Saturday Linkages: Solar Projects, John Cage and Cat Litter

Build-It-Solar Blog: Four Interesting New Projects from Around the Web http://www.builditsolarblog.com/2014/04/new-and-interesting-solar-projects.html?spref=tw …

John Cage: Mushroom Hunter http://hyperallergic.com/118615/john-cage-mushroom-hunter/ …

The lasting legacy of the Dobson telescope http://www.scpr.org/programs/brand-martinez/2012/09/12/28381/amateur-astronomers-stars-john-dobson-telescope/ …

The most epic Ikea hack ever–stool turned into child’s Draisienne – the Frosta bicycle – IKEA Hackers http://po.st/6gp9HM 

Urban date foraging: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=13259 …

No Men Allowed! Women Build Own Backyard Sheds http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/2014/04/no-men-allowed-women-build-own-backyard.html#.U0N9ikb3-YY.twitter …

Semi-Underground House in Austin, Texas http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/2014/04/semi-underground-house-in-austin-texas.html#.U0MXrljYTKo.twitter …

Cat litter with microcontrolled motion detection and LED counter – IKEA Hackers http://po.st/TQBVbQ 

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

Lila Downs Video Showing Tortilla Making in Oaxaca

Gloria En la Huerta from the Los Angeles Bread Bakers sent me a link to this music video that shows tortilla making in Oaxaca. The song is “Palomo Del Comalito” (Dove of the Comalito) by Lila Downs. Note the huge corn tortillas, proof of the regional diversity of Mexican cuisine (and one of the many details I got wrong in my tortilla press post–thanks for the corrections Gloria).

Lyrics in English after the jump.

Continue reading…

Edible Gardening Lecture at the Descanso Gardens

peaches-rootsimple

Please join us on tax day, April 15th at 2:00 pm for a lecture on edible gardening at the Descanso Gardens. Here’s the description:

Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne, authors of “The Urban Homestead” and the blog rootsimple.com, discuss creating a garden that is not only beautiful but delicious! Part of “Get Dirty: A Garden Series by Descanso” on Third Tuesdays. Public admission to the Gardens and the lecture is free of charge the third Tuesday of the month.

Hope to see some blog readers there–perhaps we can walk around the garden after the lecture.

For more information on the Descanso Gardens please see descansogardens.org.

Choosing the Perfect Tortilla Press

81oH3xJUE3L._SL1500_When we moved into our house back in 1998, we used to frequent a neighborhood Mexican restaurant down the street. The decor in this place had accrued like barnacles over the many years it was in business: dusty paper flags, Dia de los Muertos trinkets, waiters with pompadours wearing toreador outfits, and mirrors, lots and lots of mirrors. When you had their stiff margaritas (the strongest in town) the room would spin. Combined with those mirrors, the effect was unintentionally psychedelic. The food? A commentator on a local blog that covered the restaurant’s recent closing described it as, “like ‘Taco Tuesday’ at an elementary school in Kansas.”

One of the many reasons the food at this place was substandard was the store bought tortillas they used. For some reasons, few Mexican restaurants here make their own tortillas. Tired of substandard Mexican fare, I resolved to make my own tortillas. Thus began Root Simple’s “Taco Tuesday.”

The first step was to find a tortilla press. I got a great tip from a library cookbook: get a cast iron tortilla press. Unlike the flimsy ones I found at our local market, a cast iron press will last several lifetimes. And their heft helps when it comes time to press the masa into discs. And I opted for the smaller, 6 1/2 inch press as small tortillas are used in authentic Mexican street food.

Making corn tortillas is much simpler than I expected. All you do is get masa harina (a limed corn flour), mix it roughly 50/50 with water and let the dough rest for a half hour to an hour. Next, you roll the masa into little 2 inch balls and press them between a plastic bag inserted into the tortilla press. The last step is to heat them on the stove for one minute on each side.

Making your own masa from scratch is much harder (I tried it once for tamales and found that it’s a job best outsourced). But you can bet I’ve bought my last supermarket corn tortilla. From now on they’ll be made in our own cast iron press.

Update: One of the members of the LA Bread Bakers, Gloria, put her vote in for the traditional wood press. Cooks Illustrated Magazine also recommends a wood press. Gloria also sent along the following video which shows how you can make your own wood tortilla press:

In the next edition of Taco Tuesday, I’ll describe what we’ve been serving in our tacos.