Blueberry-beet waffles

The waffling continues: Little Nettle requested purple waffles, so I roasted up a beet and puréed it with some frozen blueberries.

Extremely promising violet-purple waffle batter

Extremely promising violet-purple waffle batter

The batter was an amazingly intense violet-purple. The waffles themselves a little less so after cooking, but still suitable for unicorn food.

A slightly mauve exterior but a quite purple interior

A slightly mauve exterior but a quite purple interior

I served them with a roasted asparagus tofu Hollandaise, which I don’t have a picture of, but it was a very vibrant meal indeed.

Blueberry-beet waffle topped with vegan butter

Blueberry-beet waffle topped with vegan butter

Calico citrus beet ginger waffles

My sweetheart and Little Nettle got me a waffle maker last Christmas and I’ve been waffling ever since. I got Little Nettle her own copy of Unicorn Food, and these waffles are inspired by the Calico Beet Waffles - you can find the original recipe here.

Calico citrus beet ginger waffles, cooling

Calico citrus beet ginger waffles, cooling

They’re citrusy and sweet and not too earthy; the neon beet color is phenomenal. Next time I might up the beet content, or add blueberries for an even deeper hue.

Close up of calico citrus beet ginger waffles

Close up of calico citrus beet ginger waffles

To freeze, let the waffles cool and separate them, then place them in the freezer, separated by parchment paper. Make sure you lay them flat for easy storage later.

Calico citrus ginger beet waffles ready for freezing

Calico citrus ginger beet waffles ready for freezing

You can pop straight in the toaster or defrost them in the microwave first. Or you can eat them as soon as you make them. What will I waffle next? Green spinach and spirulina waffles?

batch cooking for H. & J.

playing tetris with frozen portions of batch cooking in the freezer

My friends H. and J. are having a baby this month, and I offered to make a few meals to ease a bit of the strain of the first few days of brand-new parenting.  Neither of them are vegans but they're both adventurous eaters and I've made dinner for them a few times before. I cooked up a few things and then - thanks to the folks over at the PPK forums - learned a few things about the things I should be cooking, too!

frozen dal makhani

I wanted to make them things that would freeze, keep and reheat easily and be warm and nourishing. They both really like dals and curries, so I made up a batch of dal makhani - I use coconut milk instead of ghee, yoghurt and cream - and aloo saag with beet greens, spinach and kale.

frozen NOLA red beans in a thick gravy

I also cooked up a batch of NOLA red beans in a thick gravy. I froze everything in 1 cup portions in storage containers and unmolded them by placing the containers in a bowl of cold water until the contents just released from the sides. Once all the different dishes were unmolded, I put the 1 cup portions in individual bags labelled with all the ingredients (in case of looking out for baby allergies) and with reheating instructions (for easy reference).   

molasses cornbread, cooling

I made some molasses cornbread as well, a house favorite, let it cool and then cut into single servings to freeze.

What hadn't occurred to me was this: things that can be eaten with one hand are a serious boon for new parents. So thank you, PPKers, I'll be baking off some empanadas later this week as well. Hopefully this will at least be a small help for H. and J. and their new little person - I can't wait to see what they look like as a bigger family!

Old New World: tortillas, a love story

tortillas, folded in a clean kitchen towel to steam

I've made an awful lot of tortillas this month for Vegan MoFo, but when I was a novice tortilla maker a few years ago I had no idea what I was doing. I'd eaten my fair share, but that's a different matter.

Tortillas in the pre-contact Americas were always made of corn, so that's what I've been making as wheat did not make it's way to the New World until the early 16th century when the Spanish brought it over. The Maya sometimes added in pumpkin or squash seeds to the masa, but most common was a plain tortilla, called wah and its thicker relative, pim. Tortillas came in many forms for the Aztecs; there are passages in the Florentine Codex that refer to tortillas made of a "white flour" or "white and hot tortillas" but these were made of corn, not wheat. Finely ground corn is much paler than coarsely ground, and there were many colors of maize - including white. According to the Franciscan friar Bernardo de Sahagún: 

"The tortillas which the lords ate every day were called tononqui tlaxcali tlacuelpacholli, meaning white and hot tortillas...ueitlaxcalli, meaning large tortillas; these are very white and very thin, and wide, and very soft...other tortillas called quauhtlaqualli; they are very white, and thick, and large and rough. They also ate some buns that were not round, but long, which they called tlaxcalmimilli...Another kind of tortillas they ate were called tlacepoalli tlaxcalli, which were in layers, and they were dainty food...there were also many kinds of tortillas for the commoners."

I feel like it's a pretty huge omission to not detail the "tortillas for the commoners," but I'm glad that Sahagún was so enthusiastic and mostly encyclopedic. I haven't made most of the kinds he describes, but I get by. If you're nervous about making tortillas, there are a few things I've picked up along the way; to start, here's the basic recipe I use for reference - you've seen it a few times this month.

tortillas 

makes 12

  • 2 cup masa harina
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup water plus more if necessary

Place the masa harina in a large bowl and stir in the salt. Add water and knead until the dough is firm but pliable. Form 12 balls of dough and cover them in the bowl with a damp  towel for 1 hour. 

Heat a flat pan over medium heat until drops of water dance and evaporate when flicked. Press between wax paper on a tortilla press or roll out into circles, then cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Fold stack of tortillas in a clean towel to steam for about 10 minutes.

homemade tortillas, imperfect and bumpy and tasty

notes 

If your dough is too crumbly, add water. If it's too sticky, add more masa. Do both a tablespoon at a time until you have a dough that is pliant, only slightly tacky, and does not crack. 

Make sure you form spheres, not ovals and not the somewhat "spinning top" shape used to make dumplings with thicker bellies. Your tortillas will roll out more evenly.

If your tortillas crack when they are rolled or pressed out, you need to add more water. Remove the cracked tortilla and add it back to the rest of the masa before you add more water to the entire batch. 

If your tortillas stick and pull apart on the wax paper when they are rolled or pressed out, you need to add more masa. Remove the sticky tortilla and add it back to the rest of the masa before you add more masa to the entire batch. 

I use a well-seasoned flat cast iron pan to cook tortillas. You can use a well-seasoned larger cast iron griddle if you have one to cook more than one at a time.

Patience is important; if you flip the tortilla too soon, bits of masa will stick to the pan and will eventually burn if you don't gently scrape them up quickly. 

Try, if you can without too much calamity, to burn the heck out of at least one tortilla so you get a feel for how hot is too hot, and how long is too long. You'll also learn when to turn the heat up or down with experience - I usually turn the heat down a bit for the last few tortillas as the pan gets very hot. I habitually undercooked my tortillas so they were still raw in the center before I accidentally burned one.

Cooked tortillas aren't perfectly smooth; in fact, you can tell when the first side is done by the small bumps that form. 

You'll soon get a sense for when to flip the tortilla, by the way it smells and the way the color changes. I tend to flip it the first time when the edges just start to curl up and remove it from the heat to steam after it has puffed up a bit, slightly inflated with air.  The tortilla will deflate when it is removed from heat. If you flip the tortilla too early, it's okay to flip it back.

Make sure you leave some time before serving to steam the tortillas in a clean kitchen towel. This helps the tortillas become flexible and soft. I do at least 10 minutes. I also turn the stack upside down when I finish the last one so that the hottest tortilla is on the bottom, steaming upward.

There's really nothing like a fresh, warm, homemade tortilla - and, once you get the hang of it, you can make more than a dozen in less time than it takes to pick up takeout!

a stack of tortillas

Old New World: Inca chuchuqa

fresh shucked corn

There is not as large a library of food of the Inca as there is of food of the Aztec or Maya, at least not as has been translated into English that I could find - so I wound up getting a book in Spanish so I could read more about Inca foodways. My Spanish is unfortunately very rusty, so that means doing a quick scan through recipes is out of the question. That also means that by the time I have finished reading through a passage, it turns out I am trying to figure out how to make dried ground corn - which is much more of a project than a recipe! If you have a little bit of free time on your hands, perhaps you are up to it. I have typed out the instructions in both Spanish and my shaky English translation below. I won't tell you how long it took me to translate as it would just embarrass us all.

preparación para chuchuqa

  • maíz tierno o maíz seco

Desgranar el choclo (maíz tierno) o el maíz seco. Hervir los granos durante corto tiempo hasta que estén medio crudos. Algunos hierven el choclo en mazorca.

Extender los granos sobre que espacios cubiertos con paja o ichu durante varios días hasta que el grano se seque, se "chupe" hasta que llegue la mitad de su tamaño original.

Una vez seco, el maíz se muele no muy fino y se cierne para que elimine el afrecho.

 

dried corn; I did not dry this myself

how to prepare chuchuqa

  • sweet corn or dried corn

De-grain the sweet corn or dry corn. Boil the grains for a short time until they are medium raw. Some boil the corn on the cob. 

Spread the grains over areas covered with straw or bunches of grass for several days until the grain is dry and has "sucked" to half its original size.

Once dry the corn is ground very fine and any hanging bran is removed.

 notes

The quantities are up to you!

I assumed that "de-graining" the corn meant to simply remove it from the cob. This is incorrect! Desgranar is actually much more specific than I had thought, which makes sense. It refers to lifting out the kernels of corn from the cob by wiggling at the individual roots, one camino, or row, at a time.

I don't really know what the difference between maíz tierno o maíz seco or sweet corn and dry corn is - or why there would be the same instructions for both. Perhaps they are just synonyms?

I am also not sure why this particular kind of dried ground corn is not nixtamalized; when I look up chuchuqa or chochoca online most of the results I get refer to a kind of potato bread. However, it seems like some corn was simply secado al Sol: dried in the sun.

 

dried ground corn; I did not dry or grind this myself