Though a vegan can often be seen
Eating lentils and tofu and beans,
Still when omnivores pass
They invariably ask
“How do you get your protein?”*
Yesterday, Isa, the post-punk goddess of Vegan with a Vengeance, held a vegan limerick contest on her blog with the prize being a signed copy of her new book Veganomicon. I didn’t find out about it until just before it ended, and then I had a brain freeze and couldn’t think of anything to write. When I woke up this morning, the lines above just popped into my head, and perhaps they should have stayed there, but like a song that you can’t get out of your mind until you sing it out loud, I hoped that by posting my poor limerick here I could stop thinking in anapestic trimeter.
So what does this have to do with black bean pupusas? Not much, except for the fact that limericks are usually a little naughty and the word “pupusa” always sounds dirty, at least to my American ears. I actually tried to write a limerick about pupusas and got this far:
Intrigued a vegan cook named Susan….
No, “Susan” doesn’t really rhyme with “pupusa,” but it was as close as I could get without using “fuchsia,” which now that I think of it looks dirty, too. (You wouldn’t know it from reading this blog but I have a dirty mind and a potty mouth, especially when I trip over a toy or read the letters to the editor in our local newspaper. But I struggle mightily to keep this blog G-rated so that someday my daughter will read it and realize that my vocabulary at one time extended beyond “No you can’t have a cell phone” and “Who the **** left that skateboard in the hallway!”)
Anyway (and yes, there really is an anyway, though I’m tempted to write the bulk of today’s post in parentheses, just because), I’ve been interested in pupusas since the first time I saw them mentioned very casually on some vegan message board, as though everyone knew what they were. Since I’m not from El Salvador, where they originated, or California, where they are popular in some areas, I’ve never seen a pupusa, which as it turns out is simply a stuffed tortilla, sort of like a quesadilla, but with the filling completely enclosed. I’ve been meaning to make them for months, and I finally got a chance last night.
I adapted this recipe from Myra Kornfeld’s The Healthy Hedonist, and I have to say that I can’t recommend the recipe as it’s written in that book. It called for 5 cups of masa harina and 2 1/2 cups water, but that is way too little water for the amount of masa flour. I had to add more water just to get the mixture to form a dough, and later, when I checked a few recipes online, I realized that they all used even more water than I had.
The recipe also called for using warm water and kneading the dough for 2 minutes, and since none of the other recipes I’ve looked at do those things, I can’t say for sure whether they are necessary or not. Next time I might try another recipe for the dough, such as this one, just to see how it comes out, though I do prefer the following technique for forming the pupusas.
Despite the difficulty figuring out how much water to use, I think the pupusas came out great, especially after I got the hang of forming them and patting them out thin enough. The black bean filling was really delicious, though I didn’t have quite enough to fill all the pupusas, so I had to make one plain, unfilled tortilla. Next time, I plan to fill some of them with “cheeze” in addition to black beans.
Black Bean Pupusas
Sumptuously soft, thick corn tortillas are stuffed with a delicious black bean filling.
- 1/2 medium onion minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 15-ounce can black beans (1 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- 5 cups masa harina I used Maseca
- 3 1/2-4 cups warm water
- Sauté the onion in a non-stick saucepan until softened and add garlic. Cook for one minute more. Add the remaining filling ingredients, except the lime juice, and cook for about 5 minutes, until hot. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until they are creamy. Simmer uncovered, stirring often, until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice. Set aside to cool as you make the dough.
- Put the masa harina into a large bowl or into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 3 cups of water and stir. Add more water until the mixture clings together and forms a dough. It should be soft and pliable and not crack when you press on it. Knead the dough for about 2 minutes (1 in a mixer fitted with a dough hook).
- Divide the dough in half and return half to the mixing bowl, covering it with plastic wrap. (If you like, you can refrigerate half the dough to use later, as I did.) Take the other half of the dough and divide it into 9 equal pieces. Cover 8 of the pieces with plastic wrap or a damp cloth while you work on one piece.
Form the piece of dough into a ball, and place it in the palm of your hand. Use your fingers to make a hole in the dough and work it until you form a cup that has walls that are about 1/4-inch thick.
Add about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of beans to the “bowl,” enough to cover the bottom but leave at least 1/2-inch clean at the top.
Pinch the sides together, leaving a little extra “nub” at the top.
Pinch off the little nub of dough, sealing the top, and return the piece of dough to the bowl (you can gather all the pieces at the end to make another pupusa).
- Now’s the tricky part. Gently but firmly press on the dough to flatten it out. Try putting it in your left hand and pressing down on it with your right as your right thumb also compresses it from the side. When it’s flat, put it down on a cutting board and use your hands to flatten it even more, until it’s between 1/4 and 1/2-inch thick and about 4-5 inches in diameter. Take care not to squeeze the filling out, and repair any small tears by pinching them closed (or even take a bit of dough to make larger repairs.)
- You can make all the pupusas this way and then heat your griddle and cook them all, or you may cook each one as you make it. (I prefer to make a couple, get them started on the stove, and continue shaping pupusas as the first two cook–it seems to be quicker this way.)
- Heat a cast iron griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pupusas until brown spots appear on the bottom and the tortilla appears dry, about 3-4 minutes. Then turn over and cook until the other side is browned. Keep them warm in the oven until all of them are cooked. Serve hot.
I served these in two different ways. The first time I made a coleslaw recipe similar to the traditional Salvadorian pupusa accompaniment, curtido. Unfortunately, it was all eaten up before I took photos, so the second time I served them, I made an impromptu avocado salad (avocado, tomato, salt, pepper, lime juice, chipotle chili powder). I liked both the coleslaw and the avocado salad, but I’d have to say that D and I preferred the pupusas topped with the salad, along with some spicy salsa.
*PS–The answer to “How do you get your protein?” is “From FOOD!”