Fall’s Don’t-Miss-Dish in Edible Santa Barbara
Obsessed taco lovers know that a great taco is all about the tortilla. In Santa Barbara County, we’re in luck; we know many restaurants and taco stand that hand-make tortillas from scratch, from masa imported from Mexico. It’s the real deal. But Conrad Gonzales, the chef behind Valle Eatery & Bar in Lompoc and Vallefresh catering and taco bar in Los Alamos, is kicking that up a notch by growing traditional heirloom Mexican corn right here in Goleta, California.
Gonzales and his colleague, heirloom grower Abel Basch, hatched a project to plant Heirloom Oaxacan Green Dent corn seeds, an ancient corn of the Zapotec people of southern Mexico, to see how well it can be cultivated here (read all about this). Gonzales wanted to make tortillas the truly authentic way – which is also the truly sustainable way (and happens to be local, organic and GMO-free) – like they have in Oaxaca for thousands of years.
The bright green corn has now been harvested, and Gonzales is busy processing it, grinding it into masa and making homemade tortillas from it. That makes his the most authentic tortilla around.
Don’t miss his Goat Cheese-Stuffed Fried Squash Blossom Taco on an heirloom green corn tortilla with green tomatillo sauce, pinquito beans, Cotija cheese and avocado at his eateries this fall.
If you find heirloom dent corn, first cook it in a solutions of water and lime calcium until softened, then after letting it rest for 1 night, grind it into a paste with a mortar and pestle to get the masa (or buy fresh masa from local shops that sell Hispanic foods).
Boil pinquito beans in water, garlic and bay leaf until tender, at least 1-2 hours. Make a green sauce by blanching tomatillos and roasting poblano peppers, then blending these with jalapeño, garlic, onion, lime and salt and pepper.
Roll a small amount of pure masa into a ball, then flatten it with a tortilla press, and grill each side on a griddle or cast iron skillet until browned (or use authentic corn tortillas from the store – local or unlabeled are best).
Heat ¼ inch of oil in a pan (or heat up a deep fryer). Stir together ¾ cup flour and 1 egg, then slowly whisk in ½ cup sparkling water or beer to make a light batter. Stuff the squash blossom with goat cheese, dip in the batter, then place in the hot oil and fry until golden (about 2 minutes).
Lay a tortilla on the plate and drizzle with tomatillo sauce, then top with avocado, pinquito beans, a squash blossom, Cotija cheese and epazote (a Mexican herb similar to oregano or mint) or cilantro. Serve with lime.