Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Trim and Cook: Sofrito

We have talked about the importance of trimming and caring for your plants. It is very sad (Editor's note: very, very, very sad) when you have to clip away unmercifully because that culantro won't stop growing or when you have been away from the kitchen so long that you have more peppers than you can use. Pretty sure this should be the case of our loyal readers because if you have been following our blog your garden must be sprouting and blooming in abundance.

Or maybe not, but for the sake of argument let's say it is. What to do with all those spare spices, leafs and vegetables? Sofrito! Sofrito is part of our Spanish heritage but is has changed and evolved in every Latin country becoming a unique combination in each country. In Puerto Rican cuisine, sofrito is used when cooking legumes, meat stews, and sauces.

Sofrito ingredients
Commercial sofrito in Puerto Rico combines tomato, onion, green peppers, cilantro and garlic. However, the best sofrito is the one made at home.  (Editor's note: Commercial < Home-made... Always) Yes, use those plants you have in your garden to make your very own sofrito. In Puerto Rico we have a saying: “como mami nadie cocina”, which means that no one cooks like mom. It proves to be right every time, and sofrito is not the exception. Although my mom claims to not have a recipe, I've watch her do this for 30 years and yes she does have a recipe, just not a written one, which makes it even better tasting. This is my mom’s recipe which yields approximately an 8 oz bottle or bowl:
  • 8 leaves of culantro
  • 1 bush of cilantro
  • 1 garlic head
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cubanelle peppers
  • 10 “ajies dulces” (Capsicum chinense)
You can add other aromatic plants, like basil or thyme, to your liking. Add capers and even cured ham to put in up some extra salty flavor. Many sofrito recipes contain tomatoes. Not recommended. Tomatoes keep ripening inside the mixture and the fruit acid causes the sofrito to turn bad faster. Cut everything to small pieces and blend, preferably in a food processor so it remains chunky. If a food processor is not at hand, use a blender.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to use, it will be good for about 6 months. You can also store in the freezer for longer periods. When ready to use, sauté one tablespoon of sofrito in olive or cooking oil for a few minutes before adding the rest of the dish ingredients.

Be bold and add any other aromatic ingredient and create your own unique recipe. Mix and match flavors using your favorite combinations or even experiment with combinations that work best for each of your dishes. Maybe adding rosemary and mint when using it for red meat stews, and thyme and cilantro for seafood. Keep good care of your garden, trim, cook and let us know how it worked with your own special mix of sofrito.


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