I just got back from Puerto Rico! When I go on a trip, I immediately start researching the food from that country. I fell in LOVE with the Puerto Rican people and the food! (It helps to have my friends Maytee and Yolanda in my life…..they know all things Puerto Rican, and have taught me a lot about the food and customs). But specifically I came back and immediately began researching Water Bread, Mallorcas, Beans and Rice and SOFRITO. (before I go on, let me explain what it is as best I can: SOFRITO is the base for soups, stews, rice, beans….in America, it might be called the “Trinity”–onions, garlic, celery with peppers sometimes added. Diced, blended, sauteed….whatever). I began researching SOFRITO on Utube videos and watched for hours. In the end, I became more confused than ever, as it seems every culture has it’s own version (and it’s own name)! Basically, vegetables such as onion, garlic and peppers, are sauteed, blended, mashed….so many different ways to provide a base flavor for many dishes, especially beans, rice, and stews. The basic Puerto Rican dish contains green bell peppers, garlic, cilantro, and a sweet little wrinkly green pepper that I could not find (but I was told I could substitute the little sweet red peppers that come in the cellophane bags). Also, a sister of cilantro called culantro, which is more of a leaf with a spine. I am told this adds a different flavor……but at both of my favorite Latino markets they are not available. Disappointed because I was unable to duplicate that exact flavor, my research into SOFRITO told me that I could do a pretty authentic job with similar ingredients. Below is my recipe which I will call Gringo SOFRITO. My apologies to all the Latino countries of the world. If this is an interesting subject to you, read on after the Recipe. Oh by the way, why would you want to make this in the first place? You can freeze the mixture in ice cube trays and use two of three of them to flavor beans, rice, stews. Simply add them at the beginning of cooking the dish. (another nice sideline of making your own–you can add or subtract flavors you don’t like. We like garlic, onion, paprika, sweet red bell peppers–and I can’t really live without a jalapeno here and there…
SOFRITO FOR GRINGOS
3 bunches cilantro (rinse thoroughly and cut off brown ends, but keep the stems)
3 bunches parsley (same as above) If you can find Culantro, use that instead (and call me if you find it!)
2 large onions
A whole bunch of peeled garlic cloves (I used 1/2 cup)
2 or 3 green bell peppers
2 or 3 red bell peppers
Above is the basic recipe–it is your choice if you want to add spices to the mix, as the spice may affect your finished product (maybe you don’t want paprika flavor in your rice!) But my additions are one tsp each: smoked paprika, black pepper, sea salt, oregano
cut all above into large chunks (maybe a golf ball size?). Start food processor and blend all in batches. I personally do not blend in blender, as I like the texture chunkier. When all is mixed well, freeze in ice cube trays. Use a few in your stews, beans or rice…..a little at a time, and you will quickly learn the amounts you like. As always, start small, don’t add too much at a time……ask me how I know…..
I learned so much studying this food. For instance, almost every culture (mostly latino), has a version of this. It even has different names. Cubans use spanish onions, bell peppers, dry white wine, cumin, bay leaf, and tomato sauce. They add chorizo or salt pork with this to beans. Dominicans add “Sazon” (Hey! I buy this at the Ranch Market!), vinegar, water, tomato juice to peppers, onions and cubanelle peppers. Filipinos call it Ginisa, Spain uses garlic, onion, paprika, tomatoes and cook it in olive oil first. Portuguese add bay leaves and olive oil. In the Caribbean they often add seasoned lard, ham with bone, annato seeds to make it yellow and simmer it a long time. Greek SOFRITO is garlic, onion in olive oil and the specific dish is a veal steak cooked slowly with white wine, garlic and herbs and served over rice. Italians of course, use garlic, onion, seasonings and often anchovies as a base. See why I got confused? Enjoy this!