Growing up in Winnipeg, I always managed to have an in with a Salvadorean family, so although it may seem a little strange that this Canadian ginger’s favourite childhood dish would have been pupusas, there you have it. For those not in the know, pupusas are a corn tortilla that have a super tasty bean (or cheese or pork) filling and are topped with a spicy cabbage salad. I think I may have tried once or twice as a child to assemble these, but simply lacked the dexterity to work with the relatively delicate nature of masa harina. Going gluten free provided me with the perfect opportunity to try again! I served these to company for dinner and the leftovers a day later as part of a large brunch. Big hit!
I’m only providing the bean recipe, but daiya mozzarella would be a wonderful filling on its own and combined with the beans. No beans for my fiance because he is allergic them, with soy appearing to be the only exception. Traditionally the curtido has onion, cabbage and carrot, but (again) my fiance is allergic to raw carrot, so I subbed red pepper, for sweet and apple, for crunch. These are such a fun thing to eat and it only takes a little practice to get used to working with the dough, so you should definitely try them. Or, go out and find a pupusaria.
Makes 16 pupusas, with leftover refried beans
Half a head of cabbage, shredded
Half a red pepper, deseeded and cut into matchsticks
Half a firm apple (I used Granny Smith), cored and cut into matchsticks
1 small onion, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, but longer is better! You can stir the mixture around to make sure it’s pickling evenly, but if you’re letting it sit overnight, that won’t be necessary.
Refried Pinto Beans
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil (or whatever you have on hand)
2 cups cooked pinto beans
3/4 cup green salsa (any flavourful and non-chunky salsa would do the trick)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed in your hand
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of smoked paprika
Salt, to taste.
In a large (and scratch-proof) skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for several minutes until the onions are translucent. Add in the beans and salsa and stir to combine. Now it’s time to start mashing the beans, which I always do with a fork. Add the broth in, a little at a time, mashing between additions. Once the beans are fully mashed, lower the heat, add the seasoning and let cook until the desired consistency is reached. The beans are going the thicken up a bit as they cool, so keep that in mind. Once cooked, set aside and let cool until you can handle them by hand. My fingers are mighty tough because of all the cooking I do, so just do what you need to to be comfortable.
4 cups masa harina
2 2/3 cups warm water
pinch of salt
Oil, for the griddle and your hands
Combine all ingrdients in a large bowl and mix with your hands. It’s going to seem, at first, like you’ve got too much water going on, but it firms up quickly as the corn absorbs the water. You may need to add a little more masa harina or water, but I’d rather you let it sit for 10 minutes covered on the counter and then decide if it needs more. You’re going to be working quite a bit with the dough, so you need it not to crack when shaping it.
Divide dough into 16 balls. Preheat a lightly greased griddle to a medium high temperature. Cover hands in oil and mold one of the balls into a cup-like shape. If the dough is cracking, you need more water, so wet hands and reshape the ball with the extra moisture. If you’ve never worked with corn tortillas before, you’ll need a little practice. Once you’ve formed the cup, add a tablespoon of refried beans and seal the ball back up. Now, you’ve got to flatten the ball, with greased hands, into the familiar tortilla shape. Cook on the heated griddle, a couple of minutes a side. Repeat until all pupusas are stuffed and ready to eat. You can keep the already cooked ones covered, in a low oven, to keep them warm.
Top with curtido and eat.