The technological problem of the day is the whimsical ways of the fonts in Blogger, but the internet is back up and running, so that’s good.The sauce of the day is sofrito, which I should come right out and say I am not exactly making in any kind of way that is intended to be perceived as authentic or definitive. As I learned when I tried to make a mojo sauce, there are certain foodstuffs that speak directly to the inner child-on-the-playground for people of or loyal to various nations, and sofrito has to be right up there in the top 10. Google it and you will see that it is a staple seasoning of about ninety-four different countries, and in each place it is made differently: peppers or no peppers, this kind of pepper vs. that kind, this herb or that, pork or no pork, and so on. One belief common to all is that is highly seasoned, and another is that it is very useful. It can form the flavorful backbone of cooked beans, meat, stew or rice. I am on board with both these philosophies. It’s also a useful thing to throw on top of something grilled or roasted, as you might use a chutney. This is all I propose to suggest. A useful sauce. Perhaps inspired most closely by the Puerto Rican version, but not purporting to be it.
We went to Albany over the weekend and fell into a large and gorgeous Asian market, where I was able to score a supply of another item known by many names and held dear by many nations: sawtooth herb, or culantro.
If you love cilantro, think of it as high-octane super major cilantro with a little twist. If you hate cilantro (I know who you are), prepare to not even want to be in the room with it. It is easy to find in Asian markets and often in Latin ones, too. If you want to have a little pot of it on your windowsill, you can order, for less than four dollars, a little packet of seeds from here, or head over here for some plants, or even an envelope full of fresh leaves. You can show culantro off nicely in this sauce, but you can also use plain old cilantro and manage equally well.
Here is what I have done with sofrito: throw a scoop into some browned ground turkey; glop it onto some pasta; spoon it into a sandwich (like a toasted cheese sandwich, for example); eat it from the jar. Like yesterday’s garlic sauce, it would be a major jumpstart to a potato salad or chicken salad.
If you can find a yellow chile or aji dulce, use that along with your sweet pepper. When I could find those, they gave it a mild but noticeable heat. Today I used most of a seeded jalapeño that was about three inches long. One recipe I saw called for one whole seeded jalapeno and 6 aji dulce chiles, so clearly heat is part of the intention, but it’s a pretty personal thing. What you want is something that is as hot as you like it. And do be careful chopping hot peppers. No touching the face! Trust me on that one!
sofrito, sort of
2T olive oil
1 yellow chile pepper or one jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 large red, yellow or orange sweet bell pepper, seeded and deveined and finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro, cilantro or a mixture
1 medium or large tomato, chopped
1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano or thyme
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, and sauté the peppers, onion and garlic until soft, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. You will need to lower the heat as you go, to prevent it from browning. When it is nice and soft, add the herbs and tomato and continue to sauté until thickened, about five more minutes; salt to taste. I used a scant half teaspoon. It’s about so many things that it doesn’t require much salt to make it sing.