Flautas are made with a savory filling, usually meat, rolled up and deep-fried to a golden brown. The history of this dish is varied, but most sources cite Mexico as the origin. The Spanish language word flauta means flute and, when served, these crunchy delights do look like a tasty flute.
At one of our recent summer dinners on the deck our friend Laurie asked if there was such a thing as cheese flautas without meat. “I always ordered them at a restaurant called La Fiesta on Telegraph Ave, during my college days at UC Berkeley back in the late 60’s,” she said. “I’ve never been able to find them again in any Mexican restaurant, anywhere! And I always ask, hoping that somewhere my yummy college memory of cheese flautas will be brought back to life.” I didn’t have a recipe for vegetarian flautas but told her I would look around. Not finding any recipes in my collection of cookbooks, I turned to the Internet.
This recipe is cobbled together from a number of different online recipes. One of the major differences between this recipe and others is that I lightly fry the flautas in a shallow frying pan. Another is that this is easy to prepare. It also takes very little time to get it from prep to the table. Winner, winner, flautas for dinner!
3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup high heat organic safflower oil
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 teaspoon cumin
3/4 cup unsalted pepitas
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (chopped)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (divided)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 6-inch fresh gluten-free corn tortillas
2 cups Oaxaca cheese (chopped or grated)
1 ripe avocado
½ cup Mexican style sour cream
Cotija cheese (grated for garnish)
Cilantro (chopped for garnish)
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a sauté pan on medium heat. Cook garlic until golden, 1 minute. Add cumin and pepitas and cook until pepitas are toasted (about 3 minutes). Remove from the heat.
Place garlic/pepitas mixture in a blender along with cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and 1 tablespoon oil. Pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To make the flautas, spread a tablespoon of the garlic/pepitas mixture on a soft tortilla. Top with a loosely packed ¼ cup of cheese. Roll up and carefully place seam side down. Cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel. Repeat until all 8 flautas are ready to fry.
Heat the remaining ¼ cup oil in a medium frying pan on medium heat. Fry flautas with the seam side down for 1 minute. Using tongs, roll to brown evenly, cooking 1 minute more. Drain on paper towels to remove excess oil. Cover with kitchen towel to keep them warm.
Make the avocado cream sauce by mashing the avocado, sour cream and remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice in a bowl. Season with salt, to taste (no pepper).
To serve, place flautas on a bed of thinly sliced lettuce and spoon avocado-cream sauce on top. Sprinkle with a little Cotija cheese and a pinch of cilantro. Serve while flautas are still warm and crunchy.
Note: Make sure to buy fresh, soft, and pliable tortillas. If the tortillas are super fresh, they are easier to roll. If you can’t find Oaxaca cheese, substitute Monterey Jack.