Mad For Memelas

At a Mexican restaurant one night, celebrating a friend’s birthday, I tried an amazing veggie dish whose base was the same Maseca used in making pupusas (https://thefoodpuzzler.com/2016/02/01/pumped-for-pupusas/).

The dish was called Vegetable Memelas. The Memelas start like pupusas, but after making the dough and forming them into discs, you fry them unstuffed and top them as desired. At the restaurant, my Memela was topped with a pile of delicious sautéed veggies and cheese, but Maseca has such a delicate texture and flavor, you can top the resulting discs or shells pretty much any way you like.

In experimenting with the dough, I started pressing up the sides to form little tart shells so that I could also use them for liquid-based ingredients. I’ve made breakfast dishes with eggs and cheese, mini pizzas, and veggie-bean chili, to name a few, and the dishes have ranged from meat-based to vegan.

Enjoy!

Memelas/ Memela Tart Shells
Copyright 2014 Lauren Bradford (aka The Food Puzzler)

Ingredients:

~ 2 cups Maseca cornmeal
~ up to 2 cups water
~ pinch salt

Steps:

~ Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

~ In a bowl, place the Maseca and salt and lightly stir to distribute.

~ Using your hands, begin incorporating the water, starting with one cup and adding as you knead the dough. You want to have dough that has, essentially, the consistency of play-doh. You’ll be able to form smaller balls that are pliable and don’t crack.

~ Divide the dough into equal portions of the size you desire, and form them into balls. For Memelas, I usually form four balls from this batch.

~ Place a ball into a plastic bag and lay on a flat surface. Then, with a flat and solid plate, flatten the ball to a disc of 1/2 inch-thick consistency. Repeat with all dough balls until you have all discs. From here, you have two options.

OPTION ONE: Memelas

~ Place a small amount of oil in your skillet, just enough to brush all around the bottom and sides. You’re more sautéing these discs than frying.

~ Cook each disc until golden brown, serve topped as desired.

OPTION TWO: Memela Shells

~ Line a cookie sheet pan with parchment, as you’ll be baking the shells.

~ Place each disc on the lined cookie sheet with a little separation from each other. With lightly wet hands, press a 1/4 inch around the edges of each circle up to make free-form tart shells like the picture above.

~ Bake the shells for about 5-10 minutes, or until they start to firm up. Each oven varies, especially nowadays when convection and conventional ovens are widely available, so start checking after 5 minutes.

~ Remove from the oven and fill as desired. See NOTES.

NOTES

~ For breakfast dishes, I place leftover veggies or veggie chili in the baked shells, top with an egg, and bake until the egg is cooked to the desired level.

~ For the creamy-coated dish above, I placed leftover veggie chili and then salsa in the shell and baked until warm, topping with a purée of cannellini beans and Sriracha drizzle. This can also be created by placing a cooked Memela disc on a plate, and topping with warm chili along with cheese or creamy sauce.

~ For Memela pizza, fill the shell with some tomato sauce or sliced tomatoes and then your melty cheese of choice, and bake until cheese has gone all sorts of gooey.

~ These discs and shells go well with cold salads too, but to ensure that they don’t get soggy before eating, place dressed salad in shells shortly before serving.

~ As with pupusa dough, feel free to add herbs or spices to the raw dough.

 

Pumped for Pupusas!

 

During my time teaching cooking to high school students, I had a specific set of lessons to cover, as well as weekly meal preparation for luncheons and other catered functions. However, we still had the occasional free day to have a little fun. I figured that the kids would be more interested in an activity if we cooked something they actually like to eat, so I asked each period for the students to let me know what they’d like to learn how to cook. What kids don’t imagine telling a teacher what to do, right?

So, almost unanimously, students asked to learn how to make pupusas. I hadn’t heard of them before, and most of the students could only tell me that it was comfort food that they’d eaten all their lives. But they had no idea what was in them. Or how to make them. (The few who had experience making them opened up eventually. You know, after I’d successfully and thoroughly made an idiot of myself. 😉 )

Fortunately for me, I had Wikipedia! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pupusa

Pupusas are stuffed cornmeal cakes made with Maseca–specially ground cornmeal that can be found in pretty much any grocery store–a pinch of salt, and water. It can be served alongside a slaw, but my students were partial to a salsa made from placing tomatoes, peppers, onions in a food processor to achieve a roughly chopped consistency, and cooking them with Sazón by Goya (those aforementioned students who had some knowledge on the subject were emphatic about that point, Goya brand is best for this recipe).

After six years of making pupusas with students, they have become one of my comfort foods. They are tasty, versatile, can be made in sizes ranging from appetizer to main course, and are fairly simple to make. In addition to topping with salsa, in one picture above you can also see I topped cooked pupusas with sauce and cheese to make a ‘stuffed pupusa pizza.’

Enjoy!

Cheese Pupusas
Copyright 2010 Lauren Bradford (aka The Food Puzzler)

Ingredients:

~ 2 cups Maseca cornmeal
~ up to 2 cups water
~ pinch salt
~ 1/2 cup shredded soft cheese, such as mozzarella
~ oil for sautéing

Steps:

~ Place the Maseca and salt in a bowl, lightly stir to distribute.

~ Using your hands, begin incorporating the water, starting with one cup and adding as you knead the dough. You want to have dough that has, essentially, the consistency of play-doh. You’ll be able to form smaller balls that are pliable and don’t crack.

~ Divide the dough into equal portions of the size you desire, and form them into balls. The pictured dough balls are from dividing the dough into 8 pieces.

~ Place a ball into a plastic bag and lay on a flat surface. Then, with a flat and solid plate, flatten the ball to a disc of 1/2 inch-thick consistency. Repeat with all dough balls until you have all discs completed.

~ Divide the cheese into the same amount of portions as the dough discs, and place some cheese on top of each disc, being careful not to use too much filling. For instance, for a disc that’s 3 inches wide, you want no more than 1 tablespoon of filling.

~ With lightly wet hands, gently fold up all of the edges of the dough disc and keep working until the dough encapsulates the filling entirely, smoothing any rough edges and reforming the disc shape. Repeat until all discs are stuffed.

~ Lightly coat a frying pan with oil, or lightly oil each disc, and cook the pupusas until they start to turn golden brown, flipping once.

Serve topped with salsa: in a food processor, place 1 green pepper, 1/2 a medium sweet onion, and 2 tomatoes, and pulse to get a roughly chopped consistency. Add this into a sauce pan along with one half of a packet of the Sazón and cook until bubbling. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.

NOTES:

~ Cheese, chicken, pork, and beans are all traditional fillings, but because the Maseca mixture results in a soft dough, your filling needs to be soft as well. Cheese should be a soft version like mozzarella, warmed slightly in a microwave, beans should be mashed, meat should be shredded fine, and so forth.

~ I’ve added spices to the dough as well, usually chili powder for color and kick.

~ Cooked pupusas do not store and re-heat well; exposing the Maseca to the cold temperatures of fridge and freezer effect the texture. Fresh is always best, but if you make more than you need, uncooked stuffed discs can be frozen for later use.

We Will (We Will) Feed You 🍴

In my most recent year of teaching, I took on additional duties for our lunch functions. The top reason, in fact, that ‘every kid in America wants to be me:’ I introduced my students to the practical side of front-of-house service.

In other words, I began the glamorous life of getting them to wear Chef’s coats and hats, setting up our (small) banquet room, conducting buffet-line service –WITHOUT spending any time on their phones– and, most popular of all, table bussing.

After trying many (many) ways to motivate them, I read a great piece in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales,”* in which Alex ‘The Rappin Mathematician’ Kajitani explained how he inspired his students by delivering a lesson in rap form, using music from songs the students like. It seemed like the perfect way to get my students rallied together around otherwise less-than-exciting tasks.

There’s just one problem here (sure, one). Anyone who knows me also winces at the thought of my being involved with singing; I can’t carry a tune if it’s tied to my arm. However, they also know that I am more than willing to make myself look silly by *trying* to sing, especially if there’s a chance to connect with my students.

So, then began a few hours of fun, coming up with lyrics to a song that always motivates me: Queen’s timeless ‘We Will Rock You’ by Dr. Brian May*, turning it into ‘We Will Feed You.’

I am happy to say that this song worked on two occasions, with two separate sets of students. In the first instance, I suspect the shock at seeing me start pounding the table in that trademark rhythm and hearing me recite the lyrics was the motivating factor, but in the second case they actually got into the song, at least for the minute or two it took to sing. And in both cases, a few moments of shared fun and laughs were worth it.

I hope this gives you a good chuckle for the day 😊

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
We Will Feed You
Lyrics by Lauren Bradford, The Food Puzzler
Sung to the timeless tune ‘We Will Rock You’ written by Brian May*

Whatever you want
There’s breakfast lunches snacks and even dinner too
We’ve got soup and stocks
Chocolate sauce
Taking chickens apart to fry up lots

We will we will feed you!
EVERYBODY we will we will feed you!

Chicken cooks up high
Always 165
Beef and fish only need 145
But grind them up, temp goes up
Hamburger and fish patties 155

We will we will feed you!
SING IT we will we will feed you!

Wearing the gloves shows sanitation love
for salads sandwiches serving too!
But we always wash
cleaning first
Using paper towels and give them a toss!

We will we will feed you!
EVERYBODY we will we will feed you!
We will we will feed you!
SING IT we will we will feed you!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* NOTES:

~ http://alexkajitani.com

~ This edition can be found online many places, including here, if you’re curious:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1935096478/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_dp_ss_2?pf_rd_p=1944687522&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=1558749799&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0B2BRSGWNKQZWKBH5XSV

~ http://brianmay.com/brian/biog.html (yes, he’s not only a rock legend, he’s a scientist with a PhD in Astrophysics!)

~ https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Will_Rock_You