History of Fort Hill, Part 2 (2008). Mural by: Loray McDuffie, Taylor Saintable, Edwin Perez-Clancy, Christine O'Connell, Julia Andreasson, Jorge Benitez, Divah Payne, Lucy Saintcyr, Laua Dedonato, Gregg Bernstein.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sofrito! Tropical Foods vs. C-Mart


It's time to prepare a mess of sofrito before winter sets in. Then it goes into everything: black beans, fried white cheese, soup, poached chicken breasts. If it's heated, put some sofrito in it.

There's no need to be picky about proportions, just go with your gut. There's dozens of recipes available on the web, but you don't need to slavishly follow any of them.

What you need are these basic ingredients, plus a blender or food processor, and ice cube trays:

red onions
red peppers (or green peppers or both)

In addition culantro (racao) and ajices dulces (ajicito pepper) are good if you can find them.

Chop things up a bit with the kitchen knife and toss everything in the blender or food processor. Run the blender or food processor, but not so long so that you have a puree. You want to be able to see the individual ingredients.

Then spoon the mixture out into ice cube trays and freeze. Sofrito keeps fresh in the refrigerator for a couple or three days, so if you don't have enough ice cube trays for the whole recipe, freeze the batch a bit at a time.

Once the sofrito is frozen, dump it out into double-bagged Ziplock bags and put the bags in the freezer.

As we've pointed out elsewhere photojournalism is not our specialty and neither is writing about food. So, we had the presence of mind to photograph the end result, but not to photograph the marvelous pile of fresh ingredients at the start of the preparation.

The afternoon we prepared our winter sofrito we needed cilantro, culantro, garlic, and ajices dulces, already having the other ingredients on hand.

So, we took the 41 bus to Dudley and walked in-bound on Washington Street to Tropical Foods, 2101 Washington St.

After looking around and failing to find them, we asked a manager where the culantro and the ajices dulces were. He repeatedly tried to direct us to the cilantro, but we insisted on culantro. The cilantro looked ratty anyway.

Finally the manager (an Anglo as it turned out) told us to ask "that guy—he speaks Spanish."

"That guy" knew right away that culantro was the same things as racao. He pointed us to the mezzanine shelf where both culantro and ajices dulces were available, pre-packaged.

After looking at the garlic ($1.99/lb), we thought we could get better looking garlic at C-Mart (Washington at Herald Street) and we wanted to see if they carried culantro and ajices dulces, so off we went to take the Ridiculous Silver Line to Chinatown.

C-mart didn't have ajices dulces, but they did have culantro, labeled in Chinese characters. The cilantro came in big bushy bundles. The culantro was cheaper at C-Mart; the garlic was cheaper at Tropical Foods. (The best cilantro was at Russo's in Waltham: $1.29 for a big happy-looking bunch.)

So here's the price comparison:

Tropical FoodsC-Mart
Cilantroratty looking$0.79/bunch

We try to keep this blog focused on its catchment: south of Malcolm X, west of Washington, north of Marcella/Ritchie, and east of Columbus. Since some essentials, like food, lie outside these bounds occasionally we'll stray afield (but, see here and here).

[We're no html jockeys for sure. The table looks fine in Blogspot's Compose and Preview modes, but gets a huge amount of head room when published. The table tag, without the angle brackets, looks like this: table style="background-color: white; width: 276px; height: 211px;" border="1" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0". Blogspot supplies the width and height parameters.

If anybody sees what's wrong, we'd appreciate a comment .]

1 comment:

  1. I'm Spanish, and your 'recipe' has been the closest one I've seen online to what my grandma taught me. But just between us try adding fresh parsley , a bit of celery and extra virgin olive oil. It will work wonders. By the way Thx for the tip about the ice cube tray... Unbelievable I'm going tomorrow just for that! I always used to put my sofrito in a large container but the cubes are easy to manage portions. Genius! :D
    Thank you