When my week’s kind of crazy, I need something hot, filling, and nutritious. NOW. I don’t want to wait for the oven to finish pre-heating. And I certainly don’t want to bother making everything from scratch.
Or do I?
Let’s just say I was procrastinating a bit. Taxes, tow truck adventures, experiment planning, and lobbying for better health care packages make for an interesting week. An exciting (and potentially, fairly fulfilling) week, I admit, but I needed a little break. So I did what I do best — turn a potentially quick, healthy dinner into a three hour play session, starting with fresh, made-from-scratch corn tortillas, shaped ever so clumsily with my very own palms. And you know something? It was worth it. I’d give up my evening in a second for hot-off-the-pan tortillas, with a bit of melted cheese, a little snack to hold me over until the vegetables finally roasted into the perfect succulent sweetness that only a bit of patience can yield.
But the best part of this story? You can do this in pretty much no time at all, with a bit of preparation. You don’t have to muck about in your fridge, mixing this and that, like I did. Throw your vegetables in your toaster oven to roast, bake the squash ahead of time by simply cutting it in half and throwing it in a hot oven for an hour (or use a microwave, if you dare). And those tortillas? All they are are a bit of masa and water, mixed and shaped. You don’t have to make more than you need for dinner, and they cook up in minutes. Minutes!
And that’s only if you, like me, have no clue what you’re doing. Which, I assure you, only adds to the fun.
Roasted veggie tostadas with squash and chipotle tomato sauce
This is one of those mix and match recipes. I’m seriously craving the sauce at the moment, though — it has that sweet hot goodness that I can only enjoy when James is working late (the boy does not deal with peppers well … Let’s just say he starts coughing violently when I throw a few into my latest creation). The sauce would probably work really well with grilled chicken tacos, as well. Which is funny, because I sort of tasted this and that, added another, and hoped for the best. These are always my favorite dinners, for some strange reason. Perhaps I didn’t make enough mud pies in my childhood, and I’m making up the difference now?
Edit: I recently made these again for a dinner party, and they didn’t taste quite as corny, for lack of a better word. I’m not sure why, though I think maybe I worked them a bit more the first time, and let them sit for five or so minutes before I cooked them? This time, I was running out of time, so I rushed things a bit, and I think the flavor suffered as a result. So take your time, and give the corn a bit of time to re-hydrate before you cook the tortillas.
- 2 c. instant masa. If I were so inclined, I suppose I could make my own. But even the instant stuff yielded results on par with the Salvadoran variety I bought here the last time I was in DC. Maybe they weren’t as pretty, but hey, it’s kind of charming to eat something that bears evidence of your labor. Instant masa can be found at Mexican markets, and in the occasional grocery store. If you’re in the New Haven area, your best bet is probably to head over to Fair Haven and check out the local C-Town.
- 1-1/8 c. water.
- olive oil.
Mix both ingredients together until a rough dough is formed. Turn out on a clean surface and knead gently, to ensure the mixture is evenly moist. If it doesn’t stay together very well, you can add a bit of water (best regulated by simply wetting your hands and handling the dough). Pull off lime-sized balls of dough and flatten with your hands. They will stick to the table, but if you have a spatula or dough scraper, you’ll survive. Make sure to keep the shaped tortillas and remaining dough covered as much as possible, to avoid dry tortillas (and really crumbly dough).
Heat a glug of oil in a heavy cast iron skillet over medium high heat for a few minutes. throw your first tortillas in the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side, until they have a couple of browned patches or have started to turn a bit white on the surface. Place on a plate and keep covered. Continue cooking tortillas until all the dough is gone.
I got about 8 tortillas for my trouble. You can scale this down or up at whim; no need to even measure carefully.
- 2 portobello mushrooms, sliced.
- 1 poblano pepper, cut into slices or squares (depending on preference / laziness).
- 1 Italian pepper, cut into slices or squares.
- (1 shallot, sliced, or 1 small onion, sliced). I should have added this in, but will just have to save it for next time.
- 1/2 a roasted acorn squash. I happened to decide to roast mine this weekend. You can microwave this if you’re in a hurry, or use up some leftovers. If you’re game enough to cut raw squash (a task I usually try to avoid at all costs), you can throw this in the oven to roast ~10-15 minutes in advance, and then add the rest of the vegetables.
- Olive oil.
- Pepper. Freshly ground is preferable.
Pre-heat oven (or toaster oven, for smaller, more efficient quantities) to 400°F. Toss all vegetables (except the squash, if already cooked) in the oil, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and roast for 10-15 minutes, or until the mushrooms start to smell heavenly and beg to be eaten. (In the meantime, go make the sauce). Add the squash, cook for a few minutes more. Serve as directed below, or make a warm salad (great with a bit of cheese and some balsamic vinegar).
Squash and Chipotle Tomato Sauce
- 1 c. tomato sauce (I pureed some canned San Marzano tomatoes with a few cloves of garlic, a bit of oregano, and salt to taste. This was actually left over from pizza making).
- 1/2 roasted acorn squash, mashed.
- 2 chipotle peppers, with 2 T. adobo sauce.
- 1 t. cumin.
- 1 T. balsamic vinegar.
- Leaves from 2-3 sprigs of cilantro (adjust to taste).
- 2 t. unsweetened cocoa powder.
- ~1 c. vegetable stock or water.
- 1 T. oil.
Throw all ingredients except squash and stock / water in a food processor and blend. Alternatively, just mix everything together. You’ll have to make sure the cilantro and chipotle peppers are finely chopped if you choose this route.
Cook over medium low heat for a few minutes. Add the squash, and adjust the consistency with the stock or water; you may not need it all. Cook for a couple of minutes more, and serve as directed below. Or eat with a spoon, straight from the pan …. Yah, I’m classy like that.
Top fresh tortillas with roasted vegetables, sprinkle on a little cheddar cheese (optional, but delicious), and top with sauce. Serve with some crispy greens and tomatoes.