18 November 2008

Eating Your Trees

If you've ever driven through the American southwest and seen mesquite trees, you certainly wouldn't plan on eating them. The wood makes a fine smoking chip, but the pods are also edible. The pods are ground into a very fine powder, called mesquite meal or mesquite flour.

Regardless of what you call it, this is one potent ingredient! It has a taste somewhere around cinnamon and chocolate and is fairly intense, so you want to use it sparingly.

Mesquite flour supposedly has health benefits as well as a unique and interesting taste. The large amount of fiber in the product, and the fact that the sugars are fructose, means it is easier for the body to handle and has a low glycemic index. If you have a health issue, you may want to look into that further. But today, we are using this for flavor.

Try this flour tortilla recipe with a little butter, and see what the clan has to say about it. This recipe was adapted from a recipe by some Tuscon based localvores .

We will use these tortillas in our next recipe as well. And, we'll tell you where we get the ingredients after the recipe.

Mesquite & Kamut Tortillas

1 3/4 c kamut(r) flour
1/4 c mesquite flour
1 t salt (optional)
2 T canola oil
3/4 c warm water

First, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the oil and mix loosely with a wooden spoon. You may not need all of the water. Add it slowly, stirring with the spoon, until you get a nice ball that is pulling away from the sides. The dough should clean the sides. Add a little more kamut if it is too wet. Knead for a minute or two, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 15-30 minutes.

Heat up a flat griddle or a comal on medium low heat. We prefer a cast iron comal, which you can buy online at many Mexican grocery suppliers. A 10-12 inch cast iron skillet can also serve for this.

Divide the dough into 6 roughly equal pieces. Take a quart sized ziptop type bag and cut the side edges open and remove the zip part, leaving only the bottom fold and a folded piece of heavy plastic. Put the plastic open in your tortilla press, put one of the balls of dough in, cover with the other piece of plastic, and press out the tortilla. Take the tortilla to the hot comal and cook about 30 seconds per side. You want it to have a few brown spots but not to burn.

Serve hot with butter or wrap around some fresh roasted chiles and cheese.
Makes 6

If you don't have a tortilla press, you can certainly use a rolling pin to roll out the tortillas, but that seems too much like work. Tortilla presses are readily available online and their is no substitute for fresh tortillas. Most tortilla presses will press out a 6-7 inch tortilla. Many of us are used to much larger tortillas from the store, so expect these differences before deciding if your first efforts have succeeded or not.

Most people new to tortillas don't realize that home made tortillas are generally thicker than the ones you get at the store. So, if you need thin ones, you might roll the tortillas out a little more even after pressing. Experiment and see what your family prefers.

We got our mesquite flour from Barry Farms . You'll see this name pop up a lot in our ingredient lists, along with Purcell Mountain Farms and The Spice House. We have found them to have an interesting selection of ingredients to explore, decent prices, and are pleasant to deal with.

Kamut is a registered trademark name for a special strain of wheat. It is always whole grain and always grown organically. It has a wonderful buttery flavor. We get our Kamut flour from Purcell Mountain Farms but will discuss this terrific ingredient in more detail later with more buying options.

Our next recipe up will be butternut jicama enchiladas with heirloom beans and mesquite tortillas. They will make you see Mexican style food in a whole new way!

Drop us a line if you have any questions or comments.

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