Monday, October 11, 2010

Mello's Farm Stand and Corn-Milk Tortillas

Laura and Art Mello wear many hats. During the school year, Art coaches basketball and girls' soccer and Laura teaches science at the local community college. Year 'round they are parents of 10-year old Sarah and six-year old Cooper. And from spring to fall they are farmers and retail produce sellers. Mello's Farm Stand in Portsmouth, Rhode Island offers the produce that Art and Laura grow on 30 acres in Tiverton and Little Compton as well as other fruits, vegetables and honey that Art buys wholesale for the stand. They provide produce for Brown University dining services, sell wholesale to Whole Foods, and sell at the East Side Marketplace in Providence and have a small CSA program. Teacher, coach, Mom, Dad, farmers and entrepreneurs- the Mellos are busy people! They take pride in what they do, and include the children in both the farming and the business. Sarah designed the canvas bags used by the CSA members for their shares each week- a cheerful representation of the Mello family's work ethic.

Back home in Connecticut, I've been trying to figure out different ways to use corn. Yes, corn. As much as we look forward to the first taste of corn each summer, I'm getting bored with it. So today I husked 5 ears from the week's share and grated it into a large bowl, producing 2 cups of 'corn milk'-- liquid and grated corn. And I stared at it for awhile. Put in a load of laundry. Took the dog out. Thought I'd put it in a yeast bread but couldn't find yeast (what's that about? I always have yeast!). I thought about corn bread or corn muffins, but they're not that flexible, and am I really going to eat a dozen muffins? I could give them to the neighbors....
Finally I decided to make flour tortillas, but use the 'corn milk' instead of water. I didn't know if it would work. Would the corn make the tortillas break up too much to be rolled thinly? Would the starch content in the corn react with the flour gluten in some way, making the dough too elastic or not elastic enough? There's only one way to tell. So I used my standard flour tortilla recipe, and literally just substituted the corn milk for the water. They rolled out really easily, and are delicious!! Perfect for breakfast or a lunch wrap. You can really taste the corn in them, without the graininess of cornmeal.
"Corn-milk" Tortillas
5 ears fresh sweet corn
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 teaspoons salt
4 ounces butter or lard

Husk the corn, making sure to remove all the silky strands. Using a box grater, grate the ears, removing as much liquid as possible. You should have about 2 cups of 'corn milk'. If not, add water to make 2 cups.
Place the flour in a bowl and add the salt. Mix to combine. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut in the butter or lard until all pieces are the size of petite peas.  Add the corn milk all at once and stir. The mixture will seem dry. 
Turn out onto a very lightly floured board and gather the mass together. Knead gently, squeezing the dough together to make a fairly smooth ball. 
Divide into 12 to 16 pieces and form into balls (if you don't start out with a circular ball, it will be hard to make the tortillas round as you roll them out). Heat two cast iron skillets or a griddle over medium high heat.
Roll out each ball of dough, turning frequently and using flour as needed to avoid sticking to the surface until the tortilla is quite thin, about 10-inches in diameter. Place on the hot, ungreased skillet or griddle and cook until you can see little puffs in the tortilla- less than one minute. Flip over for 30 seconds or so and remove to a plate. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
Serve hot with butter or cheese, frijoles or any kind of burrito filling, or use as a sandwich wrap.

Have a great week!

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