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The Versatile Tortilla

When was the last time you ate a “little cake” or “little torta”? No, it’s not a sweet snack cake, that’s what the Spanish word “tortilla” means. But what exactly is a tortilla, and how can they be used in your family’s meals?

Tortillas, either made of corn or flour, have long been eaten by families in Mexico. In fact, this staple food has been enjoyed for centuries. Normally they are freshly prepared, but they are easily found at grocery stores throughout the country. Another type of tortilla is similar to an omelette made with potatoes. If you ask most people what a tortilla is, they will describe the flattened bread.

Maize (or corn) tortillas are used when making enchiladas, tamales, tostadas and flautas. However, most people will recognize them as being used for making tortilla chips and eating them with salsa. Flour tortillas are used for making soft tacos, burritos and chimichangas. They have been made in one form or another since 10,000 BC by both Mayan and Aztec peoples.

You may be used to purchasing pre-made tortilla shells but they’re really easy to make and have very few ingredients. Corn or flour, butter, water and salt are all that is needed. Of course, you can make the tortilla as large or as small as you like and the size will determine which Mexican foods you can prepare.

Use flour tortillas instead of bread to make peanut butter and jelly roll-ups. Fry them with butter on a griddle and drizzle with honey and chocolate or fill them with fruit, roll them up and deep fry them. The types of food you can make with tortillas is limited only by your own imagination. In fact, you aren’t limited to Mexican cuisine. You can use tortillas for many types of food. They even make a great base for making pizza if you run out of homemade pizza dough.

Tortillas are a staple in nearly every Mexican home and are becoming almost as popular outside of Mexico. They are versatile and can be used both for sweet as well as savory dishes. Look through cookbooks of Mexican cuisine and try something new with tortillas tonight.