Saturday, January 10, 2015

The gifts of time and an experience!

My friend Vicky Vento gives me gifts of her time constantly. The hours she puts in doing things for me, my family and my students cannot be counted. She makes a difference to the students at W. F. West High School. Like many who give, she is often not thanked enough. Today her gift of time was for our Knowledge Bowl Team. She runs the clock while I ask the questions. Running the clock.....stressful, and she does it without complaint. She's a bright spot on our tournament mornings.

After the tournament today I was invited to her home. Ted Vento had made me a tortilla press in his woodshop, a beauty, made out of walnut and oak. It is too beautiful to use, but we used it. Ted had received the gift of making tortillas with a friend and her Mexican mother. The mother had probably made dozens of tortillas a day for most of her life. Ted passed the gift on to me.

First, we must start with the Masa.
Available in our grocery stores.

Ted quickly put a cup of Masa in a bowl, and turned the tap water on to hot.

Then he just began letting hot tap water flow into the Masa. No measuring, just a practiced eye. 

If you are going to try this, I would suggest about a quarter cup of really hot tap water to start and then add as needed.

Ted says, you must just mix it with one hand. Once it is wet, just wet your hand under the tap and mix and knead. The Masa needs to be worked for awhile. 

See how it looks here? Almost ready. Wet your hand, work it a bit more. Remember Play Doh....the store bought kind? It should feel just like that when it is finished. 

A cup of Masa will make six thin tortillas, but we opted for five really deluxe tortillas. 

Take a part of the Masa and shape a ball. Cut a plastic zip lock type bag open and place the bag on the tortilla press. Place the ball of Masa on the press and put the top of the plastic bag over it. 

Press on the board itself, don't use the press handle yet. Use your body weight. Kind of like a yoga downward facing dog, where you spread the weight through your full hand, and press from the torso. 

Finally use the handle. Ted is a master craftsman as well as an organic farmer, home chef etc. He designed his press so that the edges on the whole tortilla stay equal for the entire circumference. So impressed!
Look at that! Perfect!

If you aren't lucky enough to have a tortilla press, don't lose heart. Make the ball of dough, press it down between the sides of the plastic or waxed paper, and press your cutting board down on top of it. There you go. You too, will have a beautiful tortilla.

Now heat a cast iron skillet, or the skillet that you have, to medium high heat. Watch the tortilla steam and gently curl on the edges. Flip it and it is quickly finished.

When the tortilla is finished place it in inside a slightly damp warm towel. Make more tortillas and store them in this warm moist place. 

Making the tortillas was fun, but we got to eat them too. The Vento's have a lovely warm and inviting kitchen. Ted had prepared a chilli with home grown garlic, onions and peppers. We had avocados two ways as tortilla toppers. Guacamole - always a hit, and sliced avocados in a white wine vinegar with cracked pepper. The second variation on avocado was Ted's mothers recipe. I'd never had it that way and it was delicious.

Thank you Ted and Vicky Vento for gifts that can't be matched. I enjoyed the company, the cuisine and the conversation. A day I will always treasure.


  1. Well, now I want a tortilla!!! Sounds fabulous!! Especially the avocados in vinegar!! We used masa to make tamales last month.

  2. Nicki, You are the diva of Southwest Cuisine. I will look forward to a tamale lesson when we next meet!

  3. Yum! But, especially, I didn't know you were involved in Knowledge Bowl! What a great activity....