Say "OLE!" to the Best Filled Tortillas!
From one of my favorite books, Reader's Digest's Kitchen Secrets, comes some of the most helpful information I've found regarding whipping up meals using tortillas. Since many of our favorite Tex-Mex favorites begin with tortillas, this information is good to know.
First let's look at storage. Kitchen Secrets says it's a good idea to layer them between squares of wax paper, wrap them in plastic wrap, or pop them into a self-sealing plastic bag and freeze. Frozen tortillas keep well for 6 months. Then when you want a few from the frozen stack, they'll easily pop off the stack because of the pre-packaging put them in.
To thaw tortillas, spread them out on the counter. Brush off any ice crystals. If allowed to melt on the tortillas, the ice will cause soggy spots. Not good.Next, for a few smart tortilla tips from Kitchen Secrets:
Before grating cheese for your Tex-Mex meal, freeze your cheese for 20 minutes. The harder the cheese, the neater the shreds.
To soften tortillas that are too dry and brittle to roll, bundle them in aluminum foil and warm in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes. Or bundle them in paper toweling and microwave at 50% power for 15 to 20 seconds.
To keep filling from oozing out of quesadillas or tacos, start with the tortilla lying flat. Arrange all the ingredients to one side of center on the tortilla, then fold over and press the edges all around. (Tortillas can be sealed together by moistening the edges with water all around.)
To keep quesadillas from opening as they bake, moistening the edges works here as well: moisten the edges slightly before pressing closed and then wrap the quesadillas in foil.
Quesadillas, a favorite tortilla-based meal, are traditionally fried in deep fat, but they can be baked to cut the fat without any loss in taste or "WOW!" factor. Kitchen Secrets says a single quesadilla can sponge up as much as 1 tablespoon of fat, which equals 120 extra calories and 14 extra grams of fat. So bake we will!
And here's an idea that's a departure from the filled tortilla, but worth sharing: Take a few minutes to make your own tortilla strips - they're the perfect garnish for taco soup. Or top your own version of a Café Rio salad with them! Just stack a few tortillas together and cut small strips (as shown in the picture). Then spread them out, spray with olive oil, sprinkle with a good salt (I like Celtic or sea) and bake on a parchment-lined or well greased cookie sheet at 350°F for about 8 to 10 minutes. Watch closely so they don't burn.
Finally, (back to the filled tortilla), here's a great idea for a quick, crowd-pleasing appetizer or family snack:
Cut tortillas into 2-inch rounds with a cookie or biscuit cutter. I've even used a drinking glass before I had a round cookie cutter. Prepare your favorite filling, place a teaspoon's-worth on each mini tortilla, fold in half, seal the edges, and bake in a 350°F oven 3 minutes on a parchment-lined or well greased cookie sheet. TIP: I make these 2-inch rounds ahead of time and freeze them per the instructions above for whole tortillas.