Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: Videos

Sofrito | Spanish Rice

Sofrito is ubiquitous in Caribbean cooking. One could safely say that Puerto Rican cuisine would be wanting without it. It is an aromatic mix of herbs and spices that is a base for cooking countless criollo dishes. This concept can be found in other cultures as well. One example is the Indian mix called garam masala which is also used as a base flavoring. Or kimchi, the fermented cabbage condiment, so popular in Korean cooking. The word sofrito is a generic term that has no correct English translation. “Frito” in Spanish means fried. Sofrito could be taken to mean stir-fried. Although this would not be entirely accurate. As the recipe shows, sofrito can be whipped up in a few moments’ time in a blender or food processor. And it can be stored in a closed tight jar the refrigerator for three to four days or, in the freezer compartment, indefinitely.
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Alcapurrias De Yuca

Alcapurrias De YucaThe American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language describes cassava as a tropical American plant with a starchy root from which tapioca is derived. To us Latinos from the Caribbean, it’s yuka (yoo-ka). Yuka is most commonly served peeled and boiled with a bit of olive oil sprinkled on top. But it also yields a bitter or sweet starch known as manioc which is used in the making of farina and, of course, tapioca. For those interested in arcane terminology, manioc is a word of Tupian origin, attributed to the Tupis, a group of American Indian tribes living along the coast of Brazil and the Amazon River valley. To explorers from the Old World, this new food was a wonder.

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Coquito, A Puerto Rican Holiday Drink

Coquito is what my folks called Puerto Rican moonshine. And they were not too far off the mark. Coquito is a made at home in the traditional way, mainly for special gatherings. Some people liken coquito to potent homemade eggnog. And it can be very strong, or very mild, depending on how much rum you put into it.

In Puerto Rican neighborhoods, the coquito flows during Las Fiestas Patronales, or the Feast of the Patron Saints, and Christmas. Every family has its own recipe. According to my elders, in olden times the success of a shindig was measured on the quality of the family coquito.

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Mofongo with Chicharron

Mofongo, I love the word. It’s pronounced just like it’s spelled. A popular Caribbean dish but undoubtedly of African origin. Basic mofongo is simply a mixture of crushed plantains with fried pork crackling served with a sauce. In the Puerto Rican version, we prepare it as individually shaped mofongo balls, similar to meatballs. Cuban mofongo differs in that the mixture is shaped into one large ball which is served in a bowl. More modern variations have this type of mofongo stuffed with beef or seafood. Whatever method you prefer, it is a delicious appetizer, side dish, or meal on its own.
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Crab Meat Salmorejo Style

I do not know what salmorejo means. Neither does anyone else in my family. My Uncle Carlos surmised that it was a word native to Puerto Rico that can be roughly translated as a “salad.” Perhaps. There are many crab salmorejo recipes. In some instances, sweet chili and capers are added. Our version is simple and no nonsense. The only liberty I’ve taken is in adding a little white wine. May not be exactly criollo*, but it supplies a bit of dash.

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Fish Steaks with Tomato and Cilantro (Part 1)

This dish came along, like many others through experimentation and the process of experimentation doesn’t have to stop here. Fresh parsley can be substituted for the cilantro, if you want a less defined taste. Some folks prefer fresh lemon juice in place of the vinegar. Again, let your palate be your guide. Traditionally, we serve fish steaks with root plants (bianda) or boiled green bananas (guineos).

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Fish Steaks with Tomato and Cilantro (Part 2)

This dish came along, like many others through experimentation and the process of experimentation doesn’t have to stop here. Fresh parsley can be substituted for the cilantro, if you want a less defined taste. Some folks prefer fresh lemon juice in place of the vinegar. Again, let your palate be your guide. Traditionally, we serve fish steaks with root plants (bianda) or boiled green bananas (guineos).

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Pasteles (Part 1)

Pasteles are a singular creation made from common ingredients: root plants stuffed with meat. The meat is usually pork, but it can also be chicken or turkey. At home it’s prepared only on the most special occasions. When I returned home from Vietnam this was the first dish my mother made on honor of my arrival. If you’re traditional you have to use plantain leaves to wrap the thing. If they can’t be found, then wax paper will do. Plantain leaves are abundant in Caribbean and Asian markets. These days they come frozen wrapped in bundles of 12 or more. Believe me, there is a difference between pasteles made with plantain leaves and those wrapped in wax paper. 
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Pasteles (Part 2)

Pasteles are a singular creation made from common ingredients: root plants stuffed with meat. The meat is usually pork, but it can also be chicken or turkey. At home it’s prepared only on the most special occasions. When I returned home from Vietnam this was the first dish my mother made on honor of my arrival. If you’re traditional you have to use plantain leaves to wrap the thing. If they can’t be found, then wax paper will do. Plantain leaves are abundant in Caribbean and Asian markets. These days they come frozen wrapped in bundles of 12 or more. Believe me, there is a difference between pasteles made with plantain leaves and those wrapped in wax paper.
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Tostones, Fried Green Plantains

The archetypical Puerto Rican side dish. It’s served at breakfast with eggs and ham, at lunch, or with the evening meal whatever the entrée. It’s just plantains, sliced, and deep fried. In Puerto Rican cooking, we fry the slices twice after pressing then to form the patties. In other parts of the Caribbean, notably Jamaica, the slices are deep-fried just once. They are not pounded and re-fried. I have tried tostones this way, but it just doesn’t come out the same. Those who follow our method can acquire what is called a tostonera in any Latino market. This consists of two pieces of wood or plastic that hinge over to enclose and flatten the plantain slices. Here, again, I defer to tradition. I’ve tried these newfangled contraptions and fond them wanting. Nothing beats the plantain peels and the flat of the hand for forming genuine tostones.

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