Saturday, October 07, 2006

October 5, 2006: Tostadas

After enjoying Carol's last visit so much, we invited her back again. This time we decided to go beyond the nibbly approach and tackle two proper dishes - I was responsible for the main and Cindy, inevitably, took charge of the sweets. I'd previously used Kurma's tostada recipe as inspiration for a sweet potato based Mexican dinner, and decided that this time I'd just stick to the basics: refried beans, spicy tomato sauce and guacamole, all served on a shallow-fried tortilla with cheese and a smattering of salad. Nothing in the recipe is too complicated, but with a couple of frypans and a saucepan on the go, things can get a little frazzled. The best approach is to just make things one at a time - guacamole first, then the tomato sauce, followed by the beans and finally the tortilla frying.

The guacamole can be done well ahead of time, and is really, really easy. Find two perfectly ripe avocados and mash them up with a fork. Add in half a cup of finely chopped salad onion, a dash of tobasco sauce, a lime's worth of lime juice and as much black pepper as you feel like and stir. Voila - guacamole!

The spicy tomato sauce is simple: throw a can of crushed tomatoes and some olive oil in a saucepan, add a teaspoon of asafetida powder, some lemon juice and a pinch of salt as well as some sort of spicing agent - the recipe suggested fresh green chillis, but I just sprinkled in some chilli powder instead. Because the sauce starts out pretty liquidy, there's no harm in leaving it simmering while you do the beans.

Having always enjoyed refried beans at Mexican restaurants, I was impressed with how easy Kurma's recipe for them is. Heat about 2 tablespoons of butter in a fry pan and sprinkle in 1/2 a teaspoon of asafetida (Kurma, being a Krishna cook, doesn't believe in using garlic or onions, but I'm sure you could replace the asafetida with garlic in both these recipes), a teaspoon of chilli powder and a teaspoon of cumin powder. Almost immediately throw in the beans and fry them for a while (until the pan starts to dry out and the beans start to stick). Once the beans are nicely fried, pour in about 1/4 cup of water and mash them up with a potato masher until they're a fairly uniform texture. I call it 'mush'. At this point, they're basically ready, but if you want to keep them on the heat while you're chopping salad or frying tortillas, you just need to stir a little water through every so often to stop them drying out.

Hopefully while you've been making the beans and sauce, someone else has helpfully grated some carrot and cheese (thanks Cindy!), meaning all that's left to do is shred some lettuce and chop up some capsicum (or tomato if you'd prefer). If everything's in place, it's time to fire up stove element #3 and fry up some tortillas. Liberally cover the bottom of a fry pan with oil and wait for it to get pretty hot. Drop in a tortilla, fry for about 20 seconds on each side and then take it out and shake off as much oil as you can. The aim with the tostadas is to end up with a slightly concave tortilla bowl - it's not essential, so you can just drop the tortilla on a plate now and start stacking - but if you want to do it properly, you drop it in a shallow bowl and give it about 30 seconds to 'set'. Once it's ready (and you're ready to shape the next tortilla) you pull it out of the bowl and set it on a plate for stacking.

Kurma has a strict order for stacking his tostadas, but I don't think it's particularly important. As long as your cheese is close to your beans (for maximum melting) and you've got as much guacamole as you can possibly fit on top, you can't really go wrong.


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