I had a rough week, and for some reason I found it comforting to watch videos of old women making pupusa on youTube. It’s one of those foods, like stuffed grape leaves, and many others, that you like to think about a group of women making together. The process is all made with hands, it’s repetitive and circular and almost hypnotizing. And I have a new fascination with stuffed flatbreads, which goes so nicely with my fascination with savory pastries! I’m also starting quite an impressive flour collection. I’ve got toasted barley flour, rice flour, semolina flour, chickpea flour, tapioca flour, buckwheat flour, wheat flour, and now masa harina. I’ve been intrigued by this for a while, and now I’m a big fan!
Back to pupusa – it’s a Salvadoran dish made with masa harina, and it’s stuffed with cheese or meat or refried beans. It’s cooked on a hot, ungreased griddle. I’m sure the version I made is not like the real deal, but it was so tasty! David said it’s like a combination of tacos and mashed potatoes – it’s got a very comforting quality, the taste and texture as well as the process of forming and cooking. You make it by taking a handful of dough, and turning and pressing, turning and pressing, trying to keep the edges neat. I love the idea that the pupusa will be the shape and size of the palms of the maker. You can fill it with anything you like. I chose pinto beans, spinach, and sharp cheddar. Just substantial enough not to be mushy, just soft enough to provide a comforting contrast to the crispy outside. This is one of my favorite things I’ve made in a while – to make and to eat.
It’s also gluten free, as far as I know! And it would be vegan if you left the cheese out.
Here’s Espiritu Libre with A Mi Me Gustan Las Pupusas.
I used maseca brand masa harina. I followed the instructions on the package. That’s very strange for me! I never follow instructions!
Anyway, measure 2 cups of masa harina into a large bowl. Add 1/2 t. salt and 1 1/4 cups water. Mix well, and set aside while you make the filling.
2 T olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t sage
1/2 t basil
1 t. oregano
cayenne to taste
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups fresh spinach, wash and finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
Warm the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and herbs, and cook till the shallot starts to brown. Add the pinto beans. Stir and cook. Add the chopped spinach, and cilantro, and put the lid on the pot. Cook till the spinach is just wilted. Transfer to a large bowl and add salt, pepper and cheese.
(there are plenty of videos on youTube, if you want to watch it done!)
Heat a griddle over medium high heat. Take a handful of dough – just enough to comfortably fit in your hand. Press and turn, press and turn, making a flat disc about 1/3 inch wide. Use your thumb to press the edges, so they don’t crack.
Take a small amount of dough in your fingers and press it into the middle of the disk. Fold the edges over to enclose the filling, and then press and turn, press and turn until you have a flat disc again. I used some extra dough to cover the cracks where the filling tried to find its way out, but I’m not sure that’s officially sanctioned behavior! When you have a nice, flat, neatish disc, slightly larger than the palm of your hand, place it on the hot griddle. Cook until it has brown spots. It should look like a leopard or a giraffe, apparently!! You want it to cook at least five minutes on each side, so if it gets brown too quickly, turn the heat down a bit.
We ate it with a salad of baby arugula and tomatoes and a bowl of lemony soup. It would be nice with some kind of salsa – I’ll try that next time!