DIY tortillas take time. These bean-topped corn cakes don’t
When I think of corn and beans, I naturally think of Mexico, where they — along with chili peppers — form the bedrock of the cuisine. The corn is typically in the form of masa, made into such delights as tortillas, tamales, tostadas and the rimmed masa boats called sopes.
Making masa from scratch isn’t for the lazy. It involves treating dried field corn with slaked lime, washing and grinding. When I tried to do it a few years ago with my sister and brother-in-law in southern Maine, using corn they grew, it took much trial and error - not to mention time - to get the texture right for making tortillas. At home in Washington, I do what so many households in Mexico do, and use instant masa harina. The resulting tortillas don’t approach the ideal, but they’re way better than store-bought.
Even instant-masa tortillas, though, take some dexterity (and practice), which is why when I’m rushed for time I like making something a little more free-form and forgiving. I press masa balls with my hand into flat (but not super-thin) disks, then pan-fry them in a little oil so they get crispy on the edges but stay soft inside. From Jessica Murnane’s new book, “One Part Plant,” I got another idea: to mix the dough first with fresh (or frozen and defrosted) corn kernels, giving them even more color, texture and a burst of flavor.
What to top them with? Choose your favorite combination of protein, cheese, spice and crunchy vegetable, thinking of the ways you might fill a taco or top a tostada. In my mind, though, there’s one musthave: beans.