I'm lucky enough to live in an area where even modest neighborhood cafes get their produce from local farms and change their menus often to reflect whatever their farmers are harvesting that week. I recently had my first taste of sweet summer corn at one such cafe, in a dish that combined chunks of shaved corn with tangy little cherry tomatoes and a creamy cilantro dressing. Sweet, crunchy and bursting with pure summer flavor, it was so good I knew I had to recreate it. In my kitchen somewhere along the way the combination transformed into a crispy, black-bean-speckled tostada — no complaints here.
The tostadas of my youth were massive: giant tortillas fried into bowls that held beans, tomatoes, meat and a mountain of shredded iceberg. The first time I ordered a tostada from a taco truck, I picked up my paper plate and wondered, What is this small, flat thing and how do I eat it? A "tostada salad" is not actually a tostada, it turns out.
But pile nearly anything onto a small, fried corn tortilla and it can be a tostada. For this recipe, frying the tortillas is the only real work required, but it's quick and relatively straightforward as far as deep-frying goes. The first time I tried it, I just winged it, and the tortillas came out beautifully puffed and a little crinkled; later I learned that pressing a metal spatula down on the tortilla as it fries will give you a flat, even tostada shell like the taco trucks serve. I actually prefer my wonky version, since it cups the ingredients a little better, but feel free to churn out perfectly flat ones instead.
Although tostadas are usually picked up and eaten like a slice of pizza, this method has never worked for me. Instead, I usually break the bottom shell into manageable pieces and eat them like you might eat nachos, scooping up whatever falls off with a chunk of the crispy tortilla. If you prefer to pick up and eat your tostadas, replace the black beans with black refried beans, which will help the other topping stick to the shell.
The corn is left raw, as it was in the dish that inspired this recipe, because I like the crunch and freshness it adds. The creamy dressing made with Greek yogurt, and a little lime juice and a big handful of cilantro brings all the toppings together. Quite honestly, this dressing is worth making even if you aren't interested in the tostada; it's fresh and zingy and tastes just as good on falafel as it does on a plain green salad.
Or a tostada salad, for that matter.
Corn, Tomato and Black Bean Tostadas with Creamy Cilantro Dressing
Makes 2 servings
For the dressing: 1 cup cilantro leaves and stems, roughly chopped 1/2 cup Greek yogurt 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon lime juice Zest of 1 lime 2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
For the tostadas: 1 cup cooked black beans, drained 2 ears corn, shucked 1 cup cherry tomatoes 4 corn 6" tortillas, plus more to test oil Vegetable oil Salt
In a small food processor, combine all the ingredients for the dressing except the grapeseed oil and process until the mixture is very smooth. Drizzle in the oil and process until it is fully incorporated.
In a small bowl, combine the beans with half the dressing and stir. Set the remaining dressing aside.
Using a sharp knife, cut the corn kernels from the cob. Halve the cherry tomatoes.
Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with a 1-inch layer of oil and heat on the stove over medium-high heat until very hot. To test, place a small piece of tortilla in the oil — if furious bubbles form around the edges and it floats to the top of the oil, the temperature is right. One at a time, fry the tortillas for 1-2 minutes, flipping halfway through. The tortilla will puff up, become crispy, and turn golden-brown as it fries. (For a flatter tostada shell, press down with a metal spatula as it cooks.) Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate and sprinkle with a little salt. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
To assemble, place two fried tortillas on each plate. Layer on the beans, corn and tomatoes, dividing evenly between the four tortillas. Generously drizzle each tostada with more of the cilantro dressing and serve immediately.
• I use full-fat Greek yogurt for the dressing. Low- or non-fat will work as well, but taste before adding the lime juice, as it may be tart enough without it. • If you don't want to bother with frying the tortillas, you can use store-bought tostada shells or serve with a handful of tortilla chips instead. Or simply warm the corn tortillas and serve the mixture as soft tacos. • For a less messy tostada, use refried beans in place of the black beans.