Back to basics: this week we made some homemade sazón and sofrito to get us going on more Caribbean dishes (hello, Puerto Rico!)
Sazón- seasoning with salt, pepper, garlic, annato, coriander, cumin, oregano
Sofrito- sauce used as a base for cooking, with tomatoes, onions, and peppers at its most simplistic
As much as I can dig Goya, they do use a lot of MSG- yes, it is in both the sazón and the sofrito. Plus, it is super easy to make your own, especially if you have a food processor to quickly chop any onions, tomatoes, etc. Freeze the extra sofrito for use later on.
For the sazón, simply toast the ingredients listed above (say equal parts each, adjust as needed) and grind with a mortar and pestle. The annato seeds are really hard to grind, so make sure your M&P is of prehistoric quality (unlike the one in the above photo!) They also tinge dishes a lovely sunset red…some recipes suggest substituting paprika, but the flavor is quite different and annato is not really that difficult to find.
To make sofrito, we chopped onions, green peppers, and tomatoes in a food processor. We also added little sweet peppers called aijes dulces- watch out, they are the same size and color as habaneros! Just a handful should do. Then we added minced garlic, (about 2-3 heads worth) along with large handfuls of cilantro and culantro. Continue to pulse with a few pinches of salt and pepper, and you’re done!
You can find all of these ingredients at a good Latin market, and culantro is also found at many Asian markets, given its widespread use in the East (think Pho.) As with many recipes, each cook has his or her own signature, so if you think you need more onion and less cilantro, so be it! Remember, this is just a flavor base for a variety of dishes- the best is yet to come!