[A postcard from my Cooking From Scratch column in the Lawrence Journal World.]
At one station, a toddler diced onions with a child-safe chopper. At another, an older preschooler was mashing avocado with gusto. And, at yet another, an adult volunteer was whizzing together individual batches of kid-made salsa in a bullet blender.
This is the scene that greeted my son and I as we walked into last month's “T is for Tostada” preschool cooking class, hosted by the Sunrise Project.
The Sunrise Project is a new non-profit organization in Lawrence. According to Melissa Freiburger, who was heading up the guacamole table and is also a member of the board of directors, the Project's mission is “working to build a socially just community and to empower people to live healthy, self determined lives through growing and cooking food, and taking care of the environment.”
I was not an unbiased observer―teaching kids the life skill of feeding themselves is a cause near and dear to me―nonetheless, the enthusiasm in the room was an indisputable testament to that lofty mission statement.
But the place where my mind was really blown was at the tortilla making station.
Somewhere in my life, I had gotten the idea that making tortillas from scratch must be hard. But as my four-year-old son pressed his tortilla out with ease and the adult volunteer on hot-pan duty quickly fried it up, I realized that this was something we could easily do at home.
Seriously, homemade tortillas are ridiculously easy. A few tips:
First, make sure you use “masa harina” as a base, not just regular cornmeal. I was able to find masa harina at all of the local Dillion's stores. Plain cornmeal is just too crumbly to hold together well.
Second, while you don't absolutely need a tortilla press it will certainly make the job easier. I was able to find a perfectly serviceable press on Amazon for about $20. When you figure that one bag of masa harina costs about $3 and is enough to make over a hundred tortillas, the cost works itself out quite quickly.
The Sunrise Project's next kids' cooking class―an international food themed “Food Rocket Camp” for elementary aged children―is already full up, but keep an eye on their Facebook page for future events. Not only will your children have fun, you might pick up a few new cooking techniques, too.
In the meantime, empower yourself by learning a new skill and fill your tummy with delicious food while you do it. Make a big stack of warm, fresh, easy, homemade tortillas.
Homemade Tortillas (slightly adapted from the Quaker brand masa harina bag; makes 12)
- 2 cups masa harina
- 1 1/3 cups water
- a pinch of salt
Heat a flat griddle or large skillet over medium-high heat. If you're not using non-stick you may want just a tablespoon of oil in the pan to keep the tortillas from sticking.
In a large bowl, mix together the masa, water and salt until you can clump the mixture into small balls. Add a little extra water if necessary so that the mixture really comes together.
Divide the mixture into 12 equal balls. Cut a plastic, zip-top bag open at two of its seams and sandwich one ball of masa between the layers. With either a tortilla press or a rolling pin, press the masa ball until it's about six inches wide.
Carefully transfer the tortilla to the hot griddle. Cook for about one minute on each side, or until the tortilla is as browned as you would like it to be. Place the tortilla under a clean kitchen towel to keep warm while you repeat the process with the rest of the masa balls.
The cooked tortillas will keep for a few days when refrigerated in an airtight container.