I woke up last weekend and thought, TORTILLAS.
The thing about thinking tortillas so fiercely is that you’re likely to make tortillas from scratch.
Of course, once you start making tortillas from scratch it’s hard to not. They’re so fresh and tender, such little clouds of soft corn, well… there’s no going back.
This is an invitation and a warning. Make the tortillas. You’ll never stop.
Here’s what you’ll need for taco town:
• masa harina (instant corn masa that you can find in most grocery stores) for making tacos from scratch. It’s really so easy and totally fun – just get yourself a tortilla press!
• cauliflower cut into bite-size chunks and plantain sliced to bite-size too. We’ll roast these darlings with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika to tender and sizzling.
• fresh cilantro and fresh basil to make a quick pesto. Lemon and olive oil, shallots and garlic, salt and pepper for the pesto too!
• avocado, lime wedges, and extra cilantro for topping the tacos.
It’s all so satisfying. Let’s make!
First we’ll roast up the vegetables.
I think the cauliflower and plantains make cozy pan-mates so place them side-by-side in a more or less single layer.
Drizzle generously with olive oil. Two or three tablespoons will do!
Sprinkle with salt and fresh cracked black pepper and smoky paprika.
Give the cauliflower a toss to coat in the oil and seasoning. Give the plantains a toss to coat as well. Ease everything into a single layer and bake until tender and golden, giving each side a flip of two while roasting.
While the filling roasts, we’ll make the tortillas!
To the instant corn masa add salt. That’s it – just a little kick to bring up the flavor.
Add water to the corn mixture and stir. As the masa starts to absorb the water the mixture will come together. Once it binds around the spoon, gather it in the bowl and knead gently with your hands. You’ll want the mixture to be moist but not sticky wet.
Gather the masa into a disk and cover the bowl with a damp towel. Rest for 30 minutes (the masa, not really you unless you need to), and allow the masa to absorb the liquid.
Divide the rested dough into 12 equal parts, ball em up and press them between the plates of your tortilla press. Use either parchment paper or a plastic bag to cover the metal plates, making the tortillas easy to remove once pressed.
Press many and allow them to rest on a clean dish towel before light frying them.
One more step!
It’s all wonderfully worth it.
Pulse together a pesto. Cilantro and basil to start. Shallot and garlic for fun.
Lots of lemon, salt and paper, and olive oil. Blended to bright green, smooth and emulsified.
The recipe makes enough sauce for the tacos and for your scrambled eggs the next morning.
It’s just smarts.
Toast up the tortillas on the gas stovetop before taco-making. A little char is what we’re looking for.
Top with roasted cauliflower and plantains – a few pieces of each.
Top each taco with a slice or two of ripe avocado.
Drizzle with pesto and tear a few fresh herbs across the top.
Stand around the kitchen counter with a few friends and eat these tacos straight over the sheet pan. We’ve come so far we don’t even have time for plates.
Have a few – we are WELL.
Photos with Jon Melendez.
Recipe inspired but and lightly adapted from A New Way To Food by Maggie Battista.
- 2 cups masa harina (instant corn masa)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 2 cups cauliflower florets
- 1 large ripe plantain
- 2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- lime wedges
- fresh cilantro
- sliced ripe avocado
- 1 small bunch cilantro, about 10 sprigs, leaves cut from stems and stems discarded
- 1 bunch basil, about 10 sprigs, leaves cut from stems and stems discarded
- 1/4 cup finely diced shallot
- 1 small garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- First make the tortillas. Combine the masa harina and salt in a medium bowl. Pour the water over the dry ingredients and mix with a large spoon until the dough begins to come together. Using clean hands, work the dough into a smooth ball with no dry bits. Place a damp dish towel over the bowl and let the tortilla mixture rest for 30 minutes.
- Set out two large clean dish towels on the counter. Set up your tortilla press by cutting two pieces of parchment paper or cut a large gallon-size plastic zipper back to form a greeting card size sleeve - keeping the folded end in tact. Place the parchment or plastic sleeve open on the tortilla press.
- Cut the tortilla dough into quarters, and cut each quarter into thirds. Working with one third at a time, roll each portion into a ball and keep the remaining dough covered with a damp dish towel.
- Place one ball in the center of the tortilla press in between the parchment or plastic layers. Close the tortilla press and push down until the tortilla is formed - they should be 5 to 6 inches wide. Open the press and pull the parchment or plastic back. Carefully flip onto your hand and peel the other layer back. Lay the tortilla on a clean dish towel, not touching each other, and cover lightly with the other dish towel. Repeat with the remaining dough until you've made enough tortillas for your meal. Seal any remaining dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Place a new dish towel on a plate. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat until very hot. Add a small splash of olive oil if you'd like. Carefully lift a tortilla into your hand and drop it into the center of the pan. Cook for 30 seconds on each side. Transfer the new tortilla to the new dish towel and allow to rest while you toast the rest of the tortillas.
- Before serving, toast each tortilla over an open stove flame to add some char. Toast on either side just before topping with roasted veggies.
- To make the vegetables, place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. One one side add the cauliflower florets, on the other side place the sliced plantains in a single layer. Drizzle both generously with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika and toss to coat.
- Roast for about 20 minutes, flipping once or twice during roasting.
- When nicely roasted and toasted, remove the veggies from the pan and get ready to serve.
- To make the lemony pesto sauce, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment, or in the bowl of a powerful blender combine fresh cilantro, basil, shallots, garlic, lemon, water, oil, and salt. Blend until pureed and vivid green in color. Taste and add more salt or citrus as you'd like. Place in an airtight container and store what you don't use on the tacos in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (aka eat it on everything for a few days).
- To assemble the tacos, layer the roasted vegetables on the toasted tortillas. Top with fresh avocado and fresh cilantro. Spoon the sauce over each taco. Spritz with lime. Gather up and enjoy!