Sunyatta's Secret Puerto Rican Recipes

A portion of September's proceeds have already been and will continue to be donated to Taller Salud, a grassroots organization founded in 1979 with a mission of empowering women to lead comprehensive reconstruction of their communities after the passage of Hurricane Maria and in daily life. Statement from Taller Salud: We firmly believe in health as empowerment and we center and honor communities of African descent and all gender-diverse identities.

We firmly believe that all people have the right to enjoy comprehensive health and a life free of violence. We defend health approaches aimed at a dignified life.

Hola Mi Gente!

Let's continue to DECOLONIZE Our Tastebuds! 

In honour of our friends in need in Puerto Rico, I've packed September's newsletter with a spicy sale and mouth-watering recipes from our peeps in the island of Borinquen (Land of the Valiant and Noble Lord) as named by the native Taino peoples.

Forget that Westernized tongue training and that one Adobo seasoning brand-- we are bringing y'all the real island flavors!

The ancient wisdom of our Indigenous Carib and African ancestors have been regarded as medicine for millennia--- for example our spicy foods serve us as vasodilators to gently expand blood vessels to help decrease blood pressure, release endorphins and as a digestive to ease bloating and gas. Self-care is self-reliance!We hope that each CALA-Blog helps you promote health and wellness for yourself and your community.

Amor Y Paz Y Nada Más!
(love, peace and nothing else matters)

Tea-EO & Head Witch in Charge

 

Yellow Rice with Pigeon Peas - A Classic!

This one pot rice also called 'Arroz con Gandules' is a traditional dish typically served on special occasions. For this, we will utilize the seasoning blend called Sofrito. Gandules (pigeon peas) are essential to recipe and are packed with nutrients. We use a medium sized caldero (cast iron cooking pot). Often called a dutch oven or dutchie, this heavy pot is used throughout the Caribbean, South & Central America to make rice, stews, beans, and soups.

Wait! Hold up! We can't go any further without talking about Pegao!

Pegao is the crispy, crunchy rice at the bottom of the pot. In the Caribbean & Africa, it is considered a delicacy. I have seen entire fights break out between uncles over the bottom of the rice. It takes practice to get it to the right crispiness. A tip to making Pegao is using coating the inside of the caldero with olive oil and making sure you do not cook the rice with high heat. It is a little difficult your first attempt but in due time you will be a Pegao pro!

Perfecting water and rice ratio is key to any recipe. Since the ingredients like the sofrito, tomato sauce, and vegetable oil add liquid to the dish, a good rule of thumb is to use your thumb! Having about 1 inch (or thumb width - not length) of water above the rice prior to cooking.

Also, make sure you DO NOT open the top of the pot during the cooking time... this also means no stirring the rice. Let the caldero do its magic!

LET'S GET IT TOGETHER!

  • 3 cups medium or long grain basmati rice, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (great for heart health)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons sofrito (see recipe below)
  • 4 ounces tomato sauce or 8 ounces tomato sauce (lycopene for antioxidants)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) gandules aka pigeon peas, drained (high protein)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons pitted green olives (vitamin E and studies show they are heart healthy and may protect against osteoporosis and cancer).
  • 2 tablespoons CALABASH Annatto Powder
  • 1 teaspoon CAL-ADOBO seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (anti-fungal/anti-bacterial)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (aids digestion and blood sugar levels)
  • 1/8 teaspoon oregano leaves (great antibacterial phytonutrients (thymol and carvacrol), which fight infections such as staph. Source of fiber, vitamin K, manganese, iron, vitamin E, tryptophan and calcium)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (start with 2 teaspoons of salt)
  • 4 cups hot water

LET'S DO IT!

Heat oil in your caldero (or a medium, heavy saucepan) over medium heat. Stir in peppers and onions till translucent. Add annatto, adobo, garlic, sofrito and oregano. Cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).

Add rice and coat in the spice/oil mix for about 2 minutes. Stir in pigeon peas, tomato sauce, olives and 4 cups water. Stir once and bring rice mixture to a boil uncovered until water is almost all evaporated. Gently stir rice from bottom up -- only once!

Cover and lower to medium-low for about 15 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat. Gently fluff rice with fork. Cover pan and let stand 5 minutes.

 

SUNYATTA' SOFRITO SEASONING

Sofrito base is what makes so many Puerto Rican dishes so flavourful! It's easy to make in a blender and can be kept in the fridge for use anytime you want to add some authentic spice.

This recipe makes approximately 5 cups of Sofrito.

For our rice we will use 3 tablespoons worth. You can store the balance in a mason jar in the fridge and if you are a more occasional user or need the fridge space you can freeze ice cubes of Sofrito and pop a cube or 2 into a recipe as needed. And hey, you'll have enough to gift! I give 4 oz mason jars to neighbours and family.

LET'S GET IT TOGETHER!

  • 3 large green bell peppers (great source of Vit. C)
  • 3 large Spanish onions (anti-bacterial, immune boosting)
  • 10 aji dulce peppers or 1 red bell pepper (great source of Vit. C)
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled (anti-bacterial, immune boosting)
  • 1/2 bunch of Recao -about 15 leaves or 1 cup cilantro (calcium, iron, carotene, and riboflavin. It's used as a tea for flu, diabetes, constipation, and fevers)

LET'S DO IT!

  1. Remove stems and seeds from bell peppers. Cut into quarters
  2. Peel the onion and cut into quarters.
  3. Remove stems and seeds from aji dulce.
  4. Blend all the ingredients in a blender or food processor or blender until finely minced not too fine a liquid
  5. Store in airtight container in refrigerator if using within a few weeks. I usually freeze some sofrito in an ice-cube tray for a day. After the cubes are frozen solid, I pop out the sofrito cubes and put into an airtight freezer bag to use as needed. Then I pop them into my pot as needed - no need to thaw before cooking.

 

MOFONGO

This delicious, traditional Caribbean dish has deep ties to Africa

According to historian and author Cruz Miguel Ortíz Cuadra, mofongo comes from the Angolan technique of mashing large amounts of starchy foods, then adding liquid and fat to soften the mixture. Enslaved people from Angola and other parts of Africa were brought to Puerto Rico in the 1500s.) Indigenous people on the island also used this mashing and pounding technique as well.

Ortíz writes in his book, “Eating Puerto Rico: A History of Food, Culture, and Identity,” that the word “mofongo” stems from the Angolan Kikongo term “mfwenge-mfwenge,” meaning “a great amount of anything at all.” Going even further back, the dish traces its roots to the West African fufu, a mash of boiled yams.

LET'S GET IT TOGETHER!

  • 5 unripe green plantains - high in iron; green plantains are starchy and much less sweet than their ripened counterparts — they contain very little moisture, making a gravy or saucy filling essential
  • 5 large cloves fresh garlic. Garlic is key to the flavour! It is also antibacterial and anti-fungal
  • 4 teaspoons of olive oil heart healthy oil
  • 2 cups olive or sunflower oil
  • 2 tsp of CAL-ADOBO in 3 oz water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • cayenne to taste (blood pressure assistant)
  • chopped cilantro for garnish

 

JUICY SPICY SAUTÉED MUSHROOMS

Many people make a saucy meat dish to go atop the mofungo. I'm going to share my family's favorite topping which happens to be vegetarian and absolutely delicious!

LET'S GET IT TOGETHER!

  • 1 lb mushrooms - cut into strips. Your choice on mushrooms. I would recommend shiitake, hen of the woods, oyster or chanterelle as they are thick and meaty. They all provide high amounts of potassium and have been used for millennia for boosting immune systems
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 cloves minced fresh garlic (yes, more garlic)
  • 1/2 cup shallot or leek chopped or scallion as a substitute
  • (immune boosting)
  • 1 TBL fresh lemon juice plus zest if desired (antioxidant vit. C)
  • 1/4 tsp of CALABASH Jerk Seasoning (warms the circulatory system/libido)
  • 2 tsp CALABASH Herb de Provence (anti-bacterial/fungal)

LET'S DO IT!

  1. over medium heat, preheat your cast iron skillet
  2. add the oil - do not let oil smoke
  3. stir in the shallots/leeks or scallion and garlic and coat in oil
  4. add mushrooms and stir
  5. mix 1/2 tsp of arrowroot, the Jerk seasoning and Herb de Provence into 1/3 cup cold water and pour into the pot
  6. cover pot and continue to cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes more
  7. serve warm over the Monfongo. My family likes when I plate a mound of Monfongo and hollow out dip in the middle that will get filled with the gravy and mushrooms.