Friday, September 30, 2011


I finally was able to collect the ingredients and make this recipe. This is the "liquid gold" that I often cook with and recommend using in so many dishes to add exceptional flavor. I was introduced to it when my Puerto Rican friend taught me how to make Puerto Rican Rice and Beans (Arroz con Gandules). This mixture is really what provides so much flavor to many of the Puerto Rican and Dominican meals. While you might find it in jars on some of the grocery shelves, it has very little flavor and is a world of difference from the freshly made sofrito. Since it is much easier (and cheaper) to buy these items during the summer, it makes sense to make a big batch so you have enough to last through the winter. It keeps in the refrigerator for a long time and extra containers can be kept in the freezer for months (I had some that after a year was still good, but maybe not as strong).

This was a BIG batch!!

There are so many variations of this mixture but the commonality is the combination of green peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro and culantro (also known as recao, mexican coriander, long coriander, and the list of alternative names goes on). Many people also add a small pepper called aji dulce, which is usually found in hispanic markets. From here the variations continue with various herbs and seasonings. I have taken some recipes from a couple hispanic friends and made up my own. To make this, you need a good, strong blender or food processor. It also helps to have a helper or two to make the work go faster and enjoy some conversation!

When I was making this batch, I experienced a funny thing-- this huge batch of sofrito took most of the day for me to prepare all the ingredients and then blend them together. By the time I was part way through the blending process, I felt that the culantro (which has normally quite a strong smell) did not have much of any smell. Feeling frustrated with the fact that I was putting all this work into something that might not turn out very potent and we had bought PILES of this herb, I called my husband at work and told him to pickup some cilantro at the store on his way home. When he walked in the door and started helping me finish it up, he commented that it had a LOT of smell! So I ended up using all the culantro as well as the cilantro- just to be sure! Maybe my sense of smell was becoming immune to it after breathing it all for so long.

Suffice it to say, the amounts in this recipe are not exact and everyone uses a little different amounts of the various items. I have made sofrito previously and ended up with a more watery/bland sofrito. I later found out I used too many onions. So the watery vegetables are best used in smaller amounts so it does not water down the flavor of the spices. When this is finished and used in cooking, usually 1-3 Tbsp is enough for flavoring an average size dish. (I often use the heavier amount since I feel it adds a lot of flavor, but you have to go according to your tastes and how strong the sofrito is.)  I actually tripled this recipe and ended up with probably about a couple gallons of sofrito.


* 4 green peppers, or part sweet red peppers
* 5 aji dulces (a small sweet pepper)
*  5 heads of garlic, peeled
*  2-3 large yellow or red onion
*  3 bunches of culantro/recao
*  1-2 bunches of cilantro (some people use the reverse ratio- 1-2 culantro bunches/3 bunches of cilantro)
*  olive oil
* small amount (small blister pack) of fresh oregano, stems removed (may use dried if fresh is unavailable)
* 1 stalk of celery
*  1/2-1 bunch of flat leaf Italian parsley
*  optionally 1/2-3/4 tsp Italian Herb blend, 1/2 tsp cumin


After all the ingredients have been cleaned/prepared and large items chopped into chunks, begin by putting some peppers, onion, garlic and herbs in a blender or processor and gradually add in some olive oil until it will blend enough to make some juices. As it gets more wet and liquified, then you can add the other things. However, you will need to work the mixture, moving it around some with a spatula and loosening any pieces that may have become lodged around the blades. 

If the blender becomes too full, pour out about half and add in more chunks, you may need to put some of the liquid mixture back into the blender in order to get the new additions blending properly and not tax your blender too much. Usually, a good food processor will not have much problem with this, but blenders will burn out quickly if they are strained too much and may leave chunks of food at times. 

When it is finished, divide into smaller lidded container that will keep in the freezer and reserve some to keep in the refrigerator for use immediately. So people keep old ice cube trays to freeze it in and then put the blocks into plastic bags. Once you use some plastic to store the sofrito, it will be difficult to remove that smell from it later. So I keep some containers just for use with sofrito.

**Some of the specific uses might be (of course) Puerto Rican and Dominican style Rice and Beans, just bout any dish that uses ground beef, put it under the skin of poultry before roasting, chicken soup/broth for a little different flavor, and the list goes on.

Have fun experimenting!

Pin It

Stuffed Eggplant

Between our garden providing quite a few lovely eggplant this summer and my husband not being able to pass up some reduced eggplant in the produce aisle at our grocery store, we have had our share of eggplant to eat up. So I was thinking about some of the different ways to prepare this and was not having much success with anything that struck my fancy. While talking to my Iraqi friend, she mentioned that she will sometimes prepare eggplant stuffed with rice and meat. The light bulb went on inside my head, and I remembered that I had some leftover prepared Kasha (buckwheat) pilaf mixed with ground beef that would probably be wonderful inside the eggplant. I contemplated using some Turkish spice mixture I recently purchased, but noted that it had some cayenne pepper and was not sure how hot it would be. Since my children will not eat anything too hot, I decided to skip this and used some Greek seasoning, as well as some Za'atar seasoning mix to coat the inside of the eggplant.

I was very happy with the results, and my entire family seemed to really enjoy it, also. Note that I had prepared the buckwheat as on the box's instructions with beef broth instead of water and also had added some seasoned salt, as well as the chopped vegetables- carrots, celery, onion, garlic. The ground beef was cooked with seasoned salt and "Sofrito"- a blend of garlic, onion, green pepper and many other spices blended together. So both were already flavorful. Rice or other types of grain like quinoa or couscous would also be wonderful and would be best seasoned well as it is cooked.


* 2-3 larger eggplants, cut in half and hollowed out, saving the inner flesh (I also used some yellow summer squash that I cut in half and removed the seeds)
* 2-3 cups buckwheat Kasha pilaf prepared or other types of cooked grains
* oil
* Greek seasoning blend- may use instead Italian herb blend, seasoned salt or oregano, garlic powder, parsley, pepper, thyme, marjoram
* Za'atar seasoning- contains sumac, thyme, sesame seeds and salt (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9x13inch pan and arrange eggplant or squash pieces in the pan. Chop any eggplant meat that was removed into chunks that will be placed on top at the end of preparation. Spread oil over the inside of the eggplant/squash and then begin seasoning them liberally with your desired seasonings/herbs. Mound up the Kasha or prepared grain over top of the eggplant or squash and place any extra into the pan around the eggplant. Put the chopped eggplant meat that has been tossed with some oil over top of the grain mixture and then sprinkle with more seasoning/seasoned salt. Grease/oil some aluminum foil and cover the pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes. It may require more or less time depending on the size and thickness of the eggplant. You may check occasionally after 25 minutes by pricking with a fork. When the eggplant is soft, it is finished baking.

Serves 4-6 people.  Is good with a salad and some flatbread.

**Buckwheat is not very popular in the U.S. but is loaded with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamin and minerals. I was surprised to learn that it is not a grain but actually the fruit seed from a plant originating in Asia. It has a little stronger flavor but is really tasty when prepared using the whole or coarsely ground kernels. I prefer it best cooked with either beef or chicken broth and plenty of herbs/seasoned salt. Many people also use the buckwheat flour for pancakes or cook the whole kernels (groats) for a hot cereal. In some cultures, it is used to make noodles and is also cooked in soups.  Try google-ing buckwheat health benefits if you are interested in more information. You will find so much information and other ways the grain is used.

Pin It