Big Beautiful World 12 — Homemade Sofrito, Lewisburg, PA

It’s a big, beautiful world out there. Let’s stop trying to screw it up. 

I love my little town in central PA. The people are nice, the pace is easygoing, and there’s rolling hills and swathes of verdant farm land and majestic trees as far as the eye can see. We don’t have rush hour here but rather, rush minute (or on very bad days, rush 10 minutes). I live in a snug little brick cape house that looks out onto my neighbor’s farmlet. This town is a little bit of nirvana on the Susquehanna (credit to my sister for that one). But there is this: If you want to eat international cuisine, you’d better learn to cook it yourself.

Not that we don’t have restaurants. There’s a very good Thai restaurant in town, and another really good one about 25 miles away. Of course we have standard Chinese and Italian in town and one exceptional bistro, and some fast-food Mexican for the college kids, but most of the restaurants here are family diners or serve American-style pub fare. Some places are fancier than others, some favor one style of cooking over another, but at its heart this is a small town and if you want to eat anything outside the “norm” and not drive 45 minutes to do so, it requires being an inventive home cook.

Which is why I made sofrito. It’s a flavor base generally used in Caribbean cooking (Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, etc) that is goes into almost everything. Yesterday I used mine both in a stew and as a coating for roasted vegetables. Anyone with a Latina mama will probably tell me that I made mine wrong and their mom makes it better and that’s OK. It’s a highly personalized recipe that can vary from house to house, not just island to island. If you don’t dig the one I linked to just look up another one, since there are seemingly as many sofrito recipes as there are stars in the sky. Puerto Rican sofrito tends to be pepper-based and green, not tomato-based and red. It is pungent with herbs and onions and garlic, and when the sun hits it, it sparkles like gemstones.

It tastes pretty, too.

Make a big batch. It freezes well.

When you can cook, you can learn a little bit about the world around you from your kitchen. Bonus: you get to eat the educational materials at the end. Win-win situation! Enjoy.

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