FOODIE FRIDAY: CASSAVA FLOUR TORTILLAS
As many of you know, I don’t eat the usual flours: wheat, oat, corn, rye, etc. For the last five years, if I have been using flours, I will bake with almond, coconut, arrowroot and tapioca- although baked goods really do not feature highly in our daily diet. Baked goods are a once-in-a-while treat on birthdays and special occasions. This probably sounds rather boring…We don’t find we crave sweets and tend to eat quite a lot of food at meals so don’t have the space to fit more!
These days I am cooking not only for Tony and I, but also 2 other crew members (and obviously for the guests on the yacht). I cook whatever the guests want according to their allergies and preferences. For the crew, I cook mainly Paleo food because that is how Tony and I eat, but I have to try to make things to keep everyone relatively happy, while also not cooking absolute junk because I firmly believe that you are what you eat and garbage in = garbage out.
There are a few other alternative flour options out there other than just almond, coconut, arrowroot and tapioca. This year I have found sweet potato flour, green banana flour and also cassava flour. Today I want to write about cassava flour.
The stewardess on the yacht is from Mexico and she obviously LOVES Mexican food! I do too, and up until now have not really cooked much along those lines because corn and flour tortillas don’t react well with my system. I have tried making several alternatives using coconut and almond flour. They are ok, but not as brilliant as cassava flour (I am finding) at making a reasonable substitute.
I first found cassava flour in a Whole Foods in Fort Lauderdale. That is the only place I have been able to buy it off the shelf. These days, I order it online and buy either Otto’s Naturals or Moon Rabbit Foods brand.
So what is this stuff? Cassava is a staple plant grown in tropical regions of South America, Asia and Africa. The root is also known as yucca and manioc. It is a very high carbohydrate tuber. This means it is gluten, grain and nut-free. It is paleo and vegan/vegetarian friendly. Tapioca flour is also made from cassava, but it is the starch extracted from the flesh of the root after it has been shredded and pulped and mixed with water. Cassava flour is a flour made from the entire root after it has been peeled, dried and ground. Therefore, while still a carbohydrate, it also has the benefit of having a ton of dietary fiber. Cassava actually has double the amount of carbohydrate and calories as the same weight of sweet potato. This high calorie and high carbohydrate quality makes it an invaluable food source for millions of people around the world, and ALSO makes it an invaluable carbohydrate source for people who are trying to hit certain levels of macros. Alternatively, if you are watching your carbohydrate intake, eating cassava and cassava flour foods at every meal could be spiking your insulin too much (if you are insulin resistant, then this is not a great idea).
What I have found is that cassava flour has a neutral flavor and soft (not gritty) texture.
Cassava Flour Tortillas:
¾ cup Cassava flour
3 TBSP arrowroot flour
¼ tsp Salt
1 TBSP ground flax seed
3 TBSP fat of choice (palm shortening, lard or ghee)
½ cup plus 2 TBSP lukewarm water
In a bowl, whisk together the flours, flax and salt.
Using fingers add the fat and mix it into the flour mixture until it is a crumbly texture.
Use a spoon or spatula to mix in that water until it forms a ball of dough. It will be sticky at first, keep stirring until it all comes together. Then use your hands to knead the dough (I do this in the bowl) until it is a smooth dough. Avoid the urge to add more flour. If the water was too hot, the dough will need to rest for a few minutes. You can dust your hands with cassava flour if you require.
Separate into 6 balls. Keep covered with plastic wrap.
Preheat either a cast iron skillet or non-stick pan over medium heat.
Lay down a piece of parchment paper or silicone baking mat on your surface. Generously dust surface with cassava flour, then place a round of dough at the center of the surface. Gently press the dough down with your palm to flatten slightly into a round. Dust the top lightly with flour, then using a rolling pin, carefully roll into a round until it reaches desired shape and size. OR, you could layer a second piece of parchment over the flattened round of dough and then roll out. If you have a tortilla press, line both sides of the press with parchment and dust with cassava flour before pressing the dough.
Carefully peel the parchment away from the tortilla, and support with your hand before you flip it into the pan. Let it cook on the first side until it starts to bubble, at least 20 seconds. Flip the tortilla and cook on the second side, it should start puffing up a bit. Flip and cook on each side again another 5-10 seconds. Do not overcook, or tortillas will be crisp and dry.
Best served immediately. If you make in advance, store covered with plastic wrap in the fridge. Allow to come to room temp before serving, and soften on a warm griddle before serving.
So that’s a quick photo of seared halibut and shredded cabbage and onions in the tortilla shells, haven’t added the pico de gallo and guacamole yet, but you get the idea. These things meat Silvia (the Mexican stewardess)’s seal of approval as a decent substitute for corn tortillas. Now, my skill level is not fabulous as evidenced by the country-of-the-world shape patterns in my finished product. I have not tried a tortilla press yet because I don’t have one on the boat. I keep hoping that when I get one, they will be a bit more…evenly round?!
I always make a double batch of these in hopes that I can freeze some for use later, but so far, they all get gobbled down with nothing to save for later. Many people will think that making their own tortillas sounds like too much work and so just using what you can buy at the store is the easier option. It is. But then, that’s hardly fun. I enjoy making these. Even more, I enjoy surprising people with an alternative ingredient which is tasty!
Fair winds and following seas…