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Cooking with Rod

By Rod Cohenour

This month I'd like to share with you a condiment sensation that my wife has modified to go with just about anything in the world. It is delicious and can enhance the flavor of just about every food to which it's added.


It is a condiment by definition but is so delicious you will find yourself wanting to use it in many ways: as a dip, as a sauce, as an added ingredient to soup or a casserole or even a marinade for meats. Try it, you'll love it!


~Bon appetit!


Caribbean Sofrito by Melinda


(our Guest Chef this month)

Since I choose to blend Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Cubano versions (and a touch of my own innovation) of Sofrito, it is a blend of the original Spanish and the various Caribbean interpretations. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Sofrito, it is a basic flavoring sauce used as a base or as a flavor additive to any number of stews, rice dishes, meats and other spicy Caribbean, Mexican, or Nuevo Mexicano foods.


It can be prepared with all fresh ingredients or with sauteed onions, peppers and other selected veggies. Can use sheet pan and broil the veggies or saute in oil in the skillet to bring out best caramelized flavor. Otherwise is almost like a fresh veggie salsa or pico de Gallo.


All ingredients will be blended together and then placed in freezer appropriate containers (about one cup each) until ready to use. Suggested dishes which benefit from the addition of Sofrito are listed below. Sofrito can be stored in the refrigerator in covered containers for up to 7 days although I recommend 3-4 days, and up to 6 months properly stored in the freezer. Again, I suggest using it sooner to ensure you get the full benefit of its fresh sweet, spicy, smoky flavor.


Ingredients:

  • 2 each large Red, yellow and green Bell Peppers, membranes and seeds removed. Chopped in large pieces
  • 2-3 Large, meaty tomatoes, cut in large chunks
  • 6-8 Cubanelle peppers, rinse and quarter (if unable to find these, substitute 1-2 large Anaheim or Poblano peppers) remove membrane and seeds, chop in large pieces. (If using a substitute, consider adding a touch of cumin or cardamom or other smoky flavored seasoning as Cubanelle Peppers have that sweet, smoky flavor.)
  • 2-3 large White onions, cut in eighths
  • Celery stalks (leaves can be included) de-string and cut in 2-3" pieces
  • 3-4 tomatillos, cut in chunks (optional)
  • 1 Culantro leaf (culantro is the broad leafed cousin to cilantro and has a much stronger taste. Use sparingly or merely add a bit more cilantro).
  • 1 bunch cilantro, remove stems to prevent Sofrito tasting bitter
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (add to blender about 2 Tablespoons at a time)
  • 2-3 cups water, added to blender 1/2 to 3/4 cup at a time to facilitate blending of ingredients
  • 2-3 Tablespoons minced garlic (use less or more to taste)
  • Ground black pepper to taste. You may choose not to add spices, herbs, or seasonings to the Sofrito, opting to add to suit your taste to the dish you choose to enhance with the Sofrito. Suggest using Cumin, Chile powder, ancho pepper seasoning, cayenne or ground Chiles.


Directions:

    1. Wash all fresh ingredients well and dry. Prepare as listed above.
    2. If desired, saute peppers, onions, and celery to caramelize and enhance flavors. This is not an essential step, however. I prefer to saute, but if pressed for time will omit.
    3. Using a blender, add a portion of the oil first as indicated above. Add a portion of each listed vegetable being careful not to over fill. Add a portion of the minced garlic. (NOTE: This recipe will require several repetitive steps, until all the veggies have been fully blended.)
    4. Add only enough water to facilitate processing of the fresh veggies. As the vegetables are reduced in quantity by the process, you can add a balanced selection to the blender and start with a few quick pulses until veggies are being rotated down to the blades. Then you can blend until all are reduced to a texture like a relish (see photo below). Best if not too watery.
    5. Pour up blended Sofrito into a large bowl or other container large enough to contain all the processed ingredients. After all ingredients have been processed and added to this container, stir very well until all have been blended together. This step will ensure all the large batch of Sofrito has the same flavor.
    6. Store in covered containers. Suggest smaller cup or pint containers for freezer. (Some suggest freezing in ice cube trays, then popping the frozen cubes into freezer safe Ziploc bags.)


Frozen Sofrito can keep well up to 6 months if stored in heavy duty freezer safe containers. I suggest using in the next 2-4 months for best flavor.


Keep a couple jars in the fridge for use in the next week or so, if properly stored. Think Mason jars with lids.



Both pics are of Sofrito, as color changes according to which Ingredients are chosen.


Suggested uses:

  • Add a cup of Sofrito to Pollo Guisado or Carne Guisado
  • Add to Cuban Black Beans
  • Use to flavor steamed rice, adding after steaming liquid has been absorbed
  • Add a cup to Arroz con Pollo
  • Use as a sauce, heated (do not scorch) for chicken or beef prepared for any Southwest or Mexican dish
  • Use as a sauce in combination with green or red sauced Chile Enchiladas
  • Use over Burritos
  • Add to flavor Chicken Fajitas
  • Mix a little with Salsa Roja and serve as a dip
  • Add to a batch of Queso


You get the idea. Experiment. Add to various dishes that would be enhanced by the fresh, mildly spicy flavors imparted by Sofrito. They don't have to be classic Mexican dishes. Try adding to a Southwest Beef Stew for instance.


Enjoy!!


Watch for "Cooking with Rod" in October!


Click on the author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
This issue appears in the ezine at www.pencilstubs.com and also in the blog www.pencilstubs.net with the capability of adding comments at the latter.


 

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