Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: all (page 1 of 55)

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.


EASTER LAMB (Greek Style)

Here we are: it’s Easter again. In the past I’ve done various posts for Easter, all featuring the traditional Easter Lamb. I’ve done a post on lamb Nuyorican Style (03/29/10); a lamb shanks version (03/28/13); and Easter Lamb with Pineapple (04/13/17).

This time we’re doing Easter Lamb Greek Style. Just like back on the block, lamb is the traditional dish among Greeks and Italians. This recipe I got years ago from a Greek friend. Just another way of preparing a very popular dish, and a very delicious one.

EASTED LAMB (Greek Style)


1 leg of lamb, 6-7 pounds
2½ tablespoons lemon juice
1½ tablespoons salt or more to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper
1½ tablespoons oregano
1 large garlic clove, peeled and slivered
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 large potatoes, cut in quarters, or 18 small ones
1 cup hot water
4 large carrots cut into chunks about ½-inch thick
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced


  1. Night before, wash lamb and place on a large sheet of aluminum foil to cover lamb (may have to use 2 sheets). In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon oregano. Rub this mixture well  over meat. With a  knife, cut small deep slits on top and bottom of lamb. Insert garlic slivers in each slit. Then brush with a mix of the turmeric and olive oil. Place lamb in the fridge and let it marinate overnight.
  2.  Next day, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash potatoes and drain (do not peel).  Set aside. Place lamb in a roasting pan, fat side up and bake, uncovered, 20 minutes. Add water, carrots and onion. Lower heat to 325 degrees and continue roasting 3 hours. Turn meat.
  3.  Sprinkle potatoes with remaining lemon juice, salt, pepper and oregano. Arrange potatoes around lamb and continue roasting until potatoes are browned on all sides and meat is tender. Arrange lamb on a large serving platter and surround with potatoes and carrots. I’m told that in Greek cuisine this dish is served with plenty of green salad.
    Yield: 6 servings.


This is one of the easiest ways we know of cooking salmon: simple roasting in a skillet. In this case, a cast-iron skillet. You can try it in a non-stick pan or other, but it won’t be as good. Something about cast-iron develops the flavor.

This recipe renders  salmon fillets that are rich, crisp and juicy with a minimum of effort; and the cooking time is minimal.


4 salmon fillets, about 6-8 oz. each or one 2-pound large fillet, cut into 4 portions
Salt and black ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon wedges for garnish

  1. Heat oven to 500 degrees F.
  2. Rinse fillets under cold running water and pat  dry with paper towels.
  3.  Generously season fillets with salt and pepper. Set a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until it starts to smoke. Add oil to skillet and immediately lay in salmon, skin-side down. Cook 30 seconds.  Remove skillet from heat and place it in oven. Cook until medium-rare, 5-6 minutes, or 1-2 minutes longer for medium-cooked. Do not flip salmon or move it in skillet until cooking is complete.
  4.  Remove skillet from oven and use a large spatula to transfer salmon to a serving platter, skin-side up. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.



This is a simple quick meal that is a novel way of doing fried eggs: cook them in pepper rings. You can use whatever bell pepper desired, be it green, red or yellow. The color combination is up to you. The dish can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, your choice. For breakfast you can add the usual bacon as an accompaniment. For lunch, you can pair the eggs with French fries. For dinner, we prefer to serve the egg rings over rice. You can call this recipe a multi-purpose meal.

Note that you may have to cook the eggs in batches. Even with a large skillet you can cook about four pepper rings at a time. If, by chance, you have a skillet that can accommodate more, then more power to you.


2 tablespoons butter
2-3 sweet peppers of your choice of colors
8 eggs
Sprinkle of salt and pepper
Sprinkle of dried oregano


  1. Wash peppers under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Slice crosswise into ¼-inch rings, seeds removed.
  2. Warm butter in a large skillet until butter sizzles. Add three or four pepper rings, spread out, and crack an egg into each and cook until set. In our crowd we like well-cooked eggs, so we don’t mind if the yolk gets broken. But, if you prefer a soft yolk, be gentle so it stays intact. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano, then flip over with a spatula and cook just until set on the other side.
    Yield: 4 servings.


This is a simple recipe that contains scallops (which we love) and spinach. Yes, spinach. I know, think of the old Popeye cartoon: “I’m Popeye the sailor man, I’m strong to the finish ‘cus I eat my . . .” You know the rest. I like spinach. I even liked it when I was a kid back at PS 75 in Harlem. And, believe me, I got hassled by my peers because of it. Kids are not supposed to like spinach. Well, some of us do.

You will note that for this recipe, we used frozen spinach. But, if you can get fresh spinach, you can use it as well. In this case, use 1-2 pounds fresh spinach, washed and trimmed. Steam the spinach for 3 minutes and drain. Then chop and toss with butter.

What makes this recipe good is that it’s a spur of the moment thing, and it works with any variety of greens, be it spinach or broccoli, or even okra. You can serve the scallops with any vegetable you want. With some crusty bread, a good wine (white or red), it’s superb. If you want to mix it with rice, quinoa, couscous or noodles, it’s still a definite winner.


4 (10-oz.) packages frozen spinach
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds sea scallops, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


  1. Cook frozen spinach according to package directions. When done, toss with the butter and keep warm.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add scallops and sauté for 1½ minutes on each side. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and balsamic vinegar, and braise for 3 minutes.
  3. To serve, place spinach on a warm serving platter. Arrange scallops on top and spoon some cooking juices over them.
    Yield: 6 servings.



This is one of my innovations. I had some salmon steaks on hand plus some good fresh red onions (also known as Spanish onions). I decided to combine the two; and the result is given below. I find that red onions have a sharper flavor than common yellow onions. That’s what makes them great for this dish.

Served with a grain like rice, quinoa or couscous, the dish is a winner. It’s also great by itself with good crusty bread, potatoes or a side vegetable.


4 salmon steaks (about 8 ounces each)
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Rinse salmon steaks under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels
  3. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Place in a baking pan or dish (we prefer cast-iron). Drizzle with lemon juice and top with onion slices.
  4. Place in oven and bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
    Yield: 4 servings.
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