Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Tag: Vinegar (page 1 of 2)

Easter Lamb (with Pineapple)

Here we are again, the Easter Holidays. Time to break out the big Easter ham or, in our case, the lamb. In our family, lamb was it for this particular occasion. It was made Puerto Rican style with lots of spices so that it tasted more like pork than anything else (we did the same thing with the Thanksgiving turkey).

This time around, we’re going to try something different: leg of spring lamb with pineapples. It’s a really neat and easy dish to make. Perfect it you’re lucky enough to procure a New Zealand or Australian leg of lamb with its tender and more delicate flavor. I find these variations the best—unless you’re near a farm that raises lamb on  premises. You can find lamb in the frozen meat section of your supermarket, or Caribbean markets where you may be able to find it fresh. Whichever, you can’t go wrong with this dish. Just right for one of the most important and oldest of Christian festivals.


1 leg of lamb, about 5 pounds
2 cloves garlic, sliced into small slivers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 can (1lb. 4-oz) pineapple chunks

1. Wash leg of lamb under running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. With a sharp knife, make small slits throughout the lamb. Insert the garlic slivers into the slits.
3. Brush the lamb with the olive oil. Sprinkle all over with the oregano, salt and pepper. Place in a covered dish, or wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour, or better yet, overnight.
4. Place lamb in a  roasting pan, and roast in a 325 degree oven for 1 hour.
5. Pour undrained pineapple chunks over lamb. Roast 1 1/2 to 2 hours or more depending on desired degree of doneness, basting frequently.
    Yield: 8 servings.

Fish Fillets with Mushroom Ragout

I didn’t discover this concept of ragout (pronounced “ragoo”) until my early manhood. I went to a restaurant on the west side of Manhattan and asked what is this “rag-out” thing. My friends corrected me as to the pronunciation, and we ordered the thing. Subsequently, I learned that “ragout” comes from the French verb ragoûter, which roughly translates “to stimulate the appetite.” It’s mainly a seasoned, thick stew of meat, poultry or fish which may or may not contain vegetables. To confuse you more, ragu, also derived from ragout, is a popular dish in Italy’s Bologna region and is served with pasta. It’s main ingredients are ground beef and tomatoes, with some onions, carrots and wine wine thrown in.

The dish given below is a traditional ragout made with fish fillets and mushrooms. In the recipe I use perch fillets. But you can substitute cod, haddock, turbot, or any light firm-fleshed fillets. For the mushrooms, I use the oyster variety; but you can use cremini, shiitake, chanterelle, or a mix of mushrooms. Now, some people may add cream to their ragout. I’m told by a diehard, utterly traditional chef that never may you add cream to the ragout. It is “sacrilege,  sacré bleu!” I’m not fascistic in my cooking, so, if you want to add cream, or anything else you think will improve the flavor, go right ahead. The subject of good cuisine is to constantly experiment. That’s the real joy of cooking. Also, and this will drive the traditionalists nuts, this is my Latino version of the dish. Muchas gracias.


5 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound oyster mushrooms, washed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 small shallot, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped dill
4 6-ounce fish fillets
Salt and black ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 cup hot water

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or fry pan (I prefer cast-iron). Add mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 4-5 minutes.
2. Add garlic, shallot, and 1 tablespoon butter. Cook until garlic and shallot are softened, about 1 minute.
3. Add chicken stock, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half and slightly viscous, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in vinegar and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in dill. Cover, and keep warm.
4. Wash fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano, patting seasonings into the fish.
Place fish in a roasting pan. Add water and 1 tablespoon butter. Bake until fish is tender, about 10 minutes.
5. Place fillets in a serving dish, spoon mushroom ragout over fish, and serve.
   Yield: 4 servings.  

Salad Dressings

Summertime is salad time, we all know that. The problem has always been salad dressings. Back on the block, when I was coming up, there was no such thing as exclusive salad dressings. It was just plain ole olive oil and vinegar drizzled over the greens. Even in Spanish Harlem in the 50s and 60s this was the norm. Then, like everybody else, we started getting into the fancy individualized dressings: Russian, French, Ranch-Style, 1,000 Island, etc. But, you know what?—in my family it was still the old standby of oil and vinegar.

Now, I know times have changed, and even an old dinosaur like me recognizes that. Still, to me, salad dressings are a goof. Go to the supermarket and you are inundated by every type and blend— everything from the regulars, like Italian, Blue Cheese, Caesar, to Raspberry Walnut, Chipotle Ranch, Guacamole Ranch, Ginger-Mandarin, Lime-Basil, Sun-Dried Tomato, Santa Fe Blend, and specialty premium types like Champagne Dressing and something called “Goddess”  Dressing. All well and good. However, most are loaded with chemicals and ersatz ingredients. I discovered long ago that you can make fine dressings at home, and usually with stuff already in your cupboard. I stopped buying the fancy-dan specimens a while back. Plain, good ingredients, and in a few moments of your time you have best, nutritious and delicious backdrop to any salad.

Below are given five of my favorites. Why spend money on pseudo stuff, when you can whip up the genuine article?

Combine in a small bowl or cruet: 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar (distilled white, cider or red wine), 1/2 teaspoon mustard (dry or prepared), salt and pepper to tatse. Blend with a fork or small whisk. Stir in 1 teaspoon of crumbled herbs (basil or thyme, or oregano, or parsley, or dill). Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar (distille white or red wine). Stir in 2 small thinly sliced scallions, and season with pepper to taste. This is normally used over steamed vegetables or fish.

Combine until smooth in a blender or food processor, 1 medium peeled cucumber, 1 scallion, 2 tablespoons fresh mint, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon sesame tahini.

Combine until smooth in a blender of food processor: 1 cup yogurt, 2 tablespoons fresh dillweed, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 small yellow onion or 1 scallion. Chill and serve over cooked vegetables or fish.

Stir together in a small bowl until well blended: 3/4 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon sesame tahini, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon white vinegar. Serve chilled over toss salad or in tuna, macaroni or chicken salad.

Following in this vein, some friends have asked me how to infuse or flavor olive oil. You know what I mean: you go into a fancy store and you see bottles of olive oil with all kinds of things growing in them. You can have the same affect at home for 1/3 of the cost.

Wash and dry a large bunch of fresh herbs (such as basil, cilantro, tarragon, dill, etc.) Fill a bottle with half of the leaves, and then fill with olive oil. For more flavor, you can add some whole peppercorns, 1 clove garlic (smashed), and (if you’re really adventurous) one red or green hot pickled pepper (or 1 chili pepper). Cover and store in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. For a stronger flavor, remove the basil leaves and replace with more leaves. Cover and steep for another week. Strain the oil

Grilled Pork Chops

Grilling season again. And pork chops are a natural for this type of cooking. In this recipe we’re using pork loin chops. They’re real meaty, and with this zesty marinated recipe, real tasty. I’ve added fresh mint to the recipe for that extra zing.


4-5 loin pork chops (about 3 to 3 1/2 pounds) 
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano or 1 tablespoon dried
3 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme leaves
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Wash pork chops under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
2. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl. Mix well.
3. Prick pork chops on each side with a knife or the tines of a fork. Coat both sides of chops with marinade mixture, rubbing well  into the meat. Place in a covered dish and let stand at least 2 hours in the refrigerator for flavors to develop.
4, Start a charcoal or wood fire or preheat a gas grill. Fire should be moderately hot.
5. Grill about 10 minutes per side or until done.
    Yield: 4 or more servings.

Soy Sauced Chicken

One of the standard dishes in Cantonese and American Chinese cuisine is soy sauced chicken. It’s facility for easy cooking makes it a very popular entrée. In the traditional preparation all you need is chicken, usually cooked whole, soy sauce, sugar, scallions and (sometimes) sesame oil. The cooked whole chicken is then cooled and cut into bite-sized pieces.

In my family, we’ve evolved another way of cooking this dish—the Nuyorican way. First of all, we cut up the chicken and season it with spices native to our palette. It makes for a slightly different dish from the traditional norm, but just as tasty and enticing. Served over plain steam rice or (if you wish) buckwheat noodles, it’s a great main course.


1 fryer chicken, about 2 1/2 pounds, cut into serving pieces
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons olive oil 
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons water or dry white wine
2 tablespoons honey
4 stalks scallions, washed and chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Rinse chicken pieces under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Place chicken in a bowl with the garlic, pepper, oregano. Rub seasoning well into chicken pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Mix well to combine. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes.
3. In a wok or pan (I prefer cast-iron), add water or wine, scallions and honey. Add the chicken. Cover and cook on medium heat. The heat should be strong enough to bring the mixture to a boil, bubbling around and over the chicken but not too strong as to evaporate the liquid too quickly.
4. Turn the chicken pieces 2-3 times. If sauce gets too little in quantity, add no more than 2 tablespoons additional water (or wine).
5. After 25 minutes, pierce chicken with a knife or fork. If no pink juice comes out, the chicken is done.
6. Remove from heat, add sesame oil and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.

Camarones en Escabeche – Pickled Shrimp

Pickled shrimp, marinated shrimp, take your pick. In our culture it’s all the same. Escabeche refers to placing cooked (or partially cooked) seafood into a marinade. That’s where the pickling comes in. In  Criollo (Puerto Rican cuisine) we pickle fish, usually swordfish or kingfish steaks, and  shrimp. In terms of fish steaks, we cook them first in olive oil, and then marinate them. Shrimp follow the same pattern in that we first boil them lightly and then proceed with the marinade.

A basic Criollo marinade consists of olive oil, red onions, garlic, pimento stuffed Spanish olives, oregano, cilantro, and fresh lime juice. We mix it in a bowl, add the par-boiled shrimp and let the thing sit overnight, and that’s it.. In Spain, they do it differently, and that’s the recipe given below. They omit the Spanish olives, oregano, cilantro, and lime juice. In a way, it’s a simpler recipe. The only other difference is that bay leaves, garlic and peppercorns are simmer first, then added to the marinade ingredients. In all cases, par-boiling, followed by marinating gives the shrimp their tender-firm texture. We serve pickled shrimp with steamed rice. That’s the favorite accompaniment. With a bottle of sauvignon blanc or soave, it can’t be beat.

             (Pickled Shrimp)

1 small red onion, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced cosswise
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined (you can leave the tail intact, if desired)

1. In a shallow bowl, mix together the onion, vinegar, oregano, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan or skillet, simmer on low the olive oil, bay leaves, garlic and pepper for 10 minutes. Then set aside until ready to use.
3. In a pan or pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add shrimp and cook on high heat for 2 minutes.
4. Drain and combine in a bowl (or a zip-lock bag) with the onion mixture along with the oil mixture. Mix well.
5. Store covered bowl (or zip-lock bag) in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or, preferably, overnight. Discard the bay leaves and serve shrimp cold or at room temperature.
    Yield: 4 servings. 

Hunan Cooking: Lamb

In the last few years, Szechuan-style Chinese cooking has caught on on both coasts. To many of us, after years of eating bland Cantonese-style food, Szechuan cooking was a revelation. It has a spicy, hot component because of its use of chili peppers. It should be noted that, initially, chili peppers were not used in Chinese cooking. They had their own milder variety, farago, also called Chinese pepper or Szechuan pepper. Then, when Portuguese and Spanish traders introduced chilies to the region in the 16th century, the cooking became even more peppery. Hunan cooking is part of this culinary tradition; but it is less well known than its Szechuan cousin. It is often lumped with Yunnan in the south as representative of China’s western regional style of cooking. But there are differences. Not only does it feature the subtle uses of hot spices within the food, it also engages hot and sour and sweet and sour flavor combinations.

Like its neighbors, Hunan does employ stewing and stir-frying techniques along with simmering and steaming. But Hunan cooks are fortunate that they have more ingredients and materials to work with and thus can do more and be more innovative with the ingredients prior to cooking. For example, a classic dish such as orange beef not only contains dried orange peel, but the beef is marinated overnight, washed, and marinated again in egg white, wine, and pepper, then cooked twice in a wok with fresh chili, ginger and orange peel. Another classic dish, General Tso’s chicken, has the chicken marinated in a mix of egg, salt, and pepper, and uses a sauce prior to cooking that has garlic, sugar, rice vinegar, rice wine, chili peppers, and scallions. Hunam lamb is not so outlandish or complicated, but it does have that exquisite Hunan taste. Serve with boiled rice.


2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
4 small dried hot chili peppers, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh shredded ginger
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 stalks scallion, washed and thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 pound boneless lamb meat, sliced into thin strips (can use boneless lamb leg, lamb shoulder, or stew
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. In a medium bowl whisk together the soy sauce, wine, cornstarch, vinegar, sugar, and water. Reserve
2. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the chili peppers, ginger, garlic, and scallion, and stir-fry for about half a minute.
3. Add the lamb and stir-fry until the lamb is no longer pink. Add the sauce mixture and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened (1 to 2 minutes). Stir in the sesame oil, remove from heat, and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.

Photo: courtesy of JING JING – Szechuan & Hunan Gourmet

Enhanced by Zemanta


Panzanella Salad
It’s getting toward the end of summer; but it’s still hot out there in some parts. And, honestly, we’re getting tired of salads. So, how can we spice it up? Well, how about panzanella?  Right away you can tell from the spelling that it has the word “pan”—which translates to “bread” in Spanish or Italian. And you’d be right. Panzanella is a Tuscan bread salad that is popular in Central Italy, where it is also known as panmolle (pronounced: pan-moh-leh). The salad also includes tomatoes, mint and basil. Although it must be noted that, initially, before the advent of tomatoes, the salad was onion based. And it has a plain dressing of olive oil and vinegar, that’s it.  

What’s good about this salad is that you can use day-old bread, even stale bread, if necessary. You see, the bread is toasted in the oven before mixing with the other ingredients. That means the bread doesn’t get squishy like croutons, and its crunchy taste prevails. The recipe given below is a basic panzanella. And the great thing about this is that you can add any other veggies you desire: blanched peas, green beans, fava beans, mushrooms, broccoli, etc. You can even add pieces of ham, salami, or cooked chicken to it. The possibilities are endless.


2 cups day-old bread, preferably a good sourdough or crusty baguette, torn or cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch ring, and then each ring cut in half
1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 cup fresh mint, washed, dried, and roughly torn
1/2 cup fresh basil, washed, dried, and julienne

1/2 cup fresh dill, washed, dried, and roughly chopped
Handful fresh Italian parsley, washed, dried, and chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Spread bread out on a baking sheet or pan and bake until golden, about 14 minutes, flipping once halfway. Then let cool.
3. In a large bowl, toss together the bread pieces, tomatoes, zucchini, onion, garlic, mint, basil, dill, and parsley.
4. In a small bowl, mix olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over bread salad, Toss. Adjust seasonings, if necessary; and let stand for at least one hour for flavors to blend before serving.
    Yield: 4-6 servings.

photo: courtesy of a foodie affair

Enhanced by Zemanta


Among the many favorite Puerto Rican dishes in the Caribbean, there are the usual suspects: arroz con pollo (rice and chicken), pasteles (meat pies), mondongo (a hearty stew), pernil (roast pork shoulder), etc. We also have piñon, which is not that well known. Piñon is a beef/plantain casserole. The word itself, “piñon”, is Taino in origin. The Tainos were native to the Caribbean. An they were more peaceful than their other tribal brethren, the Caribs, who were cannibalistic. Our culture is replete with Taino words, such as mofongo (plantains and pork crackling), guanimes (cornmeal sticks), bianda (root plants), gandinga ( a mixed dish of hog’s liver, kidney and heart), and my favorite, sambumbia (pronounced sam-boom-biah—basically, any leftovers cooked together in one pot). You’ll notice that most of these words have to do with food, that being a significant part of our cultural heritage and makeup.

What makes pinon unique is that the dish calls for ripe plantains, also known as yellow plantains since that’s the color they acquire during the ripening process. Luckily for most of us, plantains can be found almost anywhere in urban settings. If you can’t get ripe ones, simple, buy green plantains, put them in a cool, dark area and let them ripen (usually 2-3 days). This dish also calls for beans as part of the casserole. My mother always used canned beans. Now, I know the purists out there will balk at this. But let me say, the reason my mom used canned beans is because they were easier, and she always used kidney beans. If you still want to use dry beans, remember you have to soak them overnight before cooking, cover with water and simmer until tender (about 40-45 minutes).

Let me add, this recipe is from my first cookbook Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Avalon Press – Thunders Mouth Books)


1 pound lean ground beef
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
6 whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
3 ripe yellow plantains
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, or more as needed
1 (16-ounce) can kidney beans, drained
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Put garlic cloves, oregano, peppercorns and salt in a mortar. Pound until crushed. Add olive oil and vinegar, and mix thoroughly. (note: if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just combine garlic, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, and salt in a cup. Then add olive oil and vinegar).
3. Place meat in a bowl and combine with seasoning.
4. Stir-fry the beef in a very hot skillet (no oil is necessary) until meat loses its red color. Set aside.
5. Peel the plantains and cut at an angle into 1/2-inch slices. In a frying pan, heat vegetable oil and fry plantains over moderate heat until golden.
6. Grease a 2-quart casserole and arrange half of the plantains on the bottom. Then top with beef. Layer the beans over the meat. Top with the remaining plantains. Pour the beaten eggs over the layers.
7. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour.
    Yield: 6 servings.

Photo: Courtesy of hispanickitchen.com

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tomatoes for the End of Summer

By now most of us are, as the saying goes, “tomatoed-out.” In the dark days of winter we dream of fresh, succulent vine-ripened tomatoes. By late August, we’ve just about had our fill. I mean, how many tomato salads or stuffed tomatoes can you have? Well, kiddies, the season will last until October. And, yes, there are still many innovative ways to use this vegetable. Below are given some ingenious ways to use tomatoes. So, in the middle of a frosty February, you can again begin to dream of the fresh juicy crop come June .


That’s right, a raw sauce where the tomatoes don’t have to be cooked. Simple: In a bowl, combine 1 pound chopped tomatoes or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved; 1/2 cup diced mozzarella cheese; 1/3 cup chopped black olives; 1/4 cup olive oil; 1 teaspoon capers; 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 2 garlic cloves, minced. Stir in 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil, 1 teaspoon oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Let the bowl stand for 1/2 hour to allow the flavors to combine. Toss with you favorite hot pasta. 4 servings.


The all time favorite, and the easiest thing to prepare: Wash and slice off the tops and bottoms of 1 pound tomatoes, and cut the tomatoes into about 3 slices each. Slice 1/2 pound mozzarella very thinly; wash and  dry 10-12 large basil leaves (more if the leaves are small). On a salad plate, arrange the mozzarella and basil on the tomato slices, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with some oregano and pepper. 4-3 servings.


A fancy-fied tomato dish to impress your guests: Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Cut 2 large beefsteak tomatoes into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange the slices, slightly overlapping, in an oiled 9-inch gratin dish or shallow casserole.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, 2 tablespoons finely chopped basil, and 1 teaspoon oregano. Cook 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced, in a small pan or skillet over moderate heat, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup fresh bread crumbs, 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over the tomatoes, and bake in the middle of oven until bread crumbs are golden, about 15 minutes. 4 servings.


In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar. Add 1 teaspoon oregano, and salt and pepper to taste; 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved; 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced; 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped; 1/3 cup black olives, halved; 1 small red onion, chopped; and 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley. Mix together, then stir in 1 cup crumbled feta cheese. Take 4 (8-inch) diameter pita bread, cut in halve and stuff with the tomato mixture. 4 servings.


That’s right, homemade ketchup. Believe me, much better than the stuff you get at the grocers, and much healthier. Store bought ketchup is all processed sugar and salt. Ca-ca. And the homemade brand is so easy to make: In a food processor, puree and blend 1/3 cup water; 3 small tomatoes, chopped; 2 tablespoons white vinegar; 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves; 1/4 teaspoon pepper; 1/3 cup honey; 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. That’s it. You’ll never use the store-bought stuff again.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Older posts

© 2022 Oswald Rivera

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑