Nixtamal refers to corn that has been soaked and partially cooked with wood ash or lime (calcium hydroxide). This ancient Mesoamerican process increases the nutritional value of corn; the ancient Aztec discovered the positive effects of calcium hydroxide on this grain when they ground their corn against riverbed limestone thousands of years ago.
Lime or ash releases the amino acid niacin in corn, which helps to reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol and also aids in digestion. Corn itself is high in fiber, folate, and vitamins B and C.
You can buy your nixtamal corn flour (called masa harina) from the ethnic food aisle, from Mexican or Latin groceries, or online.
2 cups masa harina
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
11⁄2 cups warm tap water, plus more as needed
Waxed paper, as needed
In a large bowl, whisk the masa harina and baking soda together. Add water and stir until a soft dough forms (if the mixture won’t form a soft ball of dough, add warm water in 1 tablespoon increments until it will). Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for
On a clean, dry work surface, knead dough gently for 1 minute. Divide it into 16 equal balls, each about the size of a small plum.
Roll out dough between pieces of waxed paper into 6-inch rounds.
Set a griddle or cast iron skillet over high heat until smoking.
Set dough on the griddle and cook for 30 seconds. Flip with kitchen tongs and cook until lightly toasted, with tiny bubbles in the tortilla, about 30 more seconds. Work in batches.
Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and wrap gently. Serve warm.
Technique tip: Cool any unused tortillas to room temperature and store in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in a kitchen towel, for up to 1 day. Reheat on a baking sheet 4 to 6 inches from a heated broiler for 10 seconds.
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