Okay, so maybe I like the letter S. Also tacos.
In any case, I'm kind of amused that my friend Kate at A Heart Full of Daisies ALSO did a recipe post this evening, although our two food ideas could not be more different. Kate is a friend from high school - we didn't know each other super well at the time, but then worked a summer job together after we had both graduated, cleaning apartments after college students moved out for the summer. Let me tell you, when you work together trying to get crunched-up potato chips out of miniscule cracks in the kitchen tile or plan lunch-break escapes to Dairy Queen because you just cannot scrub another bathtub without some ice cream... you get to know each other much better.
So you should head over to her blog and read her recipe for Herbed Flatbread, because it looks delicious and I am all for spreading around photos of delicious foods far and wide.
I myself am posting what we had for dinner tonight: I made tacos with sofrito. Well, kinda. It was a salsa, really? Only not really.
Sofrito is basically to Caribbean and Latin cooking what butter or salt is to American cooking. It shows up in Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic... all over the place, really. It's simple - aromatic ingredients, usually slow-simmered, mixed together as a condiment or a base for cooking. It's an essential ingredient - put in at the ground floor, it adds a serious pop of flavor.
It's pretty simple, although everybody's got their own pet recipe. The basic idea is that there are tomatoes, garlic, and onions. From there, the possibilities kind of expand endlessly. The kind I made today is more similar to Cuban sofrito than it is anything else.
Now, usually sofrito is cooked on low heat for a long time, and processed or blended until it's a liquid, kind of an amazing soup. I didn't really feel like turning our blender on and it seemed too hot to really get the stove going at first and so our version of sofrito is sort of a mix of sofrito and salsa.
So, uh, basically what I'm saying is don't hate me because my sofrito is inaccurate. I'm mostly calling it that because it's not salsa, it doesn't really taste like salsa, and I'm using it as a condiment... and the ingredients I used I culled from sofrito recipes.
First: Mixing Sofrito
3 small or medium tomatoes
6 cloves garlic (you can use less, but we are garlic people here)
1 head cilantro
1 large onion or 2 small onions
1 Green Bell Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Vinegar (I used Jalapeno Vinegar from Palmetto Olive and basic Apple Cider Vinegar)
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Bay Leaf (or bay leaf bits)
Super easy: Just chop up the tomatoes, garlic, onion, and bell pepper. Toss together in a large mixing bowl. Feel free to add Cubanelle or small sweet peppers; this would be more in line with how sofrito is usually made. Add a splash of oil, the vinegars (or 2 splashes, if you're only using one), and cooking sherry. Add two tablespoons or lime juice or more, to taste. A dash of cayenne if you like things spicy, a couple shakes of cumin and oregano, and the bay leaf bits. Add a little salt and pepper. Chop the whole head of cilantro and mix into the bowl. I am not going to dictate the amount of spices you use, because spices are so much about trying and seeing how much you like. just add a dash or a shake, test, then add another.
To make this the authentic way, you would simmer the onions and bell pepper, let them sweat and get nice and translucent, then add everything over time (and remember, add the cilantro and lime juice last when there is ten minutes or less of cooking time left) and simmer for a long time to really let the flavors cook and meld. If you do it this way, add the bay leaf whole while cooking. Let it cool for basic use as a condiment, blend or stick on your food processor until smooth and the mix should keep for a few days in the fridge, no problem. You can also freeze it in ice cube trays and pop a few out for your recipes.
With my version, since I didn't cook it, I just mixed everything all at once, stuck the bowl in the fridge, and let it sit for a couple of hours to blend.
This amount of sofrito is going to last Jason and I the next couple of days, so I would say it probably serves 8 - 10 if you used it at a single meal, depending on how heavy your use was.
Next Up: Taco, Yay!
1 lb ground beef (I tend to get lean)
Shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce
Cheese, sour cream, etc (optional)
Seriously, that's it.
Now, just like with the sofrito, you can do this one of two ways.
Way the First: This is if you don't simmer the sofrito but do what I did, which is just leave it all chopped and uncooked in the fridge. Here is all the directions there are: brown the ground beef with a little olive oil and some salt. Drain all liquid before serving. Layer a tortilla with ground beef, the sofrito, and your preferred additions - lettuce, sour cream, cheese, whatever.
Way the Second: if you simmered your sofrito and then let it cool in the fridge (or froze it), add it to the beef while it's browning, remembering the drain the liquid before serving. It will give the beef this incredible bright flavor and you really cannot go wrong with onions, beef, tomatoes, and green peppers in a taco. Layer on the tortilla, with your preferred additions, as before.
Or use corn tortillas! Their flavor is better than flour tortillas, but they do take the extra time and effort of needing to be cooked before their use. Of course, if you're my friend Sarah, you just create homemade tortillas because you don't just cook, you create food fit for the gods. And also if you were Sarah you would need to update your cooking blog more often. Hint, hint.
Warm corn tortillas are what they serve with your food in Paradise, so... you have to weigh your options there.
Quick, and easy, and frankly everything combined took maybe twenty minutes... the best kind of meal for those nights when you want something good to eat but don't want to work for it. The sofrito just saves so much time. Plus it's a pretty kid-friendly little meal, easy to let the little ones help with.
You could cook up chicken in the sofrito and it would also be delicious. It's in so many recipes, just head over to any big cooking website or recipe database and find them! I'm going to use the leftover beef and some sofrito to make the best scrambled eggs ever in the morning.
Sometimes you just want life to be simple, and if there is anything in life that is simple, it's tacos.
Tacos tacos tacos.
P.S. I put in our notice to vacate with our leasing office today! So... now we have two months to find, buy, and move into a house. Because one thing that's always good and giving yourself deadlines that make you very nervous. On the other hand... woo hoo we're gonna buy a house! Now I just have to figure out which one...