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.

Sofrito 005A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Sofrito B 002

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.

Farinata (Chickpea Flatbread)

I love bread, all kinds of bread, wheat, corn, barley, rye and that’s just the beginning because as I discovered recently, bread isn’t just made from grain.  Lately, I’ve been sampling flatbread in a search for the perfect pizza delivery system.  That’s how I discovered bean flours, specifically garbanzo or chickpea flour and a beautiful, crispy, delectable Mediterranean flatbread called farinata or socca in Sicily.  Practically every country in that part of the world has some version of it.  At this point, we’re no longer discussing pizza crust, so stay with me.

I’m still trying to figure out how I could not have known about something this yummy, but better late than never.  Farinata is one of those comfort food dishes that disappears from the plate before it’s even had time to cool off and I understand that some cafes and restaurants in Italy post the time that their farinata will be coming out of the oven and people line up to get it while it’s hot.  I’ve been known to bake it in the morning and eat every crumb before anyone else gets home.  The best part is that it is so easy to make.  Get out the cast iron and warm up the oven.

Farinata

Farinata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Makes one serving for me, or two if I’m feeling generous.

  • 1 cup garbanzo or chickpea flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary (or other herb of your choice), chopped fine
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Combine chickpea flour and water in a bowl; whisk until the batter is smooth.

Batter 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight to ferment.

Cover with wrap

 

This adds a lovely nutty flavor to the bread.

Fermented 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following morning (or later if you’re sharing), heat the oven to 450 degrees and place your cast iron pan (I used an 8-inch skillet) in the oven, heating it until it’s smoking hot.

In the meantime, remove the plastic wrap from the batter and stir in the salt, chopped herbs and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Batter with rosemary and oil

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remove the pan from the oven, pour in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and swirl around to coat the bottom and sides of the pan and to heat the oil.

Pour the batter into the pan and swirl to cover the bottom like a pancake.  The batter should sizzle.

Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges are brown and crispy.

Farinata in the oven

Remove from the oven and turn out upside down onto a plate (you want the pretty crispy side to show).

Farinata in the Pan

Farinata

Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and serve immediately.

Then…..

Wednesday 020

 

 

 

 

 

And…..

Thats All FolksThat’s all folks.   ♦

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chai Concentrate: Instant Comfort in a Cup

After a hard day sometimes you just need some good old fashioned comfort, and you need it NOW.  Problem is, comfort usually takes time and on days like that I’m not into delayed gratification.  So what I need is a little kitchen magic and some make-ahead planning.

My crock pot is the closest thing I have to a magic cauldron.  I can make the most wonderful concoctions in it with almost no effort and I use it often, especially for that heavenly elixir, chai tea.  Frankly, I’m too cheap to buy the stuff in a box or bottle, and I tried the homemade instant mix but I don’t like the idea of coffee creamer (I mean what IS that stuff anyway?).   For me, it’s not just about how a dish looks, it’s also about how it’s made and what kind of ingredients go into making it yummy.  Now, I love chai, hot, cold, with or without milk.  It’s delicious, comforting and a special way to unwind after a busy day.  The trouble is I want my comfort now and not half an hour from now after I’ve assembled all the ingredients, found that I’m completely out of cinnamon sticks, gone to the store, come back, steeped the tea and spices and poured out that first cup.  No, I want it fast, easy and ready to use.  With a little research and a few of my own contributions, here is my version of Chai Tea Concentrate.   There are no actual rules here, so use the spices you like.  So drag out that slow cooker and let’s make some comfort in a cup.

Chai Tea Concentrate

Makes slightly less than 2 quarts

 Ingredients:

  • 8 cups water
  • 8 individual tea bags (black or green)
  • 1 cup sugar or 3/4 cup honey or brown rice syrup (I use half regular sugar and half light brown sugar) – you can always add more to taste
  • 6 slices (rounds) fresh ginger
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 8 cardamom seeds (they’re tiny but strong)
  • 6-8 peppercorns
  • 1 nutmeg, or 1 1/2 teaspoons of grated nutmeg
  • Peel from one fresh orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel powder (you could substitute additional fresh orange peel or orange zest)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried lemon peel powder (you could substitute 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Chai Concentrate Ingredients 1

 

 

 

 

 

Directions:

Pour the water into the crock pot, add sugar and stir to dissolve.  Once the sugar is dissolved, add the tea bags, and all of the remaining ingredients except the vanilla.

Chai Concentrate zzz 003

 

 

 

 

 

Set the crock pot to hi and let it simmer for 2-4 hours.  It will have reduced slightly and is very strong, so if you’re sensitive to caffeine you should use decaffeinated or your favorite herb tea.  MON 006

Turn off the heat and let cool slightly, then add the vanilla.

chai monday 006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the concentrate is completely cooled, strain and store in the refrigerator in a glass container.

Wed Chai 006

 

 

Magic in a cup.  Enjoy!    Wed Chai 003

 

 

 

 

 

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).

Yellow Squash           Yellow Pepper        Carrots        018

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

MON 012

Photo by E. Broughton

Photos by E. Broughton

Happy May 1st and Enjoy!