Gia was born in FL to Puerto Rican parents. She's reconnecting with the foods of her childhood with the help of classic handwritten recipes.
What Is Recaíto?
Recaíto is a Puerto Rican type of sofrito and is an essential ingredient when preparing meals. I have tried store-bought versions, but I've found the flavor to lack the freshness of a homemade version. With this recipe, you can easily make your own.
Recaíto Is Unique to the Person Who Makes It
Recaíto has many variations amongst people because so much of Puerto Rican culture has been passed down through storytelling. Cooking is also a deeply personal process that (in my opinion) evolves throughout a person's life. We modify recipes to suit our tastes and cook what's available from vendors near us. As we do this, we teach the next generation what we prefer and what we've learned so they can take that information and continue embracing family traditions.
My Mother's Recipe
My mother taught me her way of preparing this essential component of our meals, and there are still so many questions I wish I could ask her. For instance, I know she traditionally used ají dulce, a type of small sweet pepper with no spiciness, when making her recaíto—but I can't remember how many she used. In the past, she often had trouble finding them here in Florida, but they're available locally now. She also used culantro, cilantro's tropical cousin, but never specified how much. I use it when I can find it at the store since it's not always available.
Don’t bother with these if you can help it.
My Experience With Store-Bought Recaíto
I ran out of my homemade recaíto and thought I would try the one from the store in a jar. I ended up hating it and throwing away the dish I'd made. The food came out way too salty because it already contained salt as well as MSG, and I'm used to using my own recipe made only from fresh vegetables. I prefer to control the amount of salt when I cook, so the majority of my ingredients are "no salt added" if I can find them (I'm looking at YOU, tomato sauce and chicken broth).
To be fair, I have seen a frozen version from Goya in the grocery store in the "international" section. According to their website, it's been sautéd and contains olive oil. I don't care for that personally because I'm very picky about my olive oil and I prefer to sauté my recaíto myself but I've never tried it. Since it may be a viable option for people needing a shortcut for any number of reasons, I decided to mention it here. Here are links to the ingredients of the Goya recaíto in the jar and frozen versions.
- 4 large green bell peppers
- 4 large Spanish onions
- 3 heads garlic, peeled
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 package culantro (optional)
- Ají dulce peppers (optional)
Additional Information About Ingredients
- When preparing the green bell peppers, remove the stems, pith, and seeds.
- Do not use a sweet variety of onion such as Vidalia.
- Make sure to pick the freshest cilantro you can find, with no blackening leaves.
- For the garlic, peeling them means making sure the paper, core, and roots are removed. Using one bag or jar of fresh whole peeled garlic cloves is fine if you're pressed for time or have trouble peeling them due to mobility issues.
- If culantro is unavailable in your area, just buy an extra bunch of cilantro.
- If ají dulce peppers are available in your area, go ahead and remove the pith and seeds and add them to taste. Otherwise, remove the pith and seeds and mince them to add them into meals individually rather than having them in the recaíto.
Note: I keep a large mixing bowl available to pour the entire mixture into since it won't all fit in the blender. When everything is added in, I use a bowl scraper and ladle to make sure all the components of the recaíto are thoroughly mixed together.
- Peel the garlic and onions and rinse all of your vegetables so you're ready to go.
- Remove the stems, pith, and seeds of the bell peppers and add them into the blender in 1-2 inch sized chunks. Start the blender and get them liquified so it will be easier to blend the other ingredients. If you can get the ají dulce peppers, remove the pith and seeds and add them in.
- As you remove some of the blended ingredients to add more in, make sure there is enough of the mixture to cover the blades of the blender so it can work effectively. Ingredients with more water content such as the peppers and onions should go in first to create enough liquid to properly blend the other ingredients.
- Cut each onion in half and remove the root core at the bottom of each one. Quarter each half before tossing into the blender to make it easier to process. Yes, your eyes will burn like the hellfire of a thousand suns, but the flavor will be worth it.
- Rinse the cilantro and blend it all, stems included. Do the same with the bundle of culantro leaves if you can get them. If there's enough liquid in the blender it will blend in just fine. Be patient, or get a better blender than the one I have. It has an all-metal drive but it's super old.
- When the greens are done blending and there's more room in the blender throw in all the peeled garlic cloves and blend it all smooth.
Once everything is thoroughly combined in the large bowl so it's all a uniform green, you're ready to store your recaíto and make amazing meals with it. ¡Buen provecho!
How to Keep Recaíto Fresh Long-Term
Although I've never had a problem keeping a large container in the fridge for a month or two, I know people get nervous about their food spoiling. That's a valid concern if you're not going to be using it on a daily basis. Many people like to portion their recaíto into ice cube trays so they can have individual portions available to toss into a pot or Caldero for meals. When this is done, the recaíto will expand in the ice cube trays so they can't be over-filled. Once it's all frozen solid, the cubes need to be stored in the freezer in a freezer bag to prevent freezer burn on the cubes. While it's not my preferred method of storing recaíto, it's ideal for those that don't use it often enough to keep it in the fridge rather than the freezer.
Small containers are a good alternative to the ice cube tray method.
© 2020 Gia Medina