A former coworker of mine was Puerto Rican. Occasionally she’d bring in leftovers her mother had made. More than once we were treated to arroz con gandules (“rice with pigeon peas”). Of course I quizzed her about what was in in it and how it was made.
Rice and pigeon peas were involved, obviously, but it also included sofrito, chorizo, and olives. There may have been capers and ham in there too. Once, she even had her mom make a vegetarian version that used bell peppers instead of meat.
I promised myself I would make it for the blog someday. And, I finally got around to it, only a few years later. I won’t say it’s as good as the original, but it’s close.
- 1 medium green bell pepper
- 1/2 medium red bell pepper
- 1 small onion
- 1/2 head of garlic
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro (2 ounces)
- large pinch of sea salt
- Slice the peppers and onions into eighths. Trim the ends of the cilantro stems. Place everything in a food processor or blender and pulse until fairly smooth.
(Makes ~2 cups)
Arroz con Gandules
- 1/2 cup sofrito
- 1 medium red bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped manzanilla olives stuffed with pimento
- 1 15-ounce can gandules (pigeon peas), rinsed
- 2 cups long grain brown rice, rinsed
- 5 cups water
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- large pinch of sea salt
- olive oil
- Set a medium-large pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Film the bottom of the pot with oil. Add the sofrito (it will sputter). Fry 4-5 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the pot. Set the heat to high and bring to a boil. Allow to boil until the liquid is level with the rice, about 20 minutes. Stir well.
- Turn heat to low and cover. Cook another 20-30 minutes, until liquid is completely absorbed. Serve.
Sofrito is kind of like the Latin American version of mirepoix – it’s the starting point for numerous dishes. Different countries have slightly different versions. I tried to replicate a Puerto Rican version.
Unfortunately, the internet consensus of the ingredients you really need for Puerto Rican sofrito are culantro and aji dulces. Culantro is in fact a different herb from cilantro. Supposedly they have a similar taste but culantro has a stronger flavor. If you happen to find some, grab it. Since it’s more flavorful, you’ll need less than the amount of cilantro I used.
Aji dulces are small sweet peppers. I used red bell pepper in their place. If you find them, sub a few of them in for the red pepper. You’ll notice that the recipe makes 2 cups of sofrito but you only need 1/2 cup. It will keep in the fridge for a few days. Or freeze it, and you won’t have to bother the next time. (I froze mine in an ice cube tray for easy portioning.)
I do remember this coworker stressing the importance of rinsing the rice. You don’t want to see any starch. That ensures that the rice is not sticky and you have individual strands. I did not do the best job this time. (I also used brown jasmine, which is known for being sticky. Perhaps not the wisest choice.)
This is my entry in My Legume Love Affair, being hosted at Mharo Rajasthan’s Recipes this month. It’s also being shared in Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, the Hearth and Soul Hop, Whole Food Wednesday, Allergy Free Wednesdays, Full Plate Thursday, Wellness Weekends, and Allergy Friendly Friday.