I’ve never been to Mexico…or even the Southwest United States…so I can’t verify the authenticity of my tacos. But I can guarantee that they’re good! As my kids were growing up, tacos were one of their favorite meals. I especially like to make them in the summer as I don’t have to even turn on the oven.

They’re versatile. A balanced meal. Lots of room for creativity in the toppings you use. And if you make all the components yourself, they’re very inexpensive. Today we’re going to make Salsa and Tortillas…next time I’ll show how to make Refried Beans and put it all together to make some really terrific tacos!

Let’s start with the salsa. As with many parts of this recipe, there’s a lot of flexibility depending on what your family likes, what spices are available to you, etc. Here in Italy, for instance, we have a few types of peppers available…like these green ones…”Peperoncini Friggitello”.

The name means “little fried peppers”. And sure enough, a search on the Internet showed that they are generally served fried. But the flavor was nice so I used them in my salsa anyway.  In my search for peppers to use in the salsa, I also found these red ones…

I knew these wouldn’t be hot, jalapeno-type peppers as their name was “Dolcerosso” which means “Sweet Red”, but I bought them anyway to try them. I ended up using them in the salsa even though they were sweet.   So if you live outside of the U.S., you might not have the same exact peppers and spices available to you that the recipe calls for…but just use those available where you live. Buy some; sample a small piece…and unless they’re too hot, just go for it.

So here’s my salsa…

And here’s what you need to make it…

Fresh or canned crushed tomatoes…onion, and a variety of peppers. To these basic ingredients I add a large clove or garlic, salt, cumin, and cilantro. Some people don’t cook their salsa at all…I like to combine everything in a saucepan and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes. I think this helps release flavors. But if you prefer, just mix everything together and let it set a few hours so the flavors marry.

This can keep for several weeks in the fridge. It can also be frozen though I’ve found the water separates from the tomatoes making it more watery than I like.  Click here for the salsa recipe.

Now for the tortillas. Living in Europe, I can find flour tortillas on the grocery store shelf…but I cannot bring myself to pay the price, especially when I know that with 3 cups of flour and a few other ingredients I can make ten of them in about 20 minutes. I once hosted a very large group of Italians for a taco meal–so I bought half of the tortillas and made half of them. The flavor of the store-bought ones couldn’t hold a candle to the homemade ones! So even if you live in the Land of Plenty (the Good Ol’ U.S.A.) you might want to consider making your own tortillas just for the improved flavor.  All you need is 3 C. flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1 T. baking powder, 1 T. oil and 1 C. water.

I begin by combining these ingredients in a bowl (or food processor)…and mix it well. I’m always looking for ways to make recipes healthier so I used 1 C. whole wheat flour and 2 C. of regular flour. So my tortillas may be a bit darker than yours if you use all white flour.

…then I dump the mixture onto a floured surface and just knead it a bit…before shaping it into a log…

I make each batch into ten tortillas. I begin by cutting the log in half…

…and then cutting each half into five pieces. I find this method helps me get the pieces pretty uniform in size.

I roll each piece into a ball…and set them aside…

Then, one by one, I roll them out. into a circle.  To begin, I just press the ball into a flat disk with my thumbs…

…and then use a rolling pin to roll it very thin. I roll from the center toward the outside, rotating the tortillas frequently as I roll it out.

I roll it as thin as I can…

While I’m rolling out my first 2-3 tortillas, I’m preheating my 12-inch Teflon-coated pan since it needs to be good and hot. That’s the only type pan I’ve ever used….so I can’t vouch for anything else. Do not grease the pan. If the only Teflon-coated coated pan you have is small, consider making smaller balls and making smaller tortillas.

Once my pan is very hot, I place a tortilla in the pan and while it’s cooking, I’m rolling out another one. I have found if I stack up all of the rolled out tortillas, they tend to stick together. That’s why I like to just roll out 2-3 before I start cooking them, and then I can pretty much keep pace….cooking and rolling…and cooking and rolling… If I get behind on the rolling, I just turn off the burner a while to have time to roll out a few more. Occasionally I just lift up the edge to see if the underside is browned, and flip it over. The top side will bubble up a bit (did you notice the high ratio of baking powder to flour in the list of ingredients? That causes bubbles to form.)

I usually use a spatula…don’t know why I’m using my fingers here to flip it over! But they never stick…it’s that easy.

The underside will look like this:

I find it works much better to cook them quickly…if you have the burner too low, they dry out and get more like a cracker so you can’t roll them up.  Once they’re done on both sides, I just stack them up on a dinner plate and cover them with a large saucepan cover. This helps to keep them softened.

So now we have our salsa made…tortillas made. Next time we’ll complete the other toppings and put together our terrific tacos. I hope you can stand the wait…I’ll write again in a day or two!

Ciao!

Debbie

Salsa Recipe

Flour Tortilla Recipe

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