Tuesday, 1 May 2012

good supper on the cheap

We have a few favourite meals in this house, but there is no other meal that is more unanimously requested each and every week than bean and cheese tortillas.  For a long, long time, I would buy the pre-made tortillas at the store, the big flour ones.  I never really liked them all that much and even though I knew that there were ingredients that I didn't understand, I would always find myself looking at them time and again before I put them into the shopping cart.  It is kind of like when you are snacky at 9:00 at night and keep opening the pantry hoping that perhaps this time something might magically appear that wan't there 5 minutes ago, but it never does.  That is kind of like my experience with store bought tortillas, hoping that the ingredients would change, but they never do.

Then one day everything changed.  My friend told me about Maseca, a corn flour that she uses to make her own tortillas.  I went to Superstore to find it and there it was, $4.99 for a bag that would undoubtably make hundreds of tortillas and the ingredients are as follows: select corn flour treated with lime.  That's it.  Now, I know that it is probably GMO and perhaps you could find an organic version or even make your own if you were so industrious, but sometimes I feel that you just have to do the best you can and this for us, is better than the stuff in the store bought tortillas.

When I was 21 I spent a summer in the mountains of in Honduras working with an NGO.  We had a little house where we slept and we would walk, 3 times a day down to Miribella's house who would cook for us.  Every meal was served with little corn tortillas and black beans.  I loved those tortillas and spent an afternoon in her very rustic kitchen, learning how to cook.  She didn't have any modern equipment at all.  Everything was cooked over a fire, her "refrigerator" was a wooden cupboard that had a glass door and all of her corn was ground by hand and then made into our daily bread, her fabulous tortillas.

Now, despite my Honduran cooking lessons 16 years ago, I don't have the knack to pat the tortillas out the way she did, so we use a little pot to make it flat and then roll them out with a rolling pin.  I also don't cook over fire, but we do use our cast iron pan that works great.  Listen, this is not hard, it isn't even that time consuming and the kids love to help.  But the result is very reminiscent to those lovely little tortillas that I ate all those years ago in the Honduran mountains and everyone loves them.  Make them along with refried black beans and you have a super healthy, supper on the cheap.

Homemade Tortillas

2 cups Maseca
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water

Mix all ingredients together to make a soft dough.  Take a small handful of dough and roll into a ball.  Press between wax paper or plastic wrap with a small pot or tortilla press.  Repeat until all dough is used up.  Keep moist with a damp towel covering it.  Heat your cast iron pan on medium heat and cook tortillas in a dry, well seasoned pan, 50 sec on each side.  Keep warm in the oven, covered with a tea towel until you are ready to eat them.  These are smaller than the store bought ones, so they don't really make a burrito size tortilla, more of a soft taco, they are lovely.

Best Refried Black Beans
From Moosewood Cooks at Home

1 can black beans or 2 cups soaked dried beans that have been cooked.
1 red pepper diced
1 onion diced
2-3 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbsp ground cumin or to taste
Olive or Sunflower oil

Heat oil in skillet, cast iron if you have it.  Cook onion, garlic and red pepper until soft.  Add Cumin and stir for about 1 minute to incorporate into the vegetables.  Then pour in your beans, reserving the liquid.  Cook for a few minutes until the beans have heated through.  Add the bean juice if it seems too dry.  You can either leave the beans whole as I do or mash them and then heat through once more.  Serve in a warmed bowl.

To make this good supper, serve with whatever you have: grated cheese, sour cream, avocados, lettuce, tomatoes or whatever else you like.  It's quick to make and fun to eat, best of all it is great to make when the pocket book is feeling a little anemic.  I estimate that this meal cost around $6.50 to feel the whole family stuffed.

Buen Provecho.


  1. I made this tonight, it was a hit! So yummy, everyone ate it up! Thanks Catherine!

  2. Yay! That is such great news.