Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Author: Oswald Rivera (page 1 of 62)

SALMÓN EMPANADO (Broiled Salmon)

This recipe is one of the easiest ways to prepare salmon, be it salmon fillets or salmon steaks. It was immensely popular with our family when  I was growing up back on the block in Spanish Harlem. It is also very versatile in that if you want to cut corners even more, you can skip the bread crumbs given in the recipe and broil the salmon as is with the condiments. But I like the crunchiness the crumbs bring to the dish.

It should be noted that I broil my salmon fairly close to the heat source, about 2-3 inches. Thus the initial broiling time is cut down to no more than 6-7 minutes. It should also be noted that this is one of the recipes included  in my first cookbook Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Running Press).


4 salmon fillets, about 6 ounces each
(Note: if using salmon steaks, they should be about ½-inch thick)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 tablespoons Puerto Rican rum, light or dark (your choice)
½ cup light bread crumbs


  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2.  Rinse salmon fillets and pat dry with paper towels.
  3.  Brush both sides of fillets with olive oil. Place in a slightly greased broiler pan (we prefer cast-iron).
  4.  In a small bowl, combine  butter, salt, pepper, garlic, rum and bread crumbs.
  5.  Put half of bread crumb mixture on top of salmon (skin side), and broil  2-3 inches from hear source for 3 minutes.
  6.  Carefully turn over salmon with a spatula. Put on the remaining crumb mixture. Broil 4 minutes longer.
    Yield: 4 servings.


I happened to have some cauliflower and spinach on hand. So, what to do with it? I thought, how about cooking the suckers in a nice sauce? And the dish came out superb.

This is what I call a one dish meal. I find it’s best cooked in a wok. If you don’t have a wok, then a large skillet or frypan will do. It’s a simple enough project. Just make a nice white sauce, add the cauliflower and seasonings (inclusive of turmeric), cook some more, then finish with the spinach. The dish can be served over rice, quinoa, farro or pasta of choice. This time around we combined it with Israeli (or pearl) couscous. It made for a fabulous vegetarian meal that even carnivores will love.



Half a stick butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken or beef bouillon
2 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 head cauliflower cut into florets
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups fresh chopped spinach


  1. Melt butter in wok or skillet over medium heat. Add flour and stir until smooth. Add chicken bouillon and cook, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes until it makes a creamy sauce. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more.
  2.  Mix in cauliflower florets, salt, pepper, oregano and turmeric. Cover and cook about 10 minutes or until florets are fork tender.
  3. Stir in spinach and cook 2 minutes more. Serve immediately over couscous or preferred grain.
    Yield: 4 servings.




We’ve all heard of Beef Stroganoff, a dish of Russian origin consisting of sautéed pieces of beef in a luscious sour cream sauce. The following recipe is a variation on that dish. We’ve made the beef into meatballs. Thus, Meatballs Stroganoff. Meatballs? you say. And I say, Why not? The meatballs come out delicious; and are superb served over buttered egg noodles or rice.

This s an experiment that came out great.



2 pound lean ground beef
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup chopped onion
1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
¾ cup flour
½ cup olive oil
1 cup beef bouillon
2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley


  1. In a bowl, combine bread crumbs, onion, 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.  Mix well and shape into meatballs. Now, in terms of the meatballs, in our clan, we like them large. If you make them small, you’ll get about 18 meatballs.  If you make them 1½-inches in diameter (or larger), you’ll get about 12-13 meatballs.  Just use your judgment as to how big you want them, and proceed accordingly. Once you have the size desired, coat them in ½ cup  of the flour.
  2.  Heat oil in a large skillet or frypan and brown meatballs over medium heat.
  3. Combine bouillon and remaining flour. Pour over meatballs. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Blend in reaming Worcestershire sauce and sour cream.  Heat very gently. Pour over noodles and rice and serve immediately, garnished with fresh chopped parsley.



There’s this old wives’ tale about mustard sauce being too strong for delicate fish dishes. The following recipe puts a lie to that old tidbit. Mustard sauce, if done correctly, can be as fine and smooth as the best velvet sauce. Simply, you just have to be careful in the amount of mustard you put in it.

As noted, the following recipe makes a great sauce for broiled or baked fish, be it fish fillets, fish steaks or a whole fish. Also, it’s quite easy to make. No fuss, no bother.  It’s perfect for a good seafood dinner. By the way, you can also use the sauce for vegetables or even by itself over rice or pasta. The possibilities are endless.



2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
¼ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon mustard, preferably Dijon
½ cup heavy cream


  1. Melt butter over medium heat  in a small saucepan and add shallots, stirring briefly until wilted.
  2. Add wine and cook about 30 seconds, stirring. Add mustard and stir.
  3.  Add cream and bring to a boil. Cook down over relatively high heat about 3 minutes or until reduced to about ¾ cup
    Yield: About ¾ cup.

SARCHICHA CON CEBOLLA Y UVA (Sausage with Onion and Raisins)

In Nuyorican cuisine it is common to add raisins to certain meat recipes.  Think of pasteles (root plants stuffed with meat) and carne guisada (beef stew). We also add it to sausage. In this case the recipe given: Sarchicha con Cebello y Uva (Sausage with Onion and Raisins).  This is a simple dish to prepare. It’s just sausage cooked with onion and raisins, to which we add garlic, salt, pepper and a little white wine, that’s it. Normally, we pair this dish with white rice. In my family we like it with potatoes or bianda (root plants like cassava, pumpkin, green bananas, etc.). This time around we serve it on a bed of steamed cabbage and parsley potatoes and it was great.

Be aware that we refer to sausage as “sarchicha.” I’ve been informed that this is a colloquialism.  If you look it up in an English-Spanish dictionary, it refers to sausage as “embutidos.” Back on the block, we never beard of this embutidos thing. To us it was always sarchicha or sarchichas (plural). And that’s what we call this recipe, end of story.

In Latino culture, the sausage used would be chorizo, the spicy Spanish version. But you can substitute beef, pork, chicken or turkey sausage. In my family, we are partial to lamb, and that’s what is used in this recipe. Look, even if it’s Libby’s canned sausage, you’re still gonna love this dish.

(Sausage with Onion and Raisins)


2 pounds fresh kielbasa lamb sausage
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons black raisins or more to taste
Salt and black ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup dry white wine


  1. Remove sausage casing if it has such. Rinse sausage links under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Then sliced into 1/4-inch rounds.
  2.  In a large skillet or fry pan, heat olive oil and butter. Add sausage and onion. Stir fry on medium-high heat until sausage is browned and onion is soft. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3.  Stir in raisins and cook for 2 minutes. Lower heat, cover and simmer 4 minutes.
  4.  Add wine to pan and cook over high heat, stirring, until most of the wine has been absorbed. Serve immediately.
    Yield: 4-6 servings.

PULPO GUISADO (Stewed Octopus)

In my culture, octopus is considered heaven sent because of its nutrition and value.  Just like squid, it is something that we relish. We bake it, we broil it, and we even make it as salad. Yet, in our family, the favorite was stewed octopus that we served over steamed white rice. But you can also pair it with pasta or couscous, or quinoa.

In the old days octopus could only be found in Latino, Greek, Asian or Portuguese neighborhoods.  Today it’s readily available in most markets, fresh or frozen, and already cleaned. If fresh, the skin should be firm and elastic to the touch, and it should be purplish pink. If the color is brownish or brownish purple, skip  it.

Octopus is cleaned just like squid in that the head cavity is flushed out. Before cooking, octopus should be rinsed in water and drained thoroughly. The mouth, a hard piece underneath the body and that looks like an eye, should be cut off and discarded. Now you’re set to go.

(Stewed Octopus)


2½ to 3 pound baby octopus
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano leaves or ½ teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons fresh chopped basil or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and ground black pepper to taste


  1. Place octopus in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven and cover with water to cover. Bring to a boil, cover pot, lower heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes. At this point the octopus should be pink and slightly tender. Remove octopus from kettle, drain and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  2.  Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a deep skillet. Add bell pepper, onion and garlic. Sauté over moderate for about 5 minutes.
  3.  Stir in tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.  Cook 3 minutes more.
  4.  Add octopus meat. Cover skillet and simmer over low heat for another 10 minutes.
    Yield: 4 servings.

SKORDALIA (Garlic Sauce)

Skordalia is Greek sauce that is very versatile.  It can be used as a sauce for fried fish, as a dip, with crackers or vegetables.  It’s prime ingredient is garlic. Thus, it’s rather spicy. In the Rivera clan, that’s not a problem. But, if you want to make it milder, cut back on the garlic; use maybe 3-4 cloves.

The sauce should have a slightly rough texture so it’s best to make it with a mortar and pestle, although a blender or food processor can be used if you don’t blend the mixture too smoothly. Note that the sauce can be made in advance, covered and refrigerated, but bring back to room temperature for serving.

(Garlic Sauce)


5 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/3 cup pignoli (pine) nuts
1/2 pound bread crumbs
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup warm water


  1. Using a stone or wooden mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and salt together to form a paste. Add walnuts and pignoli nuts and pound to a uniform mixture.
  2.  Soak the bread crumbs in water and squeeze out the excess moisture. Add to the mortar and blend thoroughly.
  3.  Continue pounding while adding the oil and then the vinegar. Add the half cup of warm water gradually until you have reached the desired consistency.
    Yield: About 2 cups.


Garlic and chicken is a popular combination, especially in classical cuisine.  You have such favorites as Sautéed Chicken with Garlic (Sauté Dauphinoise) and Chicken Marinated in Garlic oil. But the following recipe beats them all in terms of using the beloved stinky clove—and that is chicken braised in forty, yes, forty cloves of garlic.

One would think that much garlic in a recipe would make for really spicy, pungent dish.  The opposite is true. This dish is rather mild with a pleasant flavor. Once the garlic is cooked it disagrees with no one.

We served this entrée with couscous (we’ve been on a couscous kick lately), but you can use any side dish you want, be it vegetable or a grain. Or it can be paired with just hearty bread or croutons. Also, this dish should be served in the original casserole or baking dish it was baked in.   The glory comes when you transfer the recipe to the table and remove the lid just before serving. A marvelous, delicious aroma of garlic will be released, and the chicken will be tender and fragrant. In our crowd, we like to squeeze the  garlic from their skins and serve it over the chicken and/or side dish.



3-4 pound chicken. washed, patted dry, and cut into serving pieces
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
Flour-and-water paste containing a little oil (see recipe)


  1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
  3.  Put the olive oil  with the garlic cloves in a baking dish or heatproof casserole. Add chicken pieces and sprinkle with the parsley, chives and tarragon. Stir and turn the chicken pieces several times so that it is well coated with the oil and seasonings.
  4. Seal the lid of the baking dish or casserole with the flour-and-water paste. Place in oven and cook for 2½ hours.
    Yield: 4 servings.


In a small bowl or saucepan, mix two tablespoons flour with 2 tablespoon water until it forms a soft paste. You can add more flour or water to adjust the consistency as needed. Mix in a little olive oil and use to seal the lid.


This rendition makes for a great vegetarian dinner than even non-vegetarians will love. And it has spinach. Yes, spinach—but it’s creamed spinach, which even recalcitrant young ones will like. Seems, if it’s creamy, it’s no longer spinach.

Cream spinach also comes in the canned variety. Yet nothing compares to this dish being made from scratch. Fact is, it’s not that hard to prepare. It’s quite easy, and more nutritious and delicious than the canned stuff.

The other dish given is couscous, Creamed spinach over couscous is as marriage made in heaven. But you can use whatever grain desired, be it rice, quinoa, farro, or even kasha.  And with regard to couscous, this time around we used what is called Israeli or Pearl Couscous. This is couscous with an oval  grain texture, like orzo. If you prefer the fine grained variety, go right ahead. Both  will a make a meal that will garner oohs and aahs, even from those vegetable adverse. With a good crusty loaf of bread and some good wine, be it white or red, you have a winner of a dinner—that is good tasting as well as heart healthy.

The guideline for this recipe is to cook the couscous first. And while the couscous is cooking, prepare the creamed spinach. Simple as that.




3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1½ cups Israeli (Pearl) couscous
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or 1 teaspoon dried
2 cups chicken broth


  1.  In a medium pot or saucepan, heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook over medium-high heart until golden.
  2.  Stir in couscous. Add salt, pepper, and parsley and mix well. Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until couscous is tender.
    Yield: 4 servings.

Creamed Spinach


2 pounds fresh spinach, coarse stems removed, washed and drained
Salt to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
5 tablespoons heavy cream


  1. Heat a large heavy skillet or saucepan. Add spinach and sprinkle with salt and nutmeg. Turn heat to high. Toss and stir the spinach for 3-4 minutes; by which time the spinach should be cooked. No additional water is necessary. Sufficient water will adhere to the spinach leaves.
  2.  Drain spinach and press out any excess moisture. Place spinach in a blender with the cream and blend until smooth. Return spinach to the skillet or saucepan and reheat. You can add a little more nutmeg if you want. Some say this improves the taste.
    Yield: 4 servings.






Pierogies (or Perogies) are dumplings filled with potato and cheese. They’re a popular dish in northern and eastern Europe. The same with Kasha, which is roasted buckwheat groats, and is served like rice or pasta. Both dishes are prevalent in Hungarian, Polish, Ukrainian and Russian cuisine.

I discovered pierogies and kasha long ago from Jewish friends; and ever since I’ve been an afficionado of each. However, I do tweak the preparation of each dish. In terms of pierogies, I add olive oil, plus garlic and oregano as a seasoning. With the Kasha, I add raisins to the mix for added flavor. Kasha has a nutty texture, and raisins give it a nice counterpoint.

Kasha and pierogies can be found in most any supermarket these days. In my younger days, the only Kasha available was Wolff’s Kasha which comes in whole or medium grain. Today you can find other brands, even organic kasha. As for pierogies, they come pre-cooked and frozen  so you don’t have to spend all day making them from scratch—unless you want to. Either way, you’ll have a fabulous meal. Enjoy.



24 frozen pierogies (they normally come a dozen to a package)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ large onion, peeled and sliced thick
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
I tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pierogies and cook 4-5 minutes or until they float to the top. Drain.
  2. In a large fry pan or skillet, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add onion, garlic, and drained pierogies. Season with salt, pepper and oregano; and cook over high heat until the onion is soft and pierogies are lightly browned. Do not overcook or the pierogies will shred. Serve over kasha. If desired, you can add dollops of sour cream over it.
    Yield: 4 servings.



1½ cups Kasha
2½ cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons butter


In a medium saucepan or pot, add kasha, broth and salt. Bring to bail. Add raisins, lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir in butter and serve.
Yield: 4 servings.


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