Ten years ago at my niece’s wedding reception near Tel Aviv, there was great
interest in the taco station. To most of the guests, tacos were
“Where do you buy the tortillas?” I asked the caterer, as I
hadn’t seen them in the stores.
“We make our own,” he said.
have changed. These thin, flat, unleavened “pancakes” are much more common
thanks to the Mexican-inspired eateries that have opened here in the last few
years. You can buy tortillas to use at home – but not at a grocery store.
They’re found in large, well-stocked supermarkets, natural food stores and
markets in neighborhoods with American residents.
Flour tortillas are
easier to find than corn tortillas. La Bonita, a tortilla manufacturer in
Karmiel in the western Galilee, recommends flour tortillas for rolling up all
sorts of meats, vegetables and spreads, both savory and sweet; and corn
tortillas for cheeses and savory spreads or for chopped meats in
Flour tortillas became popular because they are flakier and more
delicate and “can be made very large so that one can hold enough for a meal,”
write Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman in The Well-Filled Tortilla
There are also whole-wheat flour tortillas and colorful
tortillas flavored with herbs, spices and vegetables. Wise and Hoffman consider
the different kinds of tortillas interchangeable. You simply allow three filled
corn tortillas per person or two filled flour tortillas, which are
The simplest way to use tortillas is to make tacos – soft, warm
tortillas filled and folded in half. Crisp tacos are made from fried tortilla
Another popular form is the burrito – a warmed soft tortilla
filled and folded like an envelope. Tostadas are flat, crisp fried tortillas
topped with a variety of ingredients, often including salads of raw
At La Bonita, they suggest making unconventional, not
necessarily Mexican, tacos, such as one filled with creamed mushrooms and onions
finished with grated cheese. For those who want more tang, spicy tomato sauce
can be added. The filling is rolled up in warm white or wholewheat flour
Tres Pesos, a tortilla company in Holon, recommends making a
breakfast burrito: You warm flour tortillas in a covered container in a low oven
while you make a flat omelet flavored with sour cream, cilantro and chopped
tomatoes or tomato salsa. Then you spread each warm tortilla with mashed
avocado, top it with a wedge of omelet, add more sour cream, tomatoes and grated
cheddar cheese, and roll it up. Other popular preparations call for
heating the tortilla after you fill it.
Quesadillas, a favorite snack,
are tortillas filled with meltable cheese, folded in half and heated in a
skillet to melt the cheese. A more elaborate tortilla preparation, which
I think of as Mexican blintzes, is the enchilada – a softened tortilla, filled,
rolled up, topped with sauce and baked.
I learned some quick, easy and
delicious ways to use tortillas from La Tortilla Factory in Santa Rosa,
California, which makes kosher parve tortillas. For a banana and raisin snack
wrap simple enough for children to make, spread cream cheese on a white or
whole-wheat flour tortilla, top it with banana slices and raisins, sprinkle with
cinnamon and roll it up. To make an Asian-inspired chicken burrito, combine
roasted chicken with sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and sesame seeds, and wrap
the mixture in a tortilla with lettuce leaves and cooked brown
Heating tortillas in a dry skillet or griddle is the traditional
way to warm them and gives the tastiest results, especially with corn tortillas.
To heat a tortilla in the microwave oven, use high power and microwave the
tortilla just until warm. This can take 25 seconds or longer, depending
on how cold the tortilla is. Some recommend first wrapping the tortillas
in a paper towel. I find that this gives better results, especially if the
tortillas were frozen.
Wise and Hoffman give additional heating options:
❖ In the oven: Heat oven to 200ºC (400ºF). Place tortillas on the oven
rack and leave in the oven for 3 minutes.
❖ In a steamer: Wrap a stack of
tortillas completely in a cloth towel. Put in a steamer basket above about 2.5
cm. (1 inch) of boiling water. Cover and steam for 6 to 10
According to La Tortilla, tortillas made without preservatives
can be refrigerated for up to two weeks or kept frozen for up to six months.
After freezing tortillas, even if you plan to serve them at room temperature, La
Tortilla recommends heating them so they become soft and
Instead of using tortillas, you can prepare the following
recipes using unsweetened blintz wraps.BLACK BEANS IN TORTILLAS Serves 4
This recipe is from The Well-Filled Tortilla Cookbook
. Authors Wise and
Hoffman write: “Pinto beans are the Mexican classic... but we think of
black beans as the Cadillac of beans.... We usually wrap these beans up burrito
style, tucking in the ends of the tortilla.” At serving time, “chopped or minced
garlic or onions, or both, sprinkled raw on top in plentiful quantities, make
black beans wake up and announce how good they are.” Chopped hard-boiled eggs
are another good addition.
If you would like your filling more compact (and less liable to spill out of the
ends of the folded tortilla), you can puree half the cooked beans with the
cooking liquid and stir in the remaining whole beans.
Serve with fresh
tomato salsa (see Note below). You can use fewer chilies for a less pungent
salsa. “The salsa’s consistency should be like a wet salad with enough liquid to
cover the vegetables, but not so much as to drown them.”
✔ 700 gr. black
beans (about 31⁄2 cups), sorted
✔ 11⁄2 medium onions, finely chopped
✔ 6 garlic
✔ 3 jalapeno or other fresh chili peppers, stemmed and finely
✔ 1⁄2 cup canned crushed tomatoes in puree
✔ 1⁄8 tsp. pure chili powder
✔ 12 cups water
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt
✔ 12 flour or 18 corn tortillas,
warmed just before serving
✔ 2 cups cilantro (fresh coriander) leaves
✔ 2 cups sour cream
✔ Fresh tomato salsa (see Note below)
Place the beans,
onions, garlic, chili peppers, tomatoes, chili powder and water in a large pot.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil and cook for 11⁄2 hours.
Stir in the salt and cook a little longer if the beans are not tender. To
assemble, use a slotted spoon to remove beans from pot and place them in the
center of a tortilla. Top with cilantro, sour cream and salsa. Fold and
Note: To make fresh tomato salsa, use a food processor or a chef’s
knife to coarsely chop 6 fresh hot peppers – one or several kinds (total about
60 grams or 2 ounces), 3 small trimmed radishes, 3 garlic cloves, 1 trimmed
bunch of green onions or 1⁄2 medium onion, 2 medium tomatoes and 1 cup cilantro
leaves. If using a food processor, first cut the vegetables into
Transfer to a bowl. Add 1⁄4 tsp. salt, 1 Tbsp. tomato paste and
1⁄2 to 1 cup water, depending on how juicy the tomatoes are. Mix well.
Makes 2 cups.LOX, EGGS AND SPINACH BURRITOS Makes 4 servings
burritos are filled with eggs scrambled with lox and onions, deli style, and a
spoonful of sautéed spinach.
✔ 1 bunch spinach (350 to 450 gr. or 3⁄4 to
1 pound), stems discarded, leaves rinsed well, or a 300-gr. (10-ounce) bag of
✔ 3 to 4 Tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil, or
✔ 2 Tbsp. oil and 1
to 2 Tbsp. butter
✔ 1 cup chopped onion
✔ Salt and freshly ground pepper
flour or whole-wheat tortillas, preferably whole grain
✔ 6 eggs, or 4 eggs and 3
✔ 3⁄4 cup finely diced or thin strips of lox or smoked salmon
spinach uncovered in a saucepan of boiling salted water over high heat for 2
minutes or until just tender. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain
well. Squeeze spinach by handfuls to remove as much liquid as possible.
Chop spinach fine. Heat 11⁄2 to 2 Tbsp. oil in a heavy nonstick skillet. Add
onion and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 7 minutes or until
tender and light golden. Remove half of onion and reserve for mixing with eggs.
Add spinach to pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and heat
Transfer to a bowl and keep warm. Wipe skillet clean. Warm
tortillas in a dry skillet, a microwave or a steamer; cover and keep warm. In a
bowl, beat eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper and add the reserved onions.
Heat remaining oil (or butter with any remaining oil) in skillet. Add eggs and
scramble over low heat, stirring often, until they are set to your taste. Remove
from heat and gently stir in lox.
Spoon spinach onto tortillas, top with
scrambled egg mixture, roll up and serve. Faye Levy is the author of
Cooking for the Jewish Home.