To this day, one of the things I miss most about the island is waking up to the smell of fresh cafe con leche (coffee with milk) and just baked-warm bread (bread which my father buys at the bakery early in the morning almost everyday) because everything is better when it is freshly baked, or cooked. Boxed cereals came into our household in my early teens and slowly replaced the typical oatmeal or cream of wheat breakfast routine, but not the fresh bread. To this day, my sweet dad still likes to go to the bakery early in the morning to buy fresh bread. Man, I love that!
I’m ashamed to say that there was a time I didn’t see the importance of preserving certain cultural traditions. I didn’t see the value until I had children of my own. Then I sought every opportunity to share my heritage with my boys. Food is such a big part of any culture, and well, mine is no different. I have many stories to tell and will do in later blogposts, but today I would like to share with you my recipe for one of Puerto Rico’s “can’t do without” condiments; El Sofrito.
Sofrito is an important staple of Puerto rican cuisine. It is the base ingredient of pretty much every meal (except for desserts or baked goods). When I was growing up, I noticed this green paste my mom used for every meal she prepared. She would often seasoned meats the night before and rub it with this paste. Let me say that even though people normally learn things about their culture as they grow, I don’t remember when I first heard the word sofrito or when it became a regular part of my vocabulary. I’ve just always known that this miracle green paste was called sofrito and that I could not cook a successful meal without it.
Sofrito is one of those secret weapons any self-proclaimed good cook needs to have in their refrigerator at all times. When my mother comes to visit, she makes me a big batch of it, or at least enough to last me a month. Now that I have mastered the technique, I make it often because we go through an entire jar in a month. A jar could last as long as two months or three months, because you only need one table-spoon to mix with your soup, stews, meat, etc…but I cook a lot, so typically I go through a jar in one month.
I don’t normally follow a recipe. Much like my mother, I cook by feeling, tasting, and paying close attention. Here’s my version of sofrito and if you are from the island and you make it differently, do share your version with me, I love to learn new ways of doing things.
Cilantro, sage, basil, oregano, parsley, garlic, recoa leaves (I like to add rosemary), peppers (variety), ajicitos (small sweet peppers), onions, tomatoes
Optional: sea salt, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil
Dice the herbs and vegetables. Place ingredients into food processor, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to help with the consistency. Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper (if desired for a little bit of flavor). Process until you’ve reach a smooth texture. Refrigerate in a plastic container or a sealed jar. You can also freeze it in ice-cube containers, once frozen, bag the cubes in ziplock (sandwich size) bags to use when needed.