Monthly Archives: August 2010

Ay, caramba

I need some trivial help.  For years Brad has made a dish he calls, lyrically, “burrito stuff.”  It’s good enough that I also make it now, occasionally.  It’s basic: toasted cumin, chopped onion, carrot, bell pepper, hot pepper, tomatoes, and black beans.  I add lime juice and whiskey, since whiskey improves all Tex Mex.  Or tequila, I guess, if you are the sort to have that in your home bar.  Maybe some cilantro.  Then put it on a tortilla and dress it with whatever else you want — cheese, sour cream, Cholula, salsa.

Burrito stuff. What a terrible name! but I can’t think of a better one.  Help me out.

I need a good name because now I have the tortillas to go with it.  Or to go with anything.  Or nothing.  They match my memory of fresh tortillas from Mrs. Garcia, my neighbor when I was a kid.  I am in a missionary kind of mood, so here’s how it’s done, people.  Do not be distracted by the Mexican women who will tell you something batshit to do (eggs?  pbbbbt) .  I am now convinced that all the seemingly lovely Mexicans and Mexican Americans I’ve asked for advice (and also gringas who believed they had the answer)  were purposely steering me wrong.  Or they just didn’t know.


  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (this is my only nod to my normal habits.  Go whole hog with the white flour if you want.  H-E-B does, and their tortillas are really good.  Yeah, they’re a big chain and that sounds like it couldn’t possibly be true, but I have had tortillas from the awesome home kitchen and I have had tortillas at yummy Tex Mex restaurants and I have had H-E-B’s tortillas, and H-E-B is good.  I am using hard white wheat flour.  I’m not sure if that makes a difference, but it makes a big difference in other things, so now you know, just in case.)
  • 1/4 cup powdered milk (do it.  For the vegan(s) amongst you, sub some soy milk or something, but warm it up and add it along with the water later and adjust the water amount, obviously.  If you’re a dairy eater, DO NOT SKIP THIS.  Go buy some if you need to.  Slacker.)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix all the dry stuff.  Then add

  • 1 Tb oil or shortening

Cut in.

  • Then stir in some warmish water — maybe a cup or so.  Just add a little at a time.  Make a soft dough.  Then make it softer.  Sticky is annoying to handle, but it’s what you want.  Ignore the smart baker voice in your head.  What is wisdom to men is foolishness to the god of tortillas.  Do it.  Make it sticky.  Mix it fast, don’t do any kneading or anything.  Just get a sticky dough and step away.
  • Cover the bowl with a damp towel or something and leave it for about 15 – 30 minutes.  Longer if you get busy and forget about it.
  • Divide the dough into about 10 equal portions and roll it out thin, really thin.  Use copious flour.  Use more flour than you normally use.  Use so much flour that everything is a mess and then your pan gets really floury and messy too and the tortillas have a film of dry flour on them when you take them from the heat.  Also, roll them fast.  Keep the working of the dough to an absolute minimum — roll in flour (because you know, it’s sticky), flatten, roll out very thin, flop it into the pan.  Try not to make holes, but if you do, just live with them.  Don’t ball the dough up and roll it again.  You only get one shot; get it as right as you can.
  • Cook them over medium heat, dry pan.  I am not a medium heat kind of woman.  Give me high heat any day.  Except tortilla-making day.  Medium.
  • Try to survive the tortilla goodness.  Listen, I can barely taste anything.  I have listing taste buds, and it even makes me stagger.
  • Proselytize your neighbors.  This is especially needed if you’re in Upstate Extreme NY, where the folks eat bland Italian all the time and are flummoxed by cilantro.  I delivered cilantro in the local CSA shares last week, and by evening had a phone call from every single person I delivered asking me what the hell to do with it.

Do not eat-a the Amanita

On a hike this past weekend

I wish I could fall into those there rapids.

There was not a lot of ground covered.  That was to be expected, as two members of the party had insufficient leg length for ground covering.

What was unexpected was the number of mushrooms encountered.  We collected a whole mess of them (haphazardly.  I cannot recommend the level of sloppiness in collecting).  I took spore prints and finally got around to looking at them tonight after Brad pleaded with me to please, please throw away the stinky mushrooms.

OK, so I do believe I had a chanterelle, but it was too far gone (when found, actually, and much too far gone tonight) to be sure what it was.  I think it may have been a black trumpet.  If only I’d been able to ID it for sure and it had been in its prime, I would have eaten that sucker.  That was the one stinking up the house.  (Note to mom:   Do not panic.  Chanterelles are easy to ID and there aren’t many toxic ones.  And the toxic ones are easy peasy to spot.)

Also my luck: Fawn mushrooms.  (Note to mom: similar to above. )  These ones were young specimens, so I only was missing the spore print to confirm ID.  However, they also seem pretty easy to ID and they did smell like radishes.  I like radishes.  Next time I find these, I will eat them.  Actually, I will serve them to Brad first, because he is the only one with life insurance.*

The other large specimens all seem to have been some type of Amanita or another.  They had decomposed too far to ID them completely.  Also, the sloppy collection technique left me without one very important part, so I couldn’t really key them out.  But!  Be-yootiful mushrooms with white spores!  I suspect.    (Note to mom:  See?  See how I didn’t eat the dangerous ones?  See how I didn’t say, “Oh, I’m missing the base.  That’s okay, they look like Lepiotas.  I’ll just cook them up and serve them to my small children.  What could go wrong?”  See?  I can be trusted to be paranoid and studious.  On the other hand, don’t trust Brad.  He can’t be bothered to know what an annulus is.)

I love my mushroom book, Mushrooms Demystified.  I love it so much that I occasionally read it just for leisure.  Everyone should read it.  The author may be a tad obsessed, but he exhibits lots of humor, indicating some awareness of the society around him (unlike whatever early jerk mycologist thought it would be a good idea to name that bottom part of the Amanita I was missing the volva.  Could he really not think of any other name?  Anything?  Yes, I like to judge the past through the lens of the present.  Why?)

I have a problem with my favorite mushroom book, though.  It’s California-centric, American-West-focused at best.  However I may long for the visible sky of the West, I am stuck instead under the leaf-obscured sky of the East, with many, many mushrooms.  I want to find a warm, human, funny Eastern U.S. mushroom book with tons and tons of information.  I am nearly certain that such a thing does not exist and God hates me.

*I jest.  Goodness gracious.