What We’re Cooking This Week: White Beans With Puerto Rican Sofrito

This mix of onion, garlic, peppers and herbs is often blended in larger batches that can flavor several meals.

White Beans and Sofrito Photo by Jim Dixon.

Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.

I learned about Puerto Rican sofrito from food writer Alicia Kennedy. The former New Yorker moved to the island after she fell in love with a Puertorriqueño, and her mostly vegan cooking evolved to make the best of the local culture. And in America’s oft-neglected Caribbean territory, that means sofrito.

From the Spanish verb “sofreír,” or “to fry,” sofrito once referred to onions gently cooked in oil, usually as the first step in building flavor for a stew. But cooks added other aromatic vegetables like carrot, celery, or garlic—and after New World ingredients such as tomatoes and peppers crossed the ocean—they went into sofrito, too. Ingredient availability, taste preferences, and regional traditions make a hard-and-fast definition of sofrito impossible, but as Kennedy has written, “sofrito should be made with the heart.”

Kennedy has also written a just-published book, No Meat Required, that examines the history and baggage of what we now call plant-based eating. She’s not trying to convert meat eaters, but rather examine why not eating meat, or at least so much of it, will be even more important to how we farm, cook and consume as the climate continues to change.

While her book doesn’t include recipes, it is about food, and it’s dedicated to Kennedy’s grandmother who, she says, taught her “how to eat.” Those lessons led her to cooking, and her newsletter subscribers often get recipes along with her essays and interviews. That’s where I found Puerto Rican sofrito, a mix of onion, garlic, peppers and herbs that’s typically blended in larger batches that can flavor several meals.

In the spirit of Kennedy’s book, I cooked a pot of white beans (called habichuelas blanca in Puerto Rico) and added them to a pan of quickly cooked cherry tomatoes flavored with my version of sofrito. It’s simple, tasty, and there’s no meat required.

White Beans with Puerto Rican Sofrito

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups cooked white beans

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes

1 small onion

4 cloves garlic

1 Anaheim or Cubanelle pepper

3 mini sweet peppers (or 1 red bell pepper)

1 bunch cilantro

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon kosher-style sea salt

Make the sofrito by cutting the onion, garlic, peppers and cilantro into pieces that fit into a blender or food processor (or just chop everything as fine as possible). Add the salt and a tablespoon or so of the oil and blend until smooth. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Heat the rest of the oil in a large skillet, add the tomatoes and cook until they split open (use a spoon to smash the holdouts). Add about 2 tablespoons of the sofrito and cook for another few minutes. Add the beans, reduce the heat, and cook for about 5 more minutes. Taste and add salt if needed; eat warm or at room temperature.

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