Broke on Sundays (Homemade Corn and Flour Tortilla Recipe)

Sundays were always an exercise in creativity during my days in culinary school. Before I moved to Italy, my dad and I had made an arrangement that he would deposit $100 worth of food and spending money into my account on Monday mornings. My tuition and housing were completely paid for, and the city was small enough to get around easily on foot, so it seemed like a good amount in theory.

Unfortunately, the exchange rate at the time turned that $100 into about 70 euro, which swiftly disappeared one scoop of gelato or bottle of wine at a time.

Image via
I was never particularly good about budgeting and the glass cases piled high with assorted panini that I would pass on the way to and from school each day proved irresistible.

As did the cheese in the market.

And the nutella-filled crostatas.

And the $10 brick oven margarita pizza and wine special at the cafe near my school.

image via Walks of Italy
By the time the weekend rolled around, my roommates and I usually found ourselves pooling together our crumpled bills and euro coins to make it through until our next allowance arrived.

I used to joke that if I ever wrote a book about our time in Italy, it would be called Broke on Sundays.

I remember one evening when my roommate Susanne and I invited a couple of chefs we'd been dating over for wine (they were bringing it, along with leftovers from the restaurant where they worked since we didn't have food, either), only to realize that our sink was overflowing with dirty dishes and plates that we couldn't wash because we had no soap.

Yes. We were literally too poor to afford soap. (Well, I mean, we had shampoo, but we weren't about to waste that on dishes.)

We spent 2 hours digging through seat cushions, emptying out pockets, and even searching the sidewalk in front of our flat for enough coins to buy a bottle of the cheapest dish soap available--a dusty, 60 euro cent bottle of generic neon green slime. I still remember the shopkeepers look of horror as we poured our pile of coins onto his counter to pay for it.

One of my favorite discoveries during these days were homemade tortillas. When I arrived in the flat for the first time in January, I was pleased to discover that the previous renters had left a large container of flour.

Without a recipe (or even the internet!) I combined the flour with water, a bit of salt, and some stolen olive oil (a story for another time) to make a simple dough. I used one of our many leftover wine bottles to roll out the circles of dough and fried them on a hot skillet.

They were hot and just a little bit chewy--perfect for rolling around scrambled eggs or spreading with soft cheese (purchased during the lush early days of the week).

A few years after we got back to the US, I got an email from Susanne asking me if I had the recipe for those tortillas I used to make. I didn't because I had really just winged it, but jotted a note to myself that I really should make them again soon.

Last night, I found myself craving shrimp tacos--one of my favorite weekday recipes. I had everything I needed except the tortillas, but it was cold and raining, and I had no desire to venture a few blocks to the store to purchase some.  But I did have ingredients, and so I got to work in the kitchen mixing a dough, rolling out circles and frying hot, fresh tortillas on my cast iron skillet.

The whole process took less than an hour, and the results were absolutely incredible. This recipe is for tortillas made with equal parts flour and cornmeal (much fancier than what I ate in my impoverished Florentine days).

The combination produces a particularly wonderful tortilla that's both soft and deliciously flavored. The taste is reminiscent of arepas or huaraches, and pairs beautifully with your favorite taco toppings.



Read more about my life in Florence here

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Homemade Corn and Flour Tortillas
Makes 10-12 taco-sized tortillas

Ingredients
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 1/4 cup stoneground yellow cornmeal (preferably organic)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon melted butter or bacon fat, plus more for greasing pan
3/4 cup whole milk

Directions
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder until evenly combined. Mix in the butter and milk, beating until a dough forms. Turn out and knead by hand for 5 minutes until dough is no-longer sticky (if too wet, add a bit more flour a tablespoon at a time). Divide dough into 10-12 even sized balls and arrange on a baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest 15-20 minutes.

Heat a heavy skillet or griddle pan over medium heat. Sprinkle counter with flour, then working with one ball of dough at a time, roll out until it's about 1/8" thin. Grease the skillet and fry the flattened circle of dough for about 30 seconds on each side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with rest of dough.

Serve tortillas immediately with your favorite toppings. They're best fresh, but leftovers can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated 1-2 days, then reheated slightly in a warm skillet or microwave. Tortillas can also be wrapped and frozen indefinitely.

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