Making fresh tortillas has become the highlight of a weekly meal at my house, and a family favorite. At this time of year there are also fresh shelling beans available at the farmers market, so each week we stop by at Two Peas and a Pod, and try a new type of bean to load into our tortillas.
Part of the fun is shelling the beans, which has become a ritual involving a nice chat -- if my partner isn't home to help me, there's always Facetime with the kids, who know the drill. The joys of shelling beans with friends and family all started for me many years ago, when I lived in Portugal and fell in love with Fava Beans -- which we would buy in large quantites (at least 5-10 lb at a time for a Portuguese Fava Bean stew with cured chorizo and farinheira sausages, but that's another story). Those huge bags of shelling beans required at least a couple of people to join in the conversation around the table underneath the large olive tree on the terrace. It could take a good while to shell all those beans, possibly a bottle of wine as well, but mostly we just laughed and told stories as our fingers did the shelling, filling the bowl of beans while the pile of empty pods became a small mountain.
For our tortilla nights, we have tried a different variety of fresh shell bean every week now for several weeks -- from black coco beans, to cranberry beans, scarlet runners, cannelini and more. Each week is a new surprise, and the different varieties of beans are all delicious (OK, full disclosure, so far our favorite was Good Mother Stollard, a speckled purple and white bean -- but we are also excited for the imminent arrival of fresh Lima Beans -- which are next level). The fresh beans cook faster than dried, to make up for the extra time shelling them!
Sometimes we cook the beans with some sauteed onion and a bit of guanciale and a bay leaf, covered in broth, other times we stir in a nice helping of Bricia's amazing Guelaguetza Mole Negro, which is magic!
Once the beans get cooking it's time to get the tortillas going. I'm a huge fan of Masienda's tortilla flour (Masa Harina). This is basically the tortilla dough, dehydrated and made into flour. All you do is mix equal parts of hot, salted water to the flour, knead it together, and divide it into ping pong sized balls, before pressing them into disks (between 2 pieces of plastic), then peeling the plastic off either side and tossing them onto a very hot, dry pan, 3-4 at a time. Flip, flip, and flip again... And sometime after that 2nd flip, if you're very lucky, you will see the elusive tortilla puff. According to Bricia, at Guelaguetza, a little tap tap on the tortilla after the first flip, is the secret of the puff!
I was at Guelaguetza recently, to see Bricia, and asked her to show me, so she took me into the infamous kitchen of her amazing koreatown restaurant, and her head tortilla maker showed us the magic!