Sofrito (Freshly made)

October 19, 2005 | Filed Under Latin Recipes, Sofrito | 1 Comment 


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When I make certain Latin recipes like rice and beans, macarroni with chicken, or a simple sauce, part of the ingredients I use include sofrito — the special base used in many Latin recipes. It is also used to flavor other dishes like chicken and sautéed shrimp. You can buy the sofrito from a store that sells Latin food products or you can make your own from scratch. I’ve found that I prefer the homemade version by T.V. Cook Daisy Martinez. I love the smells of the fresh cilantro, sweet peppers, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and ajicito dulces as they are pureed in the food processor. It’s as if the sofrito brings life to the kitchen aromas and meal preparation. It tastes very good, and adds an extra special flavor to the dish. As the sofrito recipe suggests, I store the rest of it in the fridge or freezer to use when needed. Paz


Makes about 4 cups.

If you can’t find ajices dulces or culantro, don’t sweat. Up the amount of cilantro to 1 ½ bunches.

2 medium Spanish onions, cut into large chunks 3 to 4 Italian frying peppers or cubanelle peppers 16 to 20 cloves garlic, peeled 1 large bunch cilantro, washed 7 to 10 ajices dulces (see note below), optional 4 leaves of culantro (see note below), or another handful cilantro 3 to 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large chunks  

Chop the onion and cubanelle or Italian peppers in the work bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients one at a time and process until smooth. The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It also freezes beautifully. Freeze sofrito in ½ cup batches in sealable plastic bags. They come in extremely handy in a pinch. You can even add sofrito straight from the freezer to the pan in any recipe that calls for it in this book.

Pantry Notes: Ajices Dulces, also known as cachucha or ajicitos are tiny sweet peppers with a hint of heat. They range in color from light to medium green and yellow to red and orange. They add freshness and an herby note to the sofrito and anything you cook. Do not mistake them for Scotch bonnet or Habanero chilies (which they look like)—those two pack a wallop when it comes to heat. If you can find ajicitos in your market, add them to sofrito. If not, up the cilantro and add a pinch of cayenne pepper. Culantro is not cilantro. It has long leaves with tapered tips and serrated edges. When it comes to flavor, culantro is like cilantro times ten. It is a nice, not essential addition to sofrito. (See Sources for both the above.)


Macarrones con Pollo

October 17, 2005 | Filed Under Pasta, Poultry | 4 Comments 

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My new authentic paella pan from Spain!

Last week, I received a special surprise gift when Tattum sent me an authentic, gigantic paella pan from Spain! I couldn’t believe my eyes! It’s so large that it takes up two burners on my stove and I can cook for a whole army on it. Perfect to make food for family and friends!

Not long ago, I’d made paella and realized that the pan is also an important part of the cooking process. My paella turned out fine, but I knew that it would turn out even better when prepared in the proper pan.

Now, I have the chance to make the best paella dishes that I can with my new pan.

Shortly before I received the pan, I’d seen two recipes demonstrated by T.V. chef Daisy, which called for the use of a paella pan. They weren’t the normal paella recipes that I’d become accustomed to seeing because instead of rice, pasta was used. Tattum later explained that one of the recipes is called a fideua. I plan on preparing that next.

I christened my new pan by making Macarrones con Pollo (Maccaroni with chicken). It’s basically pasta, chicken, and a spicy tomato sauce. What fun I had cooking in my new paella pan!

Unfortunately, Daisy’s site does not have the recipe listed, so I had to estimate on some of the measurements.

The recipe basically calls for putting salt and pepper on chicken. You can use a whole chicken cut into pieces. I used separate pieces (dark meat – legs and thighs); brown the chicken in olive oil on a medium flame in the paella pan. When the chicken is brown, add cut chorizo pieces (sausage) in the middle of the pan. Remove the chicken and place aside. Add about ½ Cup sofrito (the special base used a lot in Latino cooking, which I first mentioned here – I made it from scratch or you can use a store-bought version); roughly chop and add about ¼ Cup Alcaparrado (pimento stuffed olives and capers). If you can’t find the Alcaparrado, simply take about 6 pimento stuffed olives and 3 Tablespoons of capers, mix and roughly chop them. Add about 3 – 4 ajicito dulces (peppers) If you can’t find them, you can substitute them with a handful of chopped cilantro. Add it to the pan. Add 1 tsp cumin, ½ Cup White wine, 28oz. can tomatoes (whole or crushed); tuck 2 bay leaves (preferably fresh) into the sauce. Add the chicken back to the pan and top the sauce with a generous handful of chopped fresh cilantro. Add freshly ground black pepper. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, boil Macarrones #28 (pasta) in separate pot. When the sauce is ready, the chicken should be falling off the bone. Put it in a platter. Put the pasta in another platter and spoon a little sauce over it. It’s ready to serve. To make a plate, take some pasta, then place chicken over it. Spoon the sauce over the pasta and chicken. Totally delicious! I served this dish with garlic bread.

In addition to the pan, Tattum also sent me a paella cookbook, with 180 recipes from the Andalusian region of Spain – Secretos de los fogones del Sur (Secrets of the Stoves of the South) by Esperanza Peláez. I look forward to making the different types of paella in the book. So stay tuned to my paella dishes here. Thank you Tattum!


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Maccarones con Pollo ready to eat!

Tunisian Chicken Chorba

October 15, 2005 | Filed Under African Recipes, Poultry, Soups/Chowders/Gumbos | Leave a Comment 


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Tunisian Chicken Chorba almost ready in the pot



It had been raining non-stop for the past couple of days and I decided it was a good day to make something warm to eat, after being drenched by the weather.


I made Tunisian Chicken Chorba, which Anis Toumi contributed to the Ya Rayi Our Ray blog. He explained that ‘chorba’ means ‘soup,’ and the Tunisian Chicken Chorba is one variation of Tunisian chorbas.


Anis continued to enlighten the reader that “a Tunisian chorba should have the robust flavors of garlic, peppers and spices…. Tunisians will usually agree that most dishes should be hot. A wife who does not love her husband makes him mild dishes.”

That’s certainly one way to show some love. I like it! Like many people, I like spicy and hot dishes. However, if I cook the chorba for someone not used to hot food, I know that I have the liberty to cut back on the spices (and it won’t mean that I love them any less.).

According to the instructions, I first sautéed onions and added the garlic. Next, I added the carrots, celery, then tomato paste, chicken pieces (the recipe calls for a whole chicken), chick peas, potatoes and last, the pasta. The recipe called for vermicelli, but I used Angel Hair pasta, as that is what I had available.

In addition to salt, I used the spices cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper. The chicken chorba is a good meal to have. I think especially during the upcoming winter season.


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Staples in Your Kitchen

October 14, 2005 | Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment 

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What’s in your kitchen pantry?

Since I’ve started cooking, I’ve discovered that there are some constantly used food items that I need to keep in the kitchen. No, no, I’m not talking about Haagen-Daz ice cream, bags of potato chips or a six-pack cans of coke (although, I don’t see anything wrong with these). I’m talking about basics like:

Rice, pasta, flour (all purpose), corn meal, sugar (white, brown, granulated, superfine, confectioners), beans (black, garbanzo, and cannelli), stock/broth (chicken, beef, vegetable and fish), clam juice, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, anchovies (yes, anchioves), capers, onions, pickled hot pepper….

Bacon or pancetta, eggs, milk, butter, mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, honey, jelly/jam, olives….

Olive oil, vegetable oil (preferably canola oil), sea salt, kosher salt, vinegar (white, red wine, balsamic and sherry)

Fresh herbs (parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, cilantro…)

Spices like chili powder, basil, Italian seasonings, ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, curry, paprika, cumin, oregano, thyme, pepper (whole peppercorn, white/black pepper), salt (reglar, sea, Kosher), vanilla extract, ground red pepper, garlic powder, nutmeg bay leaves,all-purpose seasoning….

Marsala, White wine, Red wine, Sherry wine…

What regularly used foods do you keep in your kitchen?


Carrot, Orange, and Radish Salad

October 12, 2005 | Filed Under Salad | Leave a Comment 

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The other day, when I made Chicken Tagine, I also made a carrot, orange and radish salad to go with the meal.

My sister is of the opinion that if the dish doesn’t have lettuce, it shouldn’t be called a salad. She mentioned the cantaloupe salad I’d made some time ago and said that although she liked it, I’d initially surprised her when she only saw the cantaloupe in my so-called salad. Yet, as with the cantaloupe salad, she gobbled my carrot, orange and radish salad with appreciation. I couldn’t blame her. It tasted very good.

As the title suggests, I made it out of carrots, oranges, and radishes. I added fresh mint and cilantro leaves, along with ground cinnamon, sugar and fresh lemon juice. The combination of the flavors were out of this world, especially when the ingredients sat for about an hour or two and were allowed to blend even more. The cilantro, mint, and cinnamon woke up the salad and their smell teased my senses.

I’d never been very fond of radishes before but to my surprise that I liked the way they tasted when combined with the carrots and the juices of the oranges and lemon. The soft and mild with a peppery hint in the background was the perfect flavor.

The recipe also called for orange flower water. I had no idea what that was or where to find it, so I left it out. Perhaps it enhances the taste of the salad, but no matter; without it my salad still tasted divine.


Carrot, Orange and Radish Salad
4 carrots
6 radishes (or 4-inch piece daikon radish)
1 handful fresh mint leaves
1 handful fresh cilantro leaves
2 navel oranges
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon orange flower water
Kosher salt

Slice carrots and radishes as thinly as possible and add to a large bowl. Add mint and cilantro. Remove the peel and pith from the oranges. Working over a bowl to catch the juice, cut between the membranes to remove the orange segments; add them to the carrots. Squeeze the membrane to extract the rest of the juice and add the cinnamon, sugar, lemon juice, orange flower water, and salt, to taste. Mix to dissolve sugar and salt. Pour over the carrot mixture and gently toss to coat. The salad can be served immediately but allowing it to sit for 1 or 2 hours will help the flavors to blend. Just before serving, taste and adjust seasoning.


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