It’s All About That Base – Sofrito

 

Every cuisine starts with a base of seasonings, and in Latin cooking, from Puerto Rico to Mexico to Spain, it all starts with sofrito.  Forget mire poix or New Orleans trinity (it’s just a stripped down version of sofrito anyway).   Sofrito 001AI’ve found more and more ways to use this great flavor base and I try to always have a big batch in my freezer.  Being able to throw a disk of frozen sofrito into the pan is a great way to bypass all the chopping for a sauce, a fast supper or an eat-it-when-you-get-home crockpot meal.  I’ve used it as a base in dishes like chicken and yellow rice, and in homemade enchilada sauce, chili and black bean soup.  I’ve even put it in pasta sauce and split pea soup; anywhere you want to make an ordinary dish something special.  The great thing about sofrito is that it is so easy to make.

Every one’s mom or grandma has her own authentic sofrito recipe, but this is my version.  You’ll need a blender or food processor and a frying pan (cast iron is the best), and some basic ingredients.

Basic Sofrito

Ingredients

2 red bell peppers (you can also use the sweet red and yellow minis that come in a bag)

1 green bell pepper

2 poblano peppers

1 big sweet onion

8 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 bunches of fresh cilantro, chopped

1 bunch of culantro*

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon jalapeno powder (also called Texas gunpowder – I make my own)

Directions

Rough chop the vegetables and place in the blender or food processor.

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Process the mixture until it’s somewhat smooth but still has some chunkiness.  Sofrito 007AHeat your skillet and add 2 tablespoons of oil.  Pour the mixture into the skillet, add the cumin and jalapeno powder.  Notice I did not add any salt or pepper.  I add those seasonings when I use them to prepare a dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just let the mixture simmer until most of the moisture has cooked down (about 10 minutes).

Sofrito 012A

 

Let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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What I like to do is pour 1/2 cup portions into my big muffin tin and freeze them.  Once frozen I put the disks in a zip lock and they’re ready to use when I need them.

Explore some new flavors.  Enjoy.

Sunshine Soup and Lettuce Wraps

I recall that on May 1st last year there was snow on my lawn.  This year spring seems to have started in earnest, the trees are almost in leaf and my allergies are going crazy.  No regrets.  Mayday, or Beltane, or whatever name you choose too give this date, is one of my favorite celebrations.  It’s time for one of my sunshine soups, and this year, in honor of the wonderful weather I’m making Summer Sun Soup and juicy, crunchy lettuce wraps.   Summer Sun Soup is one of my favorite spring/summer soups because you can eat it warm, or you can enjoy it cold.  You’ll love the color, the velvety texture and the slightly spicy, deliciously tangy flavors.

Summer Sun Soup

Photo by E. Broughton

Photo by E. Broughton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs yellow summer squash (about 3-4 medium)
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch dried orange peel
  • Pinch dried lemon peel
  • Pinch dried celery
  • 1 cup yogurt (plain)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Cut the squash in half and then into 1/2-inch dice (about 8 cups); cut the bell pepper into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups); cut the carrots in 1/2-inch dice (about 1 1/4 cup); cut the potatoes in 1/2 inch dice (scant 1 cup).

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Medium chop the onion (about 1 cup).

Onions

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low; add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.  Add the squash, pepper, carrots and potatoes to the saucepan along with the vegetable or chicken stock; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool, 10 minutes.
Sunshine Soup

Add the lemon juice and zest.  Add in the turmeric, ginger. dried orange peel, dried lemon peel, dried celery powder or celery salt and salt and pepper to taste.  Use a food processor or blender to puree the soup.

Sunshine Soup 3

Reheat or serve cold with a swirl of plain yogurt.

Lettuce Wraps

  • 6 leaves of butter lettuce
  • Cole slaw with diced granny smith apple

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Photo by E. Broughton

Photos by E. Broughton

Happy May 1st and Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Broth for Breakfast

When it comes to breakfast Americans love their bacon and eggs, and most of all we love our sugar.  But, there are better choices for breakfast than pop tarts or cereal that’s so sweet you can smell the sugar (yes, you actually can).  As a matter of fact most of the rest of the world, if they get breakfast, start the day with soup which seems to be catching on here in the U.S.  One of the hot new trends is switching from a big, overpriced cup of gourmet coffee to a big, overpriced mug of bone broth.   I guess it’s a move toward better nutrition, but it’s still overpriced, and it’s made from bones, so I’m opting for a plant based version instead.  To each his own.  For me, there’s something comforting about a big mug of warm soup, and once you get over the idea that soup for breakfast is just too weird, you discover a whole panorama of tasty possibilities.  Here are some ideas I’ve  come up with that are broadening breakfast horizons at my house.  Give it a try.

 Spicy Breakfast Broth 2 Ways

Ingredients

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup V8 Juice (spicy or original, your choice)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped scallion including some green tops
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 ounces plain avocado or guacamole
  • ¾ teaspoon Siracha (optional)

Directions

In a saucepan, heat the scallions in a small amount of vegetable stock.

Broth for Breakfast - Scallions 4

 

 

 

 

 

Add V8 juice, oregano, cumin and salt and pepper.  Season with a few drops of siracha.

  1. Serve with avocado toast on whole wheat bread.
  2. Whisk avocado or guacamole into the broth and serve a hard-boiled egg on the side.

Spicy Vegetable Broth - Breakfast 2                                                  Spicy Vegetable Broth - Breakfast 4

 

This recipe makes 2 generous 1-cup servings.  Store in a glass container in the refrigerator.  Pop in the microwave to warm or serve it chilled.

Broth with Bean Sprouts and Vegetables

Scallions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • ½ cup mixed vegetables, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
  • ¼ cup bean sprouts
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 fresh mushrooms thinly sliced, or 1 tablespoon mushroom powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 Directions

  1. In a saucepan, heat the scallions, garlic and ginger in 2 tablespoons of broth until softened.
  2. Add the rest of the broth, vegetables and mushrooms or mushroom powder. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add the bean sprouts and heat through before serving.
  4. For extra protein float a boiled egg or serve on the side with toast sticks.

Thai Style Coconut Soup

Of course, if you prefer your breakfast creamy and a little sweeter, here’s a slightly more exotic way to start your day.

Thai Style Coconut Soup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 smallish red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used almond oil but olive oil works also)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3/4 cup diced tomatoes (fresh is best but canned will work)
  • 1 cup coconut milk, unsweetened or vanilla
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used almond)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped mint, basil or cilantro leaves for garnish

Directions

Sautee the onion, peppers and garlic in olive oil in a large pot until onions are soft, about 3-5 minutes.

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Add the remaining ingredients, except for the basil and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook over low heat for one hour.

Coconut Soup 2

 

Coconut Soup 3Transfer half of the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the pot. Add basil or cilantro and enjoy your coconut soup!

*You can add ¾ cup chickpeas to increase the protein content, but it’s optional and I usually leave them out.

St. Patrick’s Day Dinner

Okay, so in honor of the promise of spring and St. Patrick’s Day I made a special dinner for the Irish-at-heart.  Since I’m not eating red meat, I decided to go with the next most Irish protein, salmon.  Perhaps it will make me wise and I’m certain it will be tasty.  The menu is simple and economical: salmon croquettes, (basically canned salmon with onion, red sweet pepper and dill).  If you’re offended by the can, just remember it’s wild caught, canned fresh and it’s cheap, Irish mothers rejoice.  It’s served alongside a big bowl of colcannon, with Irish soda bread, and for dessert I’ve got bread pudding slathered in Bailey’s Irish Cream sauce, so let’s get to it.

Irish Rosemary Soda Bread

Irish Rosemary Soda Bread

Irish Rosemary Soda Bread

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped rosemary (or other herb of choice)
  • 2 cups buttermilk

Grease an 8-inch pie plate or baking sheet and set aside.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt and finely chopped rosemary.

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Make a little well in the center and add the buttermilk.   Stir until a dough forms (feel free to use your fingers if you want).  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until the dough is smooth and not sticky.

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Place the dough on the greased pie plate and cut a half inch deep X across the top of the dough.

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Bake for 50 minutes or until a dark golden brown.  Transfer to a rack to cool.

Irish Rosemary Soda Bread

Irish Rosemary Soda Bread

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do not slice until the bread has cooled.  Wrap in a moist towel until ready to serve.  I usually bake the bread the day before and store in a bread bag until the next day before slicing.

Creamy Colcannon

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My version of colcannon has a couple of extra ingredients but I think you’ll like it, unless of course you hate peas in which case just leave them out.

Ingredients

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  • 2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 small or half of a large cabbage, cored and chopped
  • 2 small or 1 large leek (white part only) sliced into rings
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 cup of fat free milk
  • 4 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper (use black if you don’t have white pepper)

In a large pot of water, boil the potatoes until tender (about 20-25 minutes).

Steam the cabbage for about 10 minutes or until tender.  Drain, cover and set aside.

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In a small saucepan, simmer the leeks in milk just until soft (about 5-7 minutes).  Then remove the leeks with a slotted spoon, set aside, and reserve the milk.

021Drain the potatoes and add about half the milk used to simmer the leeks.  Mash the potatoes to desired consistency (I like mine a little lumpy).   Add the cream cheese and pepper and mash until blended.  Use the remaining milk if needed.  Stir in the cabbage, leeks and peas.  Serve immediately, or refrigerate and reheat in the microwave for serving later.

 Salmon Croquettes (Patties)

Ingredients

  • 1 15-oz can wild caught salmon
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 small sweet red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon dried or fresh dill
  • Salt and pepper

Salmon Patties

 

 

 

Combine all ingredients and form into patties.  In a skillet, sauté the patties until crisp and browned.

Really Easy Bailey’s Irish Cream Bread Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 1-lb loaf cinnamon raisin bread
  • 3 cups half and half or whole milk
  • 1 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream (Brady’s also works)
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bailey's Bread Pudding

 

 

 

 

Tear bread into small pieces and place in a large bowl.  Add the milk and Bailey’s and let soak for about 10 minutes.  Work the mixture in with your hands until the milk is absorbed.

In another bowl combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, spice and butter.  Add to the bread mixture and pour into buttered baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Let rest on cooling rack until fully set.  The smell was making me irrational and I forgot to take pictures.

To create a quick sauce, combine 1 can of sweetened condensed milk with 1/2 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream.  Warm in the microwave (very carefully).  Pour over the bread pudding and serve.

So there it is.  My culinary homage to St. Patrick’s Day and if you want green beer you’ll have supply your own.  Enjoy!

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