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The more I think about it, the more I feel that Leap Day should be an observed holiday. It only happens once every four years anyway. It’s a bonus day. People should barbeque. Retailers should have sales. (Pardon me if I’m sounding a little cray-cray, I’m nursing a cold and have had a bit of brain fog the past few days.) How about some tortillas? I’ve always wanted to make tortillas. But it’s one of those ideas that got put on the back burner, overshadowed by some cake or cookie or pie.
I can’t actually remember what it was that provoked such an urgency to make tortillas, but a few weeks ago I was on a mission. So I picked up some masa harina. Then I got home and realized that I didn’t really want to roll out the dough by hand and decided that I absolutely had to have a tortilla press. Because one can never have too many gadgets in one’s kitchen.
But then I got distracted by polenta and wild mushrooms and cupcakes and estate sales. And a few weeks passed. And then finally last weekend I made sure to get that tortilla press. And then I busted out a batch of tortillas. In less than thirty minutes.
Once you make your own tortillas, you almost can’t go back to the ones you buy at the grocery store. And really, there isn’t much of a reason to. They’re super easy to make. And they have so much more flavor than store bought version. They’re good on their own, and fantastic with a little avocado, a squirt of lime, and a sprig of cilantro. But I think they’ll be exceptional in a tray of enchiladas. Or chilaquiles. Oooooh…
from D.I.Y. Delicious by Vanessa Barrington
makes 10-12 tortillas
1-1/2 cups masa harina
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 – 1-1/2 cups warm water
In a medium bowl, whisk together the masa harina and salt. Add 1 cup of warm water and mix with your hands. The dough should be moist and smooth and should stick together easily when pressed, but not be too wet. Add more water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Form the dough into 12 equal balls, about 1 ounce each. Lay them on a plate and cover with a damp towel.
Get your tortilla press ready by laying a sheet of plastic on the base (use a produce bag or resealable bag cut into one large sheet). Your plastic should be wide enough so that it can be folded over to cover the top of your tortilla.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Pick up one ball of dough and press it between your palms to flatten it slightly. Place it in the tortilla press between the plastic. Press the tortilla firmly, but not as far as the press will go (you will need to experiment with the press for the proper thickness. The tortilla should be about 6 inches in diameter.
Gently peel the tortilla off the plastic and lay in carefully in the hot pan. Cook it for 45 second to 1 minute, then flip it over with a spatula. It should have small brown spots and look dry, but not cracked. Cook the second side for 30-45 seconds. Flip again and lightly tap the surface of the tortilla 4 or 5 times with your fingertips. Cook for 15 seconds more. Turn again and tap the other side, cooking for another 15 seconds. The tortilla should smell like toasty corn and have a dull surface.
Nestle each tortilla in a clean towel lined basket to keep warm. Use immediately or let them cool, wrap well, and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for 2 months.
Something is happening over here. I’m not sure what it means, but lately I’ve been really into simple meals. Meals you can throw together in less than an hour. Meals you can enjoy after a long day at work. Meals that don’t require a stand mixer or food processor or immersion blender. People ask me all the time if I have any easier recipes. I think I’m finally catching on.
This dish was inspired by a meal I had with Lee a few weeks ago. It involved a mushroom ragout and polenta, kale and a poached egg. I enjoyed it so much that I cleaned my plate and haven’t stopped thinking about it.
I tried one other recipe before finding this one for oven-roasted mushrooms. The mushrooms cook quickly at a high temperature and only need one or two stirs while they roast away. They are totally delicious and perfect on their own but this ultra creamy polenta really is an ideal accompaniment. You could stop there, but if you want something a little more substantial, a poached egg and a little bit of sauteed kale will definitely round things out for you. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
roasted wild mushrooms with creamy polenta
for the mushrooms:
fresh cracked black pepper
1 pound wild mushrooms, stems trimmed (I used a combination of oyster, sliced shiitake, yellow foot, and hedgehog mushrooms)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a large roasting pan, combine all of the mushrooms. Add the garlic, shallots, and thyme. Drizzle evenly with the olive oil and sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Spread the mushrooms in a single layer as evenly as possible to promote even cooking.
Roast, stirring occasionally, until the edges of the mushrooms are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving bowl.
Taste the mushrooms and season as needed with salt and pepper. the mushrooms with the remaining salt and pepper mixture, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with the parsley.
for the polenta:
2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup instant polenta (about 7 ounces)
1/4 – 1/2 cup heavy cream**
1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Salt and freshly ground pepper
**for a lighter, slightly less creamy polenta, add only 1/4 cup heavy cream
In a large saucepan, combine the milk, water/stock, salt, and butter and bring to a boil. Whisk in the polenta and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until thick, about 8 minutes. If your polenta seems too thick, add 1/4 cup water and continue to stir until you’ve reached the desired consistency. Remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream, mascarpone, and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.
Spoon the polenta onto plates, top with roasted mushrooms and sprinkle with additional Parmesan and chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
Can we talk about frozen yogurt for a minute? I consider myself a frozen yogurt fan, and I definitely appreciate all of the shops that have popped up in recent years where you can try seven different flavors in one cup and choose from dozens of toppings (who would’ve ever guessed that Fruity Pebbles are actually super delish mixed into froyo?). But if I’m being totally honest, I will take a scoop of ice cream over frozen yogurt any day.
Unless it’s Jeni’s lemon frozen yogurt.
Because I do so much baking for the holidays and because it’s usually too cold to think about frozen treats, my ice cream maker gets stashed away during the winter months. But after picking up a copy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, which I happened to find on sale(!) while I was shopping for Christmas gifts back in December, I threw my ice cream machine canister back in the freezer. The book delves into the science of ice cream making and talks a lot about chemistry and ingredients and technique; it will totally change the way you approach making ice cream at home. I couldn’t wait to get started. There were so many flavors I wanted to try, but lemon frozen yogurt was the first to catch my eye.
Oh. my. lord. I think this is probably the best thing that I have ever made in my ice cream machine. This is nothing like the stuff that comes out of a dispenser all soft and swirly. This is good, old fashioned frozen yogurt, similar to ice cream in texture, but with that tang that can only be achieved by using real yogurt. I’m partial to anything lemon, and this lemon froyo definitely delivers – bright and lemony and fragrant. It somehow manages to be ultra creamy and light without being fluffy or airy. And the swirls of sweet, fresh blueberry sauce are gorgeous and perfectly compliment the tart lemon yogurt. I feel like I’ve been missing out.
lemon frozen yogurt with blueberry swirls
from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer
makes 1 generous quart
for the frozen yogurt base:
1 quart plain low-fat yogurt, drained
1-1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons tapioca starch (or cornstarch if you can’t find tapioca starch)
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
zest from 1 lemon (reserved from lemon syrup)
for the lemon syrup:
2 to 3 lemons (use Meyer lemons if you can find them)
3 tablespoons sugar
for the blueberry sauce (optional):
1-1/2 cups blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
To drain the yogurt: Fit a sieve over a bowl and line with two layers of cheesecloth. Pour the yogurt into the sieve, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 6-8 hours to drain. Discard the liquid, and measure out 1-1/4 cups drained yogurt. Set aside.
for the blueberry sauce: Mix the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries are tender and the sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, then refrigerate until cold before using.
For the lemon syrup: Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest in large strips from 1 lemon and reserve for the frozen yogurt (large strips are easier to remove from the yogurt base later). Juice lemons until you have 1/2 cup.
Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and let cool.
for the frozen yogurt base: Mix 2 tablespoons of milk with the tapioca starch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.
In a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth. Set aside.
Create an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water.
Combine the remaining milk, heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup, and lemon zest in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the tapioca starch slurry.
Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the reserved 1-1/4 cups yogurt and the lemon syrup and whisk until smooth.
Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
Remove the zest from the chilled frozen yogurt base. Pour into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy and starts to pull away from the canister, about 25 minutes.
Pack the frozen yogurt into a storage container, starting with a little blueberry sauce on the bottom of the container. Alternate yogurt with layers of blueberry sauce. End with a spoonful of sauce; do not mix. Press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.