachment, pouring eggs in at low speed.
    • When flour is too stiff to mix with a fork, finish mixing by hand. If crumbly, add water dropwise, mixing until dough starts to come together.
    • Turn out onto floured surface and knead lightly (for both hand and stand mixer method).
    • Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic to rest for at least an hour. The dough can be put in the fridge overnight, allowing to come to room temperature before using.
    To roll by machine:
    • For ease of rolling, cut a quarter of the dough (wrap the remaining to prevent drying).
    • Roll pasta through widest setting. Fold dough into thirds, and pass through machine again. Repeat two more times.
    Folding dough into thirds, like an envelope, circa 1810 (just need a wax seal!)

    This also kneads the dough, so multiple passes through is important
    • Roll, decreasing settings each time until pasta is of desired thickness. I did the pasta to the thinest setting ('6'). The dough is now quite long, and if you would like a specific length of noodles, divide sheet appropriately.
    Before and after
    • Run pasta sheet through desired noodle cutting attachment. My machine comes with a fettuccine cutter, but other options are available. It is also fun to cut the noodle sheets by hand, so get creative with widths and shapes.
    • Toss noodles lightly with flour to keep from sticking. 
    To prepare:
    • Boil a large pot of water, salting once boiling. Keep at a rapid boil.
    • Add pasta (stir to keep from sticking), cook for 3-6 minutes, depending on the thickness of noodle. The pasta is done when the noodles are cooked through, but still have a good bite (al dente).
    For a super easy, comforting pasta for one, mash 1 tablespoon of butter, pinch of salt, pepper and quarter of garlic, minced. Toss with cooked pasta (1/4 of the dough), and you are ready! Fresh herbs, lemon zest, and parmesan cheese would fit in nicely too!

    Monday, March 7, 2011


    I caught a glimpse of my copy of Rick Bayless' Mexico - One Plate at a Time today, and was inspired to have quesadillas for a light and simple lunch.

    Quesadillas are Mexico's answer to the France's croque monsieur, and America's grilled cheese. It is a meal in hand - crisp tortilla, and basically any filling you can think of, topped with melted, rich cheese. Flour tortillas are the norm in the US when preparing this dish, but the most traditional form is corn masa tortillas. Fresh ground masa is the ultimate choice (check out your nearest mercado that makes this fresh daily for a ball or two), but the home cook can find instant corn masa in most supermarkets. The flavor of fresh corn tortillas is only 2 minutes away! Corn masa tortilla dough is the basis for many traditional recipes, like gorditas and sopes, so keep this one in your back pocket.

    For 4 small tortillas (following package directions):
    1/2 cup masa flour
    1/3 cup water
    pinch of salt
    Here's everything you need!

    Mix ingredients in bowl until a soft dough. If dough appears dry, add extra water a tablespoon at a time until dough feels moist. Keep in moist towel to prevent drying out.

    Divide into 4 equal pieces and roll into balls. To press into tortillas, you can use the traditional tortilla press, or your own creation. Mine are two ceramic baking pieces (see below). Cut open a freezer bag, and place ball in between layers. Press down to flatten, and peel tortilla carefully from plastic. Keep moist until ready to cook.

    I made quesadillas today with prepared refried black beans, a local cow-sheep smoked cheese, and fresh cilantro. Bayless suggests squash blossoms, Oxacan string cheese and epazote leaves - will try this in the summer. On each tortilla, spread filling on one half, folding gently to enclose with the other. Press edges to seal - if tortilla is getting dry it will tend to split. This didn't seem to effect the cooking or deliciousness.

    Bayless instructs to fry tortillas in 3/4 inch oil (375F) - a definite treat, but I pan fried with a coating of oil today. Fry on medium high heat, turning 2-3 times until browning and crisp. Enjoy!
    With a side of summer squash, tomatoes, cumin and oregano - lovely!