About 1,500 B.C., cooks in coastal Guatemala figured out that cooking dried corn in alkali water removed the kernels' skins and produced a softer dough than unprocessed ground corn.
These homemade tortillas start with a dough made from whole-grain corn masa that is shaped and then cooked like a pancake on a griddle. Homemade salsa makes a great accompaniment.
Photo courtesy David Cavagnaro
Whether ground or whole, nixtamalized corn "has a taste and aroma like no other food on Earth — a delicately nutty quality combined with something almost chalky and mineral-like," says Zarela Martinez.