Monday, March 14, 2011

Meatless Monday: Avacado and Kale Gorditas

I have noticed a new trend on the Internet, and many folks are talking about it—Meatless Mondays. If I understand properly it began as a way to highlight the unsustainability of the modern meat system. So much conventional grain is grown using pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that run off into local water supplies contaminating groundwater. The animals themselves should not be eating corn and so their tummies bloat, they gain weight faster. Their digestive systems struggle to digest the corn making the cows prone to disease. The reasons I eat grass fed meat is because it is higher in omega threes, lower in fat, higher in Vitamins A, D and E. But it is also because the animals are more ethically treated. Pastured animals have more room to move, more freedom. They eat grass which is what their tummies have evolved to eat.

But most meat is not grass fed, and so you have a modern industrial meat industry that is a threat to our environment. I fortunately have a source of local (my farmer is in VT) grass fed meats. But if I didn’t, I would consider limiting my meat consumption. And I think that is a conclusion many people come to in the natural course of this whole ecological, ethical eating adventure. But conversely, one must also consider that most people need protein for optimal body function. Many many of the vegetarians I have known (especially the very young and the newbies) eat too many carbs, both refined and of the potato variety, in moving away from meat. I know that the vegetarian diet can be more than properly filled with proteins by incorporating beans, dark leafy greens and dairy (and possibly eggs and fish if that is the way you swing). But lots of people eliminate meat from their diet for reasons of principle or ethics without adding in other protein sources. This is a case of one’s heart being in the right place, but one’s head not. Do you need protein? Yes I firmly believe so. And if you agree with nutritional typing you also believe that many people can’t function properly without it.

Yet in my reading, such as Nourishing Traditions, it becomes obvious that humans have evolved to eat meat. Evidenced in part of our short (and single stomached) digestive track. So that makes the decision to eat meat, or not eat meat, all the more complicated. It is a situation of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. That being said, I know I don’t need to eat 8 or 10 ounces of meat in a day. I get lots of other protein foods. So I have made it a goal to have a meatless dinner once a week. I have been trying to incorporate beans into one dinner a week. And I would say I am successful every other week. But the popularity of Meatless Monday posts among food bloggers might motivate me to make more of an effort every week. Oh and did I mention that neither of the kids are eating beans right now?

Last week I got an inspiration to buy myself a little toy. A tortilla press. We don’t eat a lot of tortillas. Not because we are boycotting them, but just because we…well…don’t. But I love authentic Mexican food. It is the one ethnic food that I could eat every day and never get sick of it. The cast iron press was relatively cheap $20 (you can get them cheaper I am sure, this one is cast iron). And though it does only one thing, I mean, it is a really great thing!! The heartache it saves is more than compensates the $20 I spent.

I was itching to use the press, so I settled on Gorditas. Mostly because the recipe was sitting right there on the back of the masa harina I had gotten from Bob’s Red Mill. And for some reason I was intimidated to make tortillas (who knows why). ‘Gorditas’ means ‘little fatties’, and that’s because they are rather like a tortilla that hasn’t been pressed out all the way. The recipe for the dough as it read on my package is as follows:

3 ½ cups of Masa Harina (fine corn flour that is ground after the corn is first soaked in lime and water)
2 ¼ cups warm water
¼ cup of vegetable shortening (Though I could not in good conscious recommend vegetable shortening. Use coconut oil during Meatless Mondays and lard every other day of the week)
1 teaspoon of salt
½ cup of flour (I used whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking powder
Oil for the griddle
Heat Griddle to medium low (don’t do it too high, they will burn…uhhh…just trust me on that one). Mix Masa and water. Add in shortening, salt, flour and baking powder. Knead until well blended and masa forms a ball. Wet hands. Shape dough into 1 ½ to 2 inch balls. Cover to prevent drying. With moistened hands flatten into ¼ inch patties forming a 3 to 4 inch circle. Cook on a hot griddle in a little oil 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove and when cool enough, slice each gordita about halfway through forming a pocket (I see it more like a clam shell. Then stuff with anything slightly taco like. Makes 12-14 servings.

A couple of notes, I just halved the dough and made 7 balls out of each half to ensure they were all about the same. And when I used the tortilla press I put the dough in between a cut up plastic Ziploc bag in order to keep the dough from sticking to the press. On a side note, it was a bag had already used. I didn't destroy a bag for this purpose. I always encourage multi-tasking your plastics.
I found that it was best if I pressed gently on one side and then flipped the cake around to gently flatten out the other side. Otherwise I either ended up pressing too hard and making tortillas or I ended up with a lopsided ramp looking thing that was too think on one side and too thick on the other. Also I didn’t use that much oil for frying them. But if I had to do it all over again, I would have actually pan fried them in a greater amount of oil.
When I mentioned my gordita experiment to my friend WKG, who is my go to expert on all Mexican food queries, she mentioned that her mother and grandmother always deep fried their gorditas in lard. And that explained the squeals of delight that she gave me when I told her that I had made gorditas.

In honor of Meatless Mondays I stuffed my gorditas with a soft cheese Hawthorne Valley calls Bianco (it is like cow’s milk chevre), slices of avocado and chopped lacinto kale. Oh, and some Frank’s Red Hot. Actually a lot of Frank’s Red Hot. Delish. As far as protein, I served all this up with some crock pot black beans stewed with onion and garlic and cumin. Ridiculous.

And the kids? Well they didn’t go hungry. Though they didn’t give the meal its proper dues. They nibbled on some of the gorditas, but both had had too many afternoon snacks (not my fault I swear!!!) and so, this dinner was a big fat fail on the child frontier. And have I mentioned that the kids don’t eat beans? Such a travesty. DH and I were thrilled with them. It was kind of like eating a cross between a taco and a tamale. And the best thing? It was like a cross between a taco and a tamale!

1 comment:

  1. DH and I make gorditas con chorizo a few times a year...and we add Crema Mexicana, which is the Mexican version of sour cream, really yummy. We use Queso Fresco, which i prefer to blanco, but you could also ue Cotija or requeson (mexican ricotta kind of) and home made salsa and I think we're due cause I'm drooling.