Mexican Flatbreads (naturally gluten free)
I’ve been obsessed with these Mexican flatbreads since learning to make them. Corn tortillas are cooked on a griddle until the bottoms are crisp and the cheese melts, flavored with a fragrant pesto, and topped with vibrant vegetables. They are fun to assemble, take only minutes to cook, and are addictive. I first served them, cut into wedges, as an appetizer at a birthday party for one of my gal pals. Since then, Steve and I have enjoyed this friendly finger food for lunch on a hot weekend afternoon, and I’ve whipped them up for quick snacks.
I learned to make these bites-of-deliciousness at a terrific cooking class hosted by my long-time friend, Gerri Gilliland. Years ago, Gerri and I taught cooking at a kitchen-ware store in Santa Monica. She went on to own several Santa Monica restaurants, including Lula Cocina Mexicana, a colorful gathering spot serving authentic Mexican fare. Gerri recently started a cooking school at her elegant hacienda-style home and event venue high up in the hills above Malibu, Rancho Chiquita.
Gerri’s recipe is based on the Armenian flat bread, lavosh, but she suggested corn tortillas for a naturally gluten-free alternative. This combination works so well, I haven’t stopped making them. Ideally, I mix up a spicy cilantro pesto to smear on the tortillas before grilling, but a homemade or purchased basil pesto would be good too. Gerri layers on cheese, and she suggests using Jack or Swiss cheese, but I loved the version she made with creamy burrata, and I also like the tang of Manchego cheese.
Arrange toppings of your choice over the cheese—items you buy for the recipe, or leftovers in your fridge. My favorite topping ingredient may be thinly sliced mini peppers called Veggie Sweets, made available by Melissa’s Produce (I find them at Gelson’s markets). However, bell peppers or poblano chilies work well too. I also like to add sugar plum or cherry tomatoes that I cut into halves or wedges.
Once the tortilla is crisp and the cheese melts, transfer your creation to a cutting board. Totally optional, but also totally delicious, is a crown of arugula tossed with olive oil and fresh lime or lemon juice. Cut your flatbreads into wedges and serve.
Mexican Flatbreads (gluten free)
Use this recipe as an inspiration for your own creations. Other toppings could include cooked small shrimp, sliced olives, diced red onion, sliced green onions, diced avocado, and chopped fresh herbs such as cilantro, Italian parsley, or marjoram. This recipe is rich in calcium, especially if you choose tortillas with a good does of calcium, such as Trader Joe's corn tortillas.
Makes 6 servings
3 cups (about 3 oz) arugula
1 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing on tortillas
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh lime or lemon juice
6 corn tortillas (Trader Joe's have a good amount of calcium)
Cilantro Pesto (see recipe below) or use purchased cilantro or basil pesto
2 cups (about 6 oz) grated Manchego, Jack, or Swiss cheese, or ¾ cup (about 12 oz) spooned or sliced burrata cheese
4-6 mini peppers (Veggie Sweets), sliced into thin rounds, or 1 large poblano chili pepper or bell pepper, thinly sliced
12-24 sugar plum, grape or cherry tomatoes, halved if small or cut into wedges
1 tablespoon (about) minced fresh jalapeno chili (optional)
Grated Cotija cheese or Parmesan cheese (optional)
Place the arugula in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. Add the lime juice and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Heat a griddle or heavy large skillet over medium heat. Brush one side of a tortilla with olive oil and place oiled side down on the griddle. Repeat with as many more tortillas as will fit on the griddle in a single layer. Spread about 1 tablespoon pesto over each tortilla, then sprinkle each with about ⅓ cup grated cheese or dollop on about 2 tablespoons burrata. Top with peppers, tomatoes, and ½ teaspoon jalapeno (if desired). Cook until the bottoms brown and the cheese melts, reducing the heat to medium-low if browning too quickly, about 4 minutes.
Transfer the flatbreads to a cutting board. Top with arugula. Sprinkle with Cotija or Parmesan, if desired. Cut each into 4 to 8 wedges and serve right away. Repeat cooking with the remaining ingredients.
Makes a scant ½ cup
¼ cup (packed) roughly chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons grated Cotija or Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons minced jalapeno chili
¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine the cilantro, pumpkin seeds, cheese, japaleno, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Finely chop, using on/off turns. With the machine running, slowly add the oil and process until incorporated. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Place in a covered container and refrigerate.)