Saturday, October 22, 2011

Doña Tina and her Baleadas

Let's start with a description of the baleada. Flour tortilla, half-moon painted with frijoles and filled with a little bit of love. It is purchaser's choice exactly what kind of love, but that's where things get fun. There's the sencilla of beans, quesillo y mantequilla. In school we learn that mantequilla is butter, but here it is a sour cream type substance. From there you can add chimol, eggs, chicken and some places have things like chorizo and carne as options. They're really cheap with the sencillas starting at 8lps (less than 50cents) and of course super quick. You can find them just about anywhere, but there are these women who emerge after the sun goes down. As store owners lower their doors, these women start wheeling out their grills and setting up some tables. The tables are decorated with jar of pickled vegetables, and their hands get busy patting tortillas. Lisa and Gordon introduced us to Doña Tina, and they visit her pretty regularly. She's also known as the "taco lady" because she makes these ridiculous tacos. She has this salsa that could make your knees melt, and she's offered to make me a jar if I bring her a container! It's a mix of avocado, culantro, chile and a little salt and vinegar--seriously tasty stuff. It's fun sitting outside chatting with friends and getting to know Tina and her entourage. She always has a few different people helping her, and they vary from outgoing and friendly, to quiet and staring at the hungry gringos. 

The first few times I visited Doña Tina I enjoyed a couple sencillas without any of that cheese or mantequilla, but with plenty of chimol, salsa and little heap of pickled veggies. Sometimes she has cabbage that's pickled in a brilliantly pink beet juice, and sometimes it's a mix of cauli, carrots, onions and chiles pickled in a yellowish mixture, but it's always good. So baleadas are incredibly tasty and convenient, but I like corn tortillas so much more than flour. Luckily for my tummy Doña Tina is a culinary miracle worker, and she makes a special plate for me now. We're calling them burritas, and I'm craving some just typing about them. She serves me up a plate of two double-stacked soft, warm corn tortillas, topped with a heap of beans, chimol and salsa. At first glance I was bewildered by the second tortilla, but found the perfect use for it as soon as I lifted my first burrita. It was so full of yum there was no real way to eat it without some of the filling falling out. Normally I'd just grab a fork to clean my plate at the end of the meal, but why waste a fork when you have a spare tortilla to use as a little burrita drop-cloth? The beauty of this discovery is that a plate of two burritas transforms itself into a filling plate of four burritas. Meal-time magic :)

I'm already working out an organic, gluten-free version of baleadas I'll recreate in the States, so I guess now I just need to find a store front and an easily-carried grill. 

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