Sofrito – Puerto Rican Green Gold


sofrito-tray_thumb.jpgSofrito is a mixture of peppers, onions, garlic and herbs that is used as a flavoring in many Puerto Rican rice, bean and meat dishes. I always keep a supply in my freezer. Sofrito recipes are like finger prints no two recipes are the same, this is how my family makes it.

Sofrito Recipe:

2 large green or red pepper – stemmed, seeded and chopped

24 Aji Dulce peppers stemmed, seeded and chopped or 2 Cubanelle peppers stemmed, seeded and chopped*

2 medium onions (large diced)

6 cloves garlic (peeled and crushed)

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. salt

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

4 leaves culantro (optional)

1/2 cup vegetable oil or light olive oil

 Place all ingredients into a food processor and process for 10 seconds.  Save sofrito by freezing in ice-cube trays or plastic cups then placing them into large zip-lock freezer bag for future use. Sofrito is a great marinade for grilled meats and for seasoning bean dishes. I measure about 1/4 cup in each plastic cup.

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*Aji Dulce Peppers are small peppers that resemble a Scotch Bonnet pepper but they are a sweet not hot. Cubanelle peppers are also known as Italian frying peppers.

PUERTO RICAN STYLE ARROZ CON POLLO (CHICKEN AND RICE)


arroz con pollo 4

If you asked 10 Puerto Ricans “What do you ask your Mother to cook when you go to visit her?” I’ll bet 9 of 10 will say Arroz con Pollo!”  As I cooked this recipe and the aromas filled my kitchen, memories of my mother filled my head. I could see her in the kitchen browning off pieces of chicken while I was trying to steal a few of her olives and she would chase me away with her wooden spoon saying “You are not to big to get a beating.” Then we would both start to laugh. Good memories are what my “Heirloom recipes” are all about.

Arroz con Pollo Recipe:

6 chicken wings

6 chicken thighs

salt and pepper

3 tbsp. olive oil

4 tbsp. sofrito (see recipe below)

6 cups chicken broth

1 – 8 oz. can tomato sauce

16 pimento stuffed olives

3 tbsp. capers (rinsed)

4 cups long grain white rice

Pre-heat oven to 350 Degrees F

Season the chicken parts liberally with salt and pepper.

arroz con pollo 1

Heat oil in a thick bottomed Dutch oven or caldero over medium heat. Brown chicken a few pieces at a time for about 5 minutes a side.(Chef’s note: don’t fuss with the chicken while it is browning, when the chicken is ready to be turned over it will be easy to turn over and will not stick to the bottom of the pan) When chicken is browned remove from pot and set aside.

arroz con pollo 2

Drain pot of rendered chicken fat leaving 1 tbsp. of fat behind in the pot. Leave the browned bits in the bottom of the pot because they will add flavor. Add sofrito to the pot and cook for three minutes.

Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, olives, capers, rice and reserved chicken to the pot and bring liquid to a boil in an uncovered pot over medium heat.

Once boiling reduce heat to low and stir pot only once. If you stir rice too much it becomes sticky!

After about 5 to 10 minutes the rice will absorb most of the liquid in the pot. When the liquid  is just below the top of the rice, cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and place the pot into pre-heated oven for 25 minutes.

Remove pot from oven and allow rice to rest for 5 minutes  before removing lid. To serve fluff rice with a fork.

arroz con pollo 3

Sofrito Recipe:

sofrito1

1 large green or red pepper (large dice)

12 Aji Dulce peppers seeded and chopped or 2 Cubanelle peppers seeded and chopped*

2 medium onions (large dice)

6 cloves garlic (peeled and crushed)

1 jalapeno pepper

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. salt

1 tbsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 cup cilantro leaves

2 leaves culantro (optional)

1/2 cup vegetable oil or light olive oil

 Place all ingredients into a food processor and process for 10 seconds. Reserve 4 tbsp. of mixture for above recipe. Save remaining sofrito by freezing in ice-cube trays then placing cubes into large zip-lock freezer bag for future use. Sofrito is a great marinade for grilled meats and for seasoning bean dishes.

sofrito2

*Aji Dulce Peppers are small peppers that resemble a Scotch Bonnet pepper but they are a sweet not hot. Cubanelle peppers are also known as Italian frying peppers.

Easy Mini Spanakopita Pies


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I have been asked by so many of my friends, especially around the Holidays, for a quick and easy appetizer recipe. I chose this dish not only because it is quick and easy but because it tastes so good. I do take some liberties with the traditional Spanakopita recipe by adding mushrooms to the recipe. I first added the mushrooms to the recipe many years ago because my sister told me that my brother-in-law Bob hated mushrooms and she bet me I could not get him to eat them. Do I need to tell you what Bob’s favorite appetizer has been ever since.

 

Yes this is Bob!

Yes this is Bob!

 

6 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup onion – diced

4 cloves garlic – diced

1 cup mushrooms – finely minced ( I use a mini food processor) it helped to hide the mushrooms from Bob

 2 boxes frozen chopped spinach – defrosted and squeezed dry

1 splash sherry or white wine

4 ounces Feta cheese – crumbled

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese – grated

2 boxes Athens Brand Filo Cups – 15 cups / box

Pam non stick spray

Parchment paper

 

Sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until clarified. Add garlic to pan and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add mushrooms to the pan and cook  for 5 minutes stirring  occasionally.

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Add spinach and sherry to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir well to combine. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool.

Add the Feta and Parmesan cheeses to the pan and stir until well combined.

Place Filo cups on a parchment lined baking pan. Lightly spray the tops of the cups with Pam.

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Fill each cup with a heaping tablespoon of spinach mixture. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving. Any extra spinach mixture can be frozen for another party or used to stuff an omelet…Yummy. Spinach and feta omelet.

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Best Italian Sausage Bread Recipe


best italian sausage bread

I call this the “Best Italian Sausage Bread” because it is my #1 go to party recipe. It can be prepared ahead of time then it can be placed in the oven when my guests arrive. As it cooks it fills the house with the sweet aroma of an Italian street fair and the smell of fresh-baked bread. When it comes out of the oven my guests are always so impressed. I wish I had a better picture  but by the time I found my camera  this is all I had left. My guests ate the rest.

Bread dough:

3 cups bread flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup warm water

1 packet yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon olive oil

Stuffing:

1 pound  Italian sweet sausage – casings removed

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large green peppers – cut into strips

2 medium onions – large dice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon oregano

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1 egg beaten

4 teaspoons sesame seeds

Directions:

sausage bread

Place the bread flour and salt into bowl of stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.

sausage bread

Put water in a large measuring cup.  Add yeast and sugar to the water and stir to dissolve.  Set timer for 10 minutes to allow yeast to proof.

sausage bread

Add oil to the water mixture. Pour liquid into mixer bowl.  Set mixer on number two and knead for exactly 10 minutes.

sausage bread

Remove dough ball from mixer bowl then put a drop of oil into bowl of mixer. Then roll the dough around in oil to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 1 hour. Dough should double in size.

sausage bread

While waiting for the dough to rise, use a large skillet to cook sausage until the pink is gone and it begins to brown. Breaking up all large clumps. Place sausage into a strainer or on paper towels to drain off excess fat and set sausage aside.

sausage bread

Add oil to the same skillet and sauté the onions and peppers over med heat for about 4 minutes or until onions are clarified then add the salt, pepper and oregano to the skillet. Add the sausage back to the pan and cook for an additional 4 minutes then set aside to cool.

sausage bread

Roll dough to a 12 x 18 inch rectangle. With the longest side facing you.

sausage bread

Cover the dough with the sausage mixture leaving 1 inch on left and right edges and on the side that is away from you.

sausage bread

Cover sausage mixture with shredded mozzarella. The sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

sausage bread

Brush the left, right and the far edge of the dough with some of the egg wash.

sausage bread

Starting from the near edge, roll the dough away from yourself.  Like a jelly roll. Leave the seam underneath the roll.

sausage bread

Tuck the ends under the roll to seal. Cover the roll with a towel and allow to rise 30 minutes.

sausage bread

Remove the towel and brush the outside of the roll with egg wash. Sprinkle the roll with sesame seeds. Place roll on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Optional – At this point you have 2 choices

1) bake the bread

or

2) you can place it  in the fridge for up to 1 hour and wait for guests to arrive before baking. Then  allow it to return to room temperature  before baking.

 Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Budin – Puerto Rican Bread Pudding


Budin

I had a request for a recipe from an old friend of mine (Belinda Alfonso Sandstrom). Back in about 1991 we took a trip to visit her grand father and we brought him a some of my mom’s bread pudding. He took one bite and said it reminded him of the bread pudding he had as a child in Puerto Rico. This is one of my families “Heirloom Recipes”. Try this recipe and it will become a favorite for your family.

3 loaves of “3 day old” French or Italian bread / cut into small cubes
2 cans of Carnation Evaporated milk plus 2 cans of water
1 quart of milk (regular milk, not fat-free)
2 tbsp. Vanilla
3 cups Sugar
1 Tbs.Cinnamon
1/2 cup Raisins
1/4 lb. butter (1 stick) – diced into small pieces
extra cinnamon for dusting

Directions:
There should be enough bread cubes to make a mound in a 10″ x 15″ baking pan.

Pour the 2 cans of Evaporated Milk over bread, refill each can with water and add to bread. Add milk, vanilla, cinnamon, raisins, sugar and 3/4 of the diced butter.

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Mix all together real good, making sure the sugar is well dissolved into the bread mixture.

Let stand for 15 minutes to allow bread to soften and soak up most of the milk. The texture should be a slightly wet mush. Use the remaining butter to dot the top of the entire mixture.

Then lightly sprinkle the top with more cinnamon. DO NOT MIX. Place pan in oven and bake at 350 degrees, for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. or until knife inserted comes out clean. Top will have crispy chunks that you can’t help but to sample! The bread pudding itself will become firm once it cools off.

Hope you enjoy…it’s delicious

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Eggplant Caponata


Caponata

Caponata

 

I get many requests from my friends for Vegetarian dishes. This is a Sicilian recipe for a sweet and sour eggplant relish that can be served on crackers or crostini. I also use it as a sandwich spread when I make an Italian Hoagie sandwich. Take one bite and you will feel like  you are in Italy…Ciao Baby!

 

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant (peeled and diced into half-inch cubes) (4 cups)

1 medium onion finely diced

1 stick celery finely diced

4 cloves garlic finely diced

1 – 16 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/4 cup of coarsely diced Manzanilla olives

1/4 cup coarsely diced black olives

1/4 cup pine-nuts

1/4 cup raisins

3 tablespoons capers

crushed red pepper to taste

Salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

Fresh basil for garnish

Directions:

Heat up a large skillet with olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot add eggplant in one layer  to pan. Cook for 4 minutes (do not stir). After 4 minutes turn over the eggplant in the pan to brown the other side for an additional 4 minutes. Remove eggplant to a separate bowl and set aside. Add onions and celery to the skillet with additional oil if needed. When the onions have become translucent add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add the remaining ingredients to the pan.  Cook at a low simmer for 8 minutes or until the eggplant is tender. Serve at room temperature.

Flan – Puerto Rican Egg Custard Recipe


Finished Flan

This is a family “Heirloom Recipe” that my mother has been making for as long as I can remember. Flan is a Spanish caramel cream custard that is popular in Puerto Rico and many other Latin American countries. This is a simple yet elegant dessert you must try!

 

Special equipment;

Bundt pan

  • Bundt pan
  • Deep roasting pan
  • Round platter slightly larger than the Bundt pan with raised edges

Ingredients;

  • 5 extra-large eggs
  • 1 – 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1- 12 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 12 oz. whole milk
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • enough hot water to fill roasting pan 2 inches high

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

ingredients

Assemble all of the ingredients.

eggs in blender

Place eggs in the blender and whip for 15 seconds.

milk in blender

Add sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk to the blender. Then use empty can of evaporated milk to measure whole milk. Add the whole milk to the blender and whip for 30 seconds. Set aside.

sugar in the pot

Place sugar in  a dry sauce pan. Cook over medium high heat.

sugar partially melted

After 5 minutes sugar will begin to clump up. Break up clumps with a wooden spoon.

caramel

Continue to cook sugar until it liquefies and turns a light caramel color. Don’t go too dark or it will get a burnt flavor.

pouring caramel

Pour caramel into Bundt pan.

spreading caramel

Using a wooden spoon, spread caramel half way upsides of pan including tube.

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Place coated Bundt pan into roasting pan.

cooked flan

Pour custard mixture into Bundt pan.

pouring water

Place roasting pan with Bundt pan into pre-heated oven. then pour hot water into roasting pan. About 2 inches high. Bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

un sticking flan

After removing from the oven allow to cool for 15 minutes then using a thin knife separate top edge of flan from the pan.

tilt pan

After flan has cooled tilt pan back and forth until you can see the caramel oozing up the sides of the pan. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or over night.

cover pan with platter

Place the inverted platter on top of the Bundt pan. Now comes the fun part. Holding the platter tight against the Bundt pan flip the pan over being careful not to lose the liquid caramel.

flipped flan

Note: After removing Flan from the pan there will be some hard caramel in the bottom of the pan. Don’t worry you can boil some water and pour it in the Bundt pan and it will melt away.