Salad days

With Spring almost over and Summer staring me right in the face and its heat chasing me around Houston, I’ve had no choice but to start thinking about lighter, cooler meals. I’m also supposed to be making an effort to eat healthier, which is always a battle for me, but I’m trying–get off my back already!

So, since I’m not the biggest salad fan, I have to find ways to get them in, but they have to be interesting. That’s how this one came about. For some reason I found thoughts of sofrito running around my head; I guess that’s not so unusual, since that is the base to almost every Latin/Caribbean dish. Onions, bell peppers, garlic,¬† tomatoes,¬†culantro and sometimes carrots –standards in most sofritos. Then the lightbulb moment happened: I bet that would make for a good salad! Add some cheese, a vinaigrette, oooooh roast the veggies…YUM!

And so it happened. And, let me tell you. Oh.eM.Gee! This turned out so amazingly delicious! I roasted everything in the oven for a few minutes to bring out the natural sweetness of the ingredients and to tame the zing of the onion and garlic. You can opt to use them fresh, uncooked, but I do hope you take a few minutes to roast them, because, well, its just heavenly. No real recipe here, just a bit of this and that. Make it! Do it today!

Roasted Sofrito Salad

Sweet or red onion
Red & orange bell peppers
Garlic, whole
Baby carrots

I sliced the onion and peppers into 1/4-in or so pieces, not too big, not too small. Left the garlic and baby carrots whole. If you go for regular-sized carrots, then cut them into sticks. You want the veggies to still have a bite to them after roasting.

I threw it all onto¬†a lined baking sheet, drizzled about 1-2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of salt & pepper and popped it all under the broiler. I tossed the veggies around after 5 minutes or so, when they starting caramelizing, I didn’t want them to burn. 10 minutes was enough. Allow them to cool, while you work on the vinaigrette.

Culantro Vinaigrette
Culantro/cilantro, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
White wine vinegar
Salt & fresh black pepper
Blend the culantro into the oil to puree. Remove from blender, add vinegar, then slowly drizzle in the culantro oil until creamy. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Iceberg lettuce wedges, very cold
Tomatoes, wedges
Culantro vinaigrette
Queso Cotija or Fresco

Combine the roasted veggies with the lettuce, add tomato wedges and dress with the vinaigrette. Serve with crumbled Cotija or Queso Fresco. Ay, que rico!

Freshly yours,


I’ll tell you, but you may come up missing.

This is one of those dishes.¬†You know the type. So very¬†basic, so unpretentious and so incredibly¬†delicious. This is what my mom would call ‘chicken in a hurry’.

Linz, the hubby, loves it and always asks me how I make it, what goes in it. I like to tell him it’s my Secret Panamanian Chicken. I¬†finally had to admit to him that it was so easy, it sounded more impressive if I shrouded it in mystery. There isn’t a single fancy ingredient here. You have chicken, onions and peppers, a bit of tomato. That’s it.

This one incorporates sofrito, which is then just simmered into sublime heavenliness with some beer or wine. I will share with you, but make sure you lock your doors while reading, my special boogy men may come get you.

Mi Pollo Guisado (My Stewed Chicken)
8 chicken thighs, rinsed
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic, crushed (2 cloves)
1 tsp Jugo Maggi (or Worcestershire)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cps Sofrito
1 tsp habanero paste
1.5 cps beer or white wine
3 tbsp ketchup

Season the thighs with the salt, garlic, Jugo Maggi and pepper. Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pan and add the oil. Brown the chicken on both sides, remove from the heat and set aside.

Discard the excess oil and add the sofrito, scraping the bits that are stuck at the bottom of the pan.

Add the habanero paste, beer and ketchup. Stir it all in, making sure it is evenly incorporated before putting the chicken pieces back in. Allow it to simmer tightly covered for 35 minutes. Remove the lid and allow it to cook down for another 10 minutes. 

Serve with rice or patacones.

Variation:¬†Last time I made this, I didn’t have beer around. I added 1.5 tbsp balsamic vinegar after putting the sofrito in and used 1 cp wine.

Chef School – Lesson 1

It seems only appropriate that my first chef technique or tip is based on Latin cooking. This is the backbone of almost every Latin American sauce, casserole, stew, in reality, of  most dishes. You will come across slight variations in the ingredients depending on the country. Cubans add cumin, bay leaves and oregano, while Dominicans may add achiote (annatto seeds). In Puerto Rico, you may find they add capers and olives.

I’m talking about Sofrito and I’m¬†going to tell you how we make it in Panama. As I mentioned, it is a great base for tomato-based sauces, casseroles and complex rice dishes. I use it for beans too. It’s uses are endless. Here we go.

3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (I prefer red, but green works too)
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 culantro leaves (or 1/2 cp cilantro), chopped
1/4 cp Italian parsley, chopped
1 tsp habanero paste (or 1 chili)
1/2 cp white wine

Heat the oil in a medium saute pan and add the onions.

Sweat the onions and peppers

Sweat them for about 3 minutes, then add the bell pepper and garlic–cook until all vegetables have softened.

Now add the tomatoes, culantro, parsley and habanero sauce, finally add the wine. Lower temperature to medium low and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. All the vegetables will begin to disintegrate and it will all look like a paste.

and, that's it

You’re done, add to your favorite dish. I use it as the base for stewed chicken, to top fish fillets and loads more.