Juanita Vega DeJoseph is the Assistant Department Head in the Art & Literature Department and someone who enjoys cooking and creating. We are so grateful to Juanita for sharing her process of making sofrito, a recipe that has much meaning to her. In the following video, we are invited into a conversation between Juanita and her mother. As they are speaking, we are able to watch Erik prepare the recipe.
More information is shared in a short interview with Juanita.
We really enjoy working with fresh herbs in Nourishing Literacy. What do you like about using fresh herbs in the kitchen?
Juanita: I love the aroma of fresh herbs! You can’t beat the scent of basil, oregano, culantro, and my favorite recao. Just touching it with its’ spikey leaves brings me back to the kitchen in the house I grew up in. It’s the aroma that sofrito has that gives me a direct line to the food I grew up with and makes me yearn for my favorite dish: white bean and caribbean pumpkin stew over rice with yellow plantains and avocado on the side.
Why is sofrito a dish that has special meaning to you?
Juanita: Sofrito has the ability to give your food that extra layer of deep flavor that I cannot be described, it has to be tasted to understand its' complexity. It's the one ingredient that can change a bland dish into something so flavorful, you'll forever be grateful in learning how to make it. I promise you, it will be your super power element in your cooking.
[In the audio] I asked my Mom how and when she learned how to make sofrito and to my surprise, it wasn’t until she was an adult and married. In talking to her she said the blenders came much later. I asked her when she made the sofrito and I think my Mom was remembering making it after she retired and was home and I remembered her making it on the weekend when she was working full time and left the house before I got up to go to school. I remember learning how to make it when I was in grade school. I asked her what was the most important ingredient in sofrito and she said the recao.
What are the other ingredients in this recipe?
Juanita: The ingredients in the sofrito I was taught to make is as follows:
- Tomato sauce or olive oil no more than 2 Tablespoons on the blades of the blender
- Italian fryer peppers
- Bell peppers
- Ajicitos but scotch bonnets [can be used and] are not sweet like the ajicitos- instead they are hot!
- Italian parsley
How much of each well - that is the mystery of sofrito. When my brother made a batch he bought ingredients that resulted in filling 13 jars! And thankfully, sofrito can be frozen!
Are there any tips that you have when preparing this recipe?
Juanita: Warning on the ajicitos - when you clean them out, hold them to the side of your face under a stream of water, otherwise you can go into a coughing fit! Or you can use safety goggles and plastic gloves when handling. Also have coffee grinds on hand and wash your hands with them, it helps get rid of the aroma- but if you love the aroma no worries just use dishwashing soap!
Is there anything else that you want to share about sofrito?
Juanita: It also makes a great housewarming gift. Sofrito can be added to your favorite stew, soup, you can use it to marinade your favorite cut of meat, seitan, or tofu. My dad would use it sparingly with his pork roast. While I haven't tried it with seitan or tofu, I’m confident that it would add wonderful flavor to it!
Thank you again to Juanita and to her mother Juana Ortiz Vega for sharing such a meaningful and special insights! Thank you also to Erik Idelfonzo and Frank Alston Abbott for editing the video!
For more on a recipe that has special meaning to Erik, visit this link! What is a food or recipe that you enjoy and/or is close to your heart?
Nourishing Literacy offers food, literacy, wellness, and life skills activities and events to community members, with our core audience being the children, youth, teachers, and caregivers. Nourishing Literacy is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Edna G. Kynett Memorial Foundation.
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