Confession: I’ve been having an affair with pupusas. I adore them. This doesn’t mean I don’t also love other foods deeply; my monogamous tendencies don’t really cross over into my world of eating. But there’s something incredibly satisfying about this treat, a soft-yet-crispy Salvadoran snack of masa (corn flour) stuffed with cheese, vegetables, beans, etc. And I’ve been devouring them more often than is probably reasonable.
I’m still going to eat traditional pupusas sometimes, and may even sometimes make them traditionally, but a pile of corn flour isn’t exactly good for me, especially at the rate at which one might eat it when one is having a food affair with a food in which it weighs heavily. And I generally consider low-carbohydrate/low-grain diets much more optimal for health, especially when they’re full of fresh, local, sustainably-produced vegetables and meats and eggs and fats.
Hence, today’s experimental recipe: the grain-free pupusa. I used almond flour and finely-ground golden flax seeds, which I found whole in the bulk bin at Central Co-op. This recipe made three pupusas, and my roommate and I gobbled them up. They’re really good. They’re denser than a traditional pupusa, and the flavor of the flour is definitely different, but they’re interesting and crispy and delicious with hot sauce. We even tried a few bites with crème fraîche which, while not traditional, was pretty delicious. Traditional pupusas are also served with a mildly-spicy cabbage slaw.
Try these out and tell me what you think. Oh and, of course, you can vary up the filling however you like.
And for those of you who eat low-carb or paleo or just don’t want to eat a lot of corn, but feel left out when your hipster friends go pupusa-devouring, now you can invite them over to try some homemade ones. I’m not saying they replace traditional pupusas. But they’re definitely worthy of having another affair.
Grain-Free Pupusas with Zucchini, Onion, and Squash Blossom
yields three pupusas
- 1 cup golden flax seeds, which you need to grind up. If you can find pre-ground meal, that’s probably fine too.
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1/2 cup water
- pinch salt
- 1 small onion
- half a small zucchini or other vegetables
- two squash blossoms
- 1 small, hot chili pepper*
- handful of cheese: queso fresco, monterey jack, mozzarella, or whatever you want to try. You can leave out the cheese if you don’t want it, of course.
- fat of your choosing (I used chicken fat/schmaltz)
*a tip for cutting peppers without getting spicy oils on your fingers: hold it by the stem and use a good scissors to slice bits off it directly into the pan.
1. Grind up the golden flax seeds finely. You can probably use a coffee grinder. You can definitely used a grain mill. I used my food processor and ran it for 5-10 minutes until I had a fluffy flour.
2. Take 3/4 cup of the golden flax meal. Mix it with the almond meal, salt, and water. Mix by hand. The result should be very pliable and only a little sticky. Keep sprinkling in flax meal until you have the right consistency.
3. Let dough rest a few minutes. Meanwhile, prepare your filling. Slice cheese into small pieces if not using already-crumbled cheese. Chop all vegetables very small and sauté in a large cast-iron pan (you’ll be using it again for the pupusas) with a shake of salt until cooked through. Take it off the heat, pour it into a bowl, and mix with your cheese.
4. Go back to the dough. Divide it in thirds, with a few pinches left over. Each third should be about the size of an egg. Make one into a ball. With your thumbs, make a big crater in it. Fill this with cheese and vegetables, not over-full. Gently pull the sides over the crater until no cheese or vegetables come through, pinching off bits of the thicker dough parts if needed. Flatten into a filled disk. If you still have vegetables and cheese poking through, use a little of that extra bit of dough you left out from your three portions. Set this pupusa aside and repeat for the other two.
5. Heat more fat. When hot but not smoking, add the pupusas. Fry on each side until brown spots form. Serve immediately with deliciously spicy salsas, slaws, or whatever you like.