Tortillas-Adventures in Mexican and Southwestern Cookery
The tortilla, known as the bread for Southwest and Mexican cookery, was an Indian invention. The Indians heated whole corn grains in water containing a little dissolved lime to make the skins come off. They then ground the softened kernels into smooth dough called masa, which the women tossed and patted into thin cakes. They were placed in a hot frying pan or comal and baked until the edges became dry. These (almost) whole grain breads have no added fat, which makes them very healthy.
Wheat flour tortillas are a variation of the traditional corn tortillas. They tend to be larger in size than the corn tortilla. They are made with unbleached white flour, salt, water, and either lard or corn oil. They also are cooked in a fry pan or skillet for just a few seconds. The flour tortillas are a little higher in fat, ranging from 2 to 3 grams per tortilla.
Tortillas are a fun food to eat because they can act as the plate and spoon as well. They can be folded over some fillings and rolled around others; they can be fried or toasted to serve as scoops, or dried to form the base for casseroles and thickenings for soups.
Both types of tortillas are readily available in the refrigerator section of the grocery store. Tortillas may be kept in the refrigerator or frozen. They should always be served warm and must be heated individually. The best and most traditional method is directly over a gas flame, turning constantly. If the tortilla is too dry and does not soften easily, dampen your hands and rub the tortilla, or steam for a few seconds. They may also be reheated in a frying pan over medium heat. They will stay warm wrapped together in a slightly dampened towel in a 200 degree oven. The microwave works only for tortillas that are going to be eaten immediately; they tend to become dry and brittle within minutes.