Citrus-Stewed Beans

No one would believe mom is Russian if they’ve tasted her pernil with a side of rice and beans. Seriously. And while I don’t eat pernil these days, I’m perfectly fine with having a bowl of these beans all on their own, or with rice! Or bread.

Mom told me she learned to stew them from her best friend’s mother as a teen. Tomato broth, with potatoes and olives, smoked, salty meat, and tons of fresh cilantro is where her recipe begins, but does not have to end. Sometimes you’ll see sliced carrots in there, too. Or maybe even peppers. There’s a nod to Autumn in this recipe by using the honey nut squash for sweetness. It’s hearty and the recipe doesn’t require that it needs to be. I love that most about it. As long as you have a can of beans, organic Sazon, and tomato puree, you can totally improvise based on what you have around your kitchen. No fuss, EVER. Do you always store sofrito in your fridge? Use some of that, too.

My approach to mom’s beans is always based on the season and what’s in season. The addition of orange zest is not something mom would use, but I happen to be obsessed with cooking with oranges. When flavors of citrus, smokiness, and spiciness meet–it surprises you in an eyebrows-up kind of way. While smoked or cured meat is always involved in her recipe, I’ve added smoked tofu instead.

Now, let’s get cooking! 

Citrus-Stewed Beans

A flexible, hearty recipe
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Puerto Rican
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • olive oil to coat pan
  • 1/2 cup smoked meat or tofu
  • 2-3 long strips of orange zest
  • 2 tsp organic Sazon
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 1/3 cup Spanish onion diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 jalapeño diced (optional)
  • 1 tbsp capers or handful of Spanish olives
  • 1 1/2 cup honeynut squash or other veggies diced
  • 15 oz can of cannellini beans or other variety
  • 8 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 1/4 cup water or stock or more
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Cilantro to taste

Instructions
 

  • In a medium pot under low-medium heat, add your smoked meat, orange zest, garlic, onion, jalapeno, capers, sazon, and herbs. Saute for a few minutes, til onions are translucent.
  • Add beans, tossing til everything is combined.
  • Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. 
  • Then add your honeynut squash and any more liquid if necessary. Simmer til tender, about 15-20 minutes. Discard orange zest and woody herbs.
  • Serve with rice or bread.
Keyword Beans, Comfort Food, Quick, Stew

sancocho matzo ball soup

sancocho matzo ball soup

The two ultimate comfort soups from both my worlds have come together to hug the heck out of me.

Developing this recipe was nothing short of WOW. “Wow” was the only sound I heard on the holiday table during Rosh Hashanah when sazón-seasoned matzo balls were ladled into piping hot bowls of sancocho, a hearty soup (sometimes stew) of meat and veggies from the Caribbean. Following my mom’s recipe but needing to cut down on some of the root vegetables to make space for the matzo balls, I’d say this is close enough to hers, which always has had a combination of oxtails and chicken. You can always play around with the proteins and veggies, but if mom doesn’t see yucca, pumpkin, sweet plantain and corn – then Imma get an earful. She has also added, when available, chayote and white yautia roots.

Feel free to use your favorite matzo ball recipe (and hey, add in some sazón and cilantro while you’re at it).

If using sofrito, I have a recipe for it here: mom’s small batch sofrito.

Sancocho Matzo Ball Soup

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine Caribbean, Fusion, Jewish, Puerto Rican
Servings 8 or 10 people

Ingredients
  

for the soup

  • 1.5-2 lb oxtails (or beef, short ribs) seasoned with salt
  • 3 tbsp sofrito optional
  • 1/2 of a whole chicken bone-in
  • 1 head of garlic the top cut off to reveal cloves
  • 1/2 of a small Spanish onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 sprigs of thyme optional
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 12 cup water or beef broth
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 1 cup squash or pumpkin cut into chunks
  • 1 ear of corn cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large yucca cut into chunks
  • 1 semi-sweet plantain sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large potato or yam cut into chunks

for the matzo balls (makes about 12 medium)

  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 3 tbsp schmaltz or from oxtail
  • 1 cup hot broth (from soup)
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 2 tspn sazón Organic, not Goya
  • 1/4 cup cilantro finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

for the sancocho

  • Brown the oxtails for a few minutes on both sides. Add in the celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, sofrito if using. Continue to fry for about a minute then add in chicken, and water/broth. Bring to a light simmer, not to a boil.
  • Skim often, then reserve 3 TBSP of the chicken and oxtail's oil that sits on top of the broth. Use this for the matzo meal if you do not have chicken schmaltz.
  • After about an hour and half, discard the onion, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Set the chicken aside. When cool enough to handle, shred for serving.
  • Add in the yucca and carrots and cook for 30 minutes before adding in the rest of the vegetables. Simmer for about 15 minutes more.

for the matzo balls

  • In a medium bowl, add the matzo meal, schmaltz, hot broth, and seasonings. Mix them together and allow it to cool down slightly before stirring in the eggs and cilantro. Once thoroughly combined, allow it to sit for 30 minutes.
  • With wet hands, gently form the matzo balls and slip them into a pot of boiling water that was generously salted. Cook for about 10 minutes. Serve in a bowl of sancocho.

Notes

Make sure the oxtails you get have less fat on them than meat. You’ll be spooning fat out of the pot for days!
 
Keyword Comfort Food, Hearty Soup, Matzo Balls, Sazon, Sofrito
Sancocho Matzo Ball Soup by @cookonyournerve

sofrito pirozkhi

sofrito pirozkhi Jump to Recipe

My favorite Russian pirozhki couldn’t be more simple. I take a whole onion, couple of garlic cloves, a handful of dill, and blend them together til they reach a puréed consistency. I simmer ground beef with a bay leaf, the onion and dill mixture, generously adding salt and pepper. That’s it. That’s the flavor of them I recall from my grandmother’s kitchen. It didn’t take long for me to make the sofrito connection, which has the onion and garlic, but also sweet peppers, cilantro instead of dill, and spices. Grab the recipe for mom’s small batch sofrito and make these fluffy baked buns.

I was thinking about making a full-on pastelillo filling, but decided on the Russian’s less-is-more seasoned beef. But by all means, add some chopped pimiento-stuffed olives, small diced potato, raisins, more tomato paste or sauce, etc! You’ll just need less meat than this recipe calls for.

You may also fry them in batches, which is the only way I enjoyed them at Brighton Beach many moons ago, with the most fantastic oil dripping onto my bathing suit. Pero, nothing wrong with baked, either. Less standing by the pan, less oil-burns, less oil.

Note: this dough can be used for many other fillings, both savory and sweet. It can also be doubled (no need to double the yeast, just everything else). I’ll have dessert options posted soon. And meatless options!

Sofrito Pirozkhi

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Proofing Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 15 mins
Course Appetizer, Bread, Main Course
Cuisine Caribbean, Fusion, Puerto Rican, Russian
Servings 10 buns

Ingredients
  

milk and yeast dough

  • 1/4 oz active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup whole milk lukewarm
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar or honey
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter softened
  • 2 egg yolks room temp
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cups AP flour sifted
  • 1 egg lightly whisked, for egg wash

ground beef filling

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 cup sofrito see recipe link in intro
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tbsp sazón organic, not Goya
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 cup water
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup cilantro chopped

Instructions
 

ground beef filling

  • In a deep pan, heat olive oil. Add your beef, breaking it up with a slotted spoon while adding in your spices.
  • Move some of the browned beef aside so that a little of the oil pools to the corner. Directly into the oil, stir in the tomato paste and allow it to caramelize for a minute or so before mixing it into the beef. This will enhance the flavor.
  • Stir in sofrito. After a few minutes, pour in the water and let it simmer til most of the liquid evaporates, occasionally giving it a stir.
  • Add in the cilantro and let the meat cool to room temp before using.

yeasted dough

  • In a small bowl, sift your flour along with the salt and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, gently whisk together your milk, sugar, dry yeast and let stand for 10-15 minutes, or until very active.
  • Whisk in the butter and egg yolks, then slowly add in your flour, kneading as you go along for about 10 minutes. The dough is so supple and soft within a couple of minutes but I like to continue kneading for good measure.
  • Cover the bowl and allow it to double in size, about 2 hours.
  • Divide the dough into 2 oz pieces, about 8-10. Roll each into a disc and add 2-2 1/2 tbsp of the filling. Pinch the discs closed. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place the buns seam-side down next to each other, giving them a tiny bit of room between each other.
  • Cover them with a clean tea towel and let them prove for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Brush the beaten egg on each and bake for 20-30 minutes, til they've browned.
Keyword Baked, Dough, Sazon, Snack, Sofrito

stewed pigeon peas (gandules guisados) with fried mushrooms

stewed pigeon peas (gandules guisados) with fried mushrooms

A recipe developed for Loisa using their organic spices. These stewed pigeon peas (gandules guisados) have butternut squash, and mushrooms that were first browned in a cast iron, spiced with sazón. I am pretty much addicted to these mushrooms and would not be mad atcha if you chose to just make them alone. Something tells […]

Mom’s Small Batch Sofrito

Mom’s Small Batch Sofrito

Since I have several recipes that include heaping tablespoons of sofrito as a base seasoning, I thought it best to direct you to the recipe!