Like everyone else, during this time of Covid-19, we have stocked up on beans, both dried and canned. This is inclusive of chickpeas (garbanzos), which is one of the most common staples in Nuyorican cooking.  It amazes me how we never got the idea of mashing the chickpeas and creating something akin to hummus—but that’s another story. The following recipe comes from my first cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Running Press) and the thickener used is cornstarch. I suppose flour could be used though we’ve never tried it that way. For the steak, fillet of beef is recommended, though boneless sirloin or round steak can be substituted. The cooking time will be longer though: 15 to 20 minutes for simmering the meat or until tender.

In our family, when we served his dish, the usual accompaniment was steamed rice. This time around we had some plantains on hand and we made platanos (fried plantains). For a recipe you can go to the post of 10/16/16 (Tostones, Fried Green Plantains). The biftec recipe also calls for achiote, a flavoring that adds an orange-red color to our dishes. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve added a recipe for achiote. If you don’t have the time or inclination to use genuine achiote, then you can substitute 1 teaspoon turmeric.

(Beefsteak with Chickpeas)


1 pound fillet of beef, cut into julienne strips
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon achiote (see recipe given)
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and slice in thin rounds
1 teaspoon paprika
1 16-ounce can chickpeas
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water


1. Sprinkle the beef with garlic, salt, pepper and achiote, and mix until meat is well coated.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet or frying pan and sauté the meat over high heat for approximately 3 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to medium, add the onion, paprika, chickpeas (with their liquid) and bay leaf. Stir to blend.
4. Add the water mixed with cornstarch and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (about 3minutes). Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 3 minutes more.
Yield: 4 to 5 servings.


1, Ina small skillet, preferably cast-iron, heat ½ cup olive oil or vegetable oil. When the oil is very hot add 1 tablespoon annatto seeds. They can be obtained in most supermarkets in 8-ounce jars. Turn heat to low and cook the seeds, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. If the flame is kept on high, the seeds may crack and splatter. During cooking, the oil will turn a bright orange-red color. The longer the seeds steep in the oil, the deeper the hue.
2. Remove from heat and let cool. Using a small strainer, pour into a glass jar or container. Cover and refrigerate.
Note: My relatives use a lot of achiote. Some of their recipes call for a  whole bottle of vegetable oil (32ounes) and one jar (8-ounes) in annatto seeds. Again, this is for those who use it constantly and fequently.