Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hearty Soups with Red Swiss Chard

After my recent move from Queens to Brooklyn I picked up a cold with a bad bad cough.  It took a course of antibiotics and lots of cough syrup to make it go away.  But I wouldn't consider my medications the only contributing factor to my recovery.  I have to give my red swiss chard infused soups a little credit too.

I often cook with what I have on hand and this time I went out of my way, while sick, to pick up this nutritious leafy green.  I don't think many people in Latin America use it.  I certainly don't ever remember seeing it until about 4 years ago while wondering through a local NYC farmer's market.  It took me a while before I got the guts to buy it, but after I did I found that sauteed with some extra virgin olive oil was one of the simplest side dishes I have ever made.  Wrapping my head around the fact that a lot of people use it in their soups was quite difficult though.  I've just never been a fan of leafy greens in my soup.  In Colombia my family always used to make all types of soups with beans, plantains, vegetables, rice and even with eggs.  It could be that my mom and aunt never made me leafy soups because they knew I didn't like creamy soups or soups with soggy vegetables.  (I'm coming around to some cream soups).  As it turns out though swiss chard and other leafy vegetables like kale retain some texture even after they are cooked.  Not only that they also happen to contain a lot of the nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants that help keep you healthy.  As they say this was exactly what the doctor ordered!

With the health factor in mind, I decided to buy one bunch of red swiss chard to make myself soup enriched with tons of vitamins and minerals.  The moment I got home I cleaned and chopped what I was going to use,  and stored the rest in the refrigerator.  Then to make things very simple I used canned white bean soup and minestrone soup as pairings for my red swiss chard.  Both iterations were delicious and they lasted me the entire week!

Below is what you'll need for each recipe,

Buen Provecho! =)

Red Swiss Chard and White Bean Soup with Chicken Sausage

One or two cups of chopped red swiss chard
One can of white cannellini beans
Half an onion and one garlic clove chopped
One or two links of chicken or turkey sausage
Two cups of low sodium chicken stock
Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Cut the sausage into one inch cubes and saute in pan.
In the microwave, heat the chicken stock until it boils.
When you see that the chicken is semi done, saute with the onion and garlic for two more minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.
Wash the cannelini beans and add them to the pan.
Let everything saute together for a couple of minutes before adding the chopped red swiss chard.
Let the chard wilt for a minute and add the chicken stock.
As you stir use the back of your spoon to press a small portion of the white beans to make a paste.  IT will give the soup a thicker consistency.
Let it simmer, serve, add Parmesan cheese to your liking.

Red Swiss Chard with Minestrone Soup

One or two cups of chopped red swiss chard
One can of organic minestrone soup
Half an onion, one garlic clove chopped
A handful of grape tomatoes cut in half
Half a pepper (any color) chopped
One cup of low sodium chicken stock
Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan Cheese

In the microwave, heat the chicken stock until it boils.
Saute chapped onions and garlic with extra virgin olive oil.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Add the chopped half pepper and sliced grape tomatoes and saute.
After a few minutes add the chopped red swiss chard, let it wilt and then stir.
Add the cup of chicken stock and the can of minestrone soup.
Stir everything together and let it simmer for a couple of minutes.
Not too long since the vegetable soup is usually ready to eat.
Add Parmesan cheese to your liking.

And voila! You just made some super delicious soup with swiss chard.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sofrito with Kale

Sofrito is quintessentially the most important ingredient in Latin cooking.  We use it to season, to marinade, to give everything that Latin zing.  Just like Italians have tomato sauce Latinos have their sofrito.  It is the foundation used to flavor everything under the sun.  I have noticed that the most prevalent type of sofrito in the United States is what Puerto Ricans call recaito.  You could pretty much find it in any grocery store that sells Goya products.  This is not the only type of sofrito available though.  Many other Latin American countries create their own type of sofrito to which they add spices that are native to their regions. I know Colombians call it hogao or guiso and it’s made by sauteing diced scallions with chopped tomatoes in oil.  We also add a touch of azafrán or saffron for coloring.  In this sense it differs greatly from Puerto Rican sofrito which is not sautéed in oil but made in a blender and refrigerated fresh. 

I have already demonstrated how to make guiso in my post about Tofu Perico, so this is my attempt at making a version of the Puerto Rican recaito but with a twist.  Lately I've been obsessed with kale, so I decided to add kale to my version so that it incorporates all of the healthy vitamins and nutrients that kale boasts.  I can tell you right now that you won’t even notice a difference.  To me it was excellent.  If not kale, you could also add beets if you want or maybe swish chard.  Just be careful how much you add.  Too much kale and it might be too bitter, just like too many onions might be too overwhelming.  I also added a stem of celery and a whole carrot to make it that much healthier.  What I forgot to add was some heat.  In the future I'm going to try adding a bit of jalapeño or some other type of hot pepper.

I really hope you enjoy making this version or your own version of sofrito with whatever ingredients you have on hand. It's really always about making it your own and doing the best with what you already have.

Buen Provecho! =)

1 half green bell pepper and 1 half red bell pepper seeded and chopped
5 small sweet peppers of various colors seeded and chopped
5 small plum tomatoes, skins removed
2 small yellow onions cut into quarters
5 scallions chopped in half
3 heads of roasted garlic or regular garlic
One stem of celery chopped
One carrot chopped
A spring of mint (could use some other herb like cilantro)
One large leaf of kale
A dash of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

  • This is the easiest recipe, you just dump all of the ingredients into a blender and you are done.  Just make sure you coarsely chop all of the ingredients before putting in the blender. 
  • If everything doesn’t fit in the blender try doing a portion of the ingredients and then gradually adding everything until everything is blended together.
  • To preserve the sofrito simply leave the small portion you are going to use right away in a container in the refrigerator.  You can store smaller ready to use portions in the freezer.  Another way to preserve them in the freezer is to store the sofrito in an ice cube tray.  You can take out as many sofrito cubes as you want whenever you are ready to use them.

TIP – To remove the tomato skins simply cut a small cross on the bottom and drop on boiling water.  Leave them for a minute or so and then drop them in a bath of ice.  You can peel the skin right away, remove the seeds and then add to the blender along with the rest of the ingredients.

Picture Links

About This Blog

I started this blog because I want to introduce new and healthy ingredients into my everyday meals. Living in the NY, NJ, CT tri-state area you find a plethora of local grocery stores that service a number of diverse neighborhoods. Every time I visit one of these stores I find fruits, vegetables, and ingredients that I have never used, or that I am afraid to use. I want to incorporate these ingredients to create new and healthier ways to experience Latin food, as well as other types of cuisines. I think it's important to love and continue our cooking traditions while also testing and incorporating new and healthier ingredients and techniques.

One of the most distinct ingredients that I know is not widely used in Latin cuisine is tofu, and it’s a shame. I have had tofu at Chinese and Thai restaurants before, but I never gave the ingredient a second thought. Tofu is such an amazing alternative to meats and it’s super healthy and cheap! This one ingredient got me thinking about all of the other healthy and fresh ingredients I could be using to develop Latin infused dishes that everyone in my family will love. That’s why I decided to name this blog Tofu con Sazón!