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From the food editor: A love letter to corn tortillas, in all their forms

Black Bean Tostadas

MICHELLE STARK | Times

Black Bean Tostadas

Consider this my love letter to corn tortillas.

This week's recipe is a solid go-to dinner option at my house when there is no dinner plan, and it's all because of the pliable, flavorful discs.

The love even extends to the store-bought variety, which serves as the base of this recipe and is the reason it is so satisfying. Unlike their flour counterparts, corn tortillas from the grocery store are relatively clean, typically containing less than five ingredients. They're also super affordable, and help a meal come together fast.

These tortillas become the best version of themselves when heated until crispy. You can do this in a skillet or in the oven under the broiler. Whichever method you choose, drizzle the tortillas with some oil and sprinkle with salt first, then cook until they are crispy and darker in color but not yet brown. (This is also an easy way to make tortilla chips, just cut the tortillas into triangles before cooking.)

When buying corn tortillas from the store, make sure corn flour or masa flour is the first ingredient. Other ingredients typically include water, lime and some preservatives. (Though if the tortillas contain more than a handful of ingredients, look for a different kind.) As far as brands go, I've had good experiences with Maria and Ricardo, La Banderita and Mission, in terms of texture and taste.

Corn tortillas are also easy to make from scratch. The next time you want to get really adventurous on taco night, consider making a fresh batch of tortillas and cooking them just before eating them. Here are some tips.

• Corn tortillas are simple to make because they require minimal ingredients. So make sure you use the right ones. You will need corn flour, also known as masa harina.

• From there, recipes vary slightly. Some call for mixing the corn flour with just water, then forming that mixture into balls that will get flattened into tortillas. Others add oil in with the water and corn flour mixture, which helps prevent the tortillas from drying out.

• After you've mixed the simple dough together, the most important part of tortilla-making is rolling them out. You want to make sure they are thin, so that they cook all the way through. You can use your hands, but you'll likely need a rolling pin. A tortilla press is a good investment if your tortilla love extends as far as mine.

• Here is a corn tortilla recipe to try, adapted from the New York Times: Combine 1 ½ cups masa harina and ¼ teaspoon salt in a bowl; stir in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Slowly stream in 1 cup hot water, while mixing with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together into a ball. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead it just a minute or two. Wrap in plastic, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. Break off pieces of dough until you have about 12 to 16 pieces, and lightly flour them. Roll them out to a diameter of 4 to 6 inches. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, then cook the tortillas, 1 or 2 at a time, until brown spots appear on the bottom, about a minute. Flip; do the same on the other side.

Contact Michelle Stark at mstark@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

easy

Black Bean Tostadas

Black Bean Tostadas

Ingredients

  • Four corn tortillas
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 jalapeno
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 4 ounces Cheddar cheese
  • 1 lime
  • A handful fresh cilantro leaves
  • Four eggs
  • Sriracha sauce, optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place corn tortillas on a baking sheet, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don't burn. A little bit of browning is fine (I prefer some darker, crispy edges). Once they're done, remove from oven but leave on baking sheet, and set aside.
  2. Next, add black beans to a medium bowl. Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic, and add to bowl. Do the same with the jalapeno, removing the seeds as you chop. Stir ingredients in bowl to combine.
  3. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Let the oil heat up a bit, then add black bean mixture. Stir, and let cook for about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, grate the cheddar cheese into a small bowl, and quarter the lime into wedges. Roughly chop cilantro.
  5. When your black bean mixture is warmed through, spoon an equal amount onto each of the four tortillas.
  6. Now, top it all off with an over-easy egg. To make, wipe out the skillet that you used to cook the black beans and return to burner set to medium-high heat. Add a couple more tablespoons olive oil, and let that heat up for a minute or so. Test it to make sure it's hot by flicking a drop or two of water into the pan. If it sizzles, it's ready.
  7. Crack eggs into the pan, as many as can comfortable fit without running too much into each other. Cook egg for 3 to 4 minutes, until the whites are set but the yolk is still undercooked. Use a spatula to fold the whites over the yolk, then carefully turn the whole thing over and cook for about 15 seconds. Remove from the skillet and place onto the tortillas, 1 egg per tortilla.
  8. Top each tortilla with 1 ounce grated cheese. Place baking sheet under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, until cheese is melted. Remove from oven, and garnish with a squiggle of Sriracha sauce, a pinch of salt, some cilantro and a squeeze of lime wedge. Serves 2.
Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

From the food editor: A love letter to corn tortillas, in all their forms 03/28/16 [Last modified: Monday, March 28, 2016 4:04pm]
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