“Imagine how thrilled you would’ve been if you could have seen this moment two years ago.” We were standing at the kitchen island and Ella had pulled up her little red chair, miniature rolling pin in hand, telling me she wanted to help.
James was right; this was one of my dreams when becoming a mom—having a child who wanted to spend time with me in the kitchen. Ella loves to get involved, and I always find small tasks she can do, whether it be pulling mint leaves off of stems, stirring batters, or playing with small pieces of tart dough. One of our favorite things to make together is homemade tortillas. The dough couldn’t be easier to assemble—it’s just masa harina, salt and water—so it’s perfect for kids. She loves to roll out the dough or mash it between her fingers, proudly displaying her “toriyyya!”
Making corn tortillas from scratch is easier than you would ever guess, and even though my daughter would say otherwise, a rolling pin is not required. After the dough gets mixed and rests for a spell, I roll it into balls with my hands then flatten the balls into tortillas using a tortilla press (which I finally just broke down and bought) or the bottom of a heavy casserole dish (which I used for years). The tortillas can be cooked immediately or layered between sheets of wax paper, covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight. I cook them in a big cast iron skillet or griddle until golden in spots on each side, and then wrap them in a kitchen towel to keep warm. We fill the warm tortillas with all sorts of goodies, ranging from braised pork, to sautéed Swiss chard, to shredded chicken to grilled fish. The tortillas have an unbeatable corn flavor and supple texture, making even the simplest of fillings taste delicious. Fish tacos are our favorite in the summertime—they’re quick and easy, and they’re perfect with a simple slaw or salsa. Last weekend our “fish guy” at the farmer’s market was selling locally caught wild flounder, which I marinated with jalapeño, garlic, cumin and lime, and then grilled in a fish basket. We flaked the fish into tortillas and added fresh tomato salsa, guacamole (made by James) and a drizzle of lime-scented crème fraiche. The dinner was incredibly simple but sublime, heightened by the work that we each put into it. In fact, I think we all had just as much fun cooking as we did eating.
Homemade Corn Tortillas
- 2 cups masa harina (preferably Bob’s Red Mill brand)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the masa harina and sea salt. Add the water and whisk until combined and thick. Pat the dough into a ball in the bottom of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 30-60 minutes.
- Cut 2 8-inch circles out of a plastic shopping bag.
- Shape the dough into 1 ½ to 2-inch balls and line them on a sheet pan. Press the balls into 5-6-inch rounds between the plastic bag rounds using a tortilla press or the bottom of a heavy casserole or skillet. Do Ahead: The tortillas can be layered between pieces of wax paper, covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet or a griddle over medium-high heat. Cook the tortillas on each side until golden in spots. Immediately wrap in a kitchen towel to keep warm. Serve the warm tortillas with the filling of your choice.
Grilled Flounder Tacos
- 1 pound wild flounder fillets
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ jalapeño , seeded and diced
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- Zest from 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Juice from quarter lime
- Cilantro sprigs for serving , optional
- Homemade corn tortillas
- Toppings , such as: fresh tomato salsa (see below), guacamole or avocado slices, lime crema (see below) or sour cream, slivered radishes and/or pumpkin seeds
- Line the flounder filets in a large dish. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the jalapeño, garlic, cumin and lime zest evenly over the fish. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the juice from a quarter lime. Let sit 10 minutes.
- Place the fish in an oiled fish basket and grill over medium-high heat until just cooked through; it will only take a couple of minutes on each side.
- To serve, transfer the fish to a platter with a few sprigs of cilantro. Serve the fish flaked into warm corn tortillas with the toppings of your choice.
Fresh Tomato Salsa
- 1 pound tomatoes (you can use any varieties or combinations that look good), cored, seeded and diced
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ medium onion (preferably sweet onion), finely diced
- ½ jalapeño , seeded and diced (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lime
- Toss the diced tomatoes with the salt and place in a colander to drain for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, rinse the diced onions in cold water (this helps to take away their bite) and drain well.
- Combine the tomatoes with the rest of the ingredients except lime and season with freshly ground black pepper. Squeeze in the juice from ½ of the lime. Taste and add additional lime juice, if desired. Do Ahead: The salsa can be made up to 2 hours in advance and left at room temperature.
- ½ cup crème fraiche
- Zest of ½ lime
- Juice of ½ lime
- Mix together the crème fraiche, lime zest and lime juice. Do Ahead: The lime crema can be made up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerated.