Tag Archives: Puerto Rican recipes

Tostones de Panapén (Fried Breadfruit Disks)

16 Jul

When they talk about flakes of manna falling from the sky, I am sure they are talking about tostones de panapén.

Chunks browned lightly

Chunks browned lightly

Panapén or pana is what Puerto Ricans call breadfruit. The back story of how breadfruit got to the West Indies from South East Asia is actually one of the most famous seafaring tales around: The Mutiny on the Bounty.

The LeBron Brothers are the guys in the Plaza de Mercado de Mayagüez (where my great-grandfather had a booth in the early 1900s) who supply me with the good stuff, already peeled and pared!

The LeBron Brothers are the guys in the Plaza de Mercado de Mayagüez (where my great-grandfather brought his produce and my great-uncle had a booth in the early 1900s) who supply me with the good stuff, already peeled and pared!

Captain Bligh, on that ill-fated trip was trying to bring breadfruit to plant in the  Caribbean for cheap slave food.

Wikipedia image

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Make Your Party Puerto Rican: Ten Recipes for Great Island Food

24 May

Whether it’s Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Christmas, the following dishes – most of them quite easy to prepare and using ingredients available in regular supermarkets (especially those that carry Goya products) — are a medley of the best of Puerto Rican food. This is not a complete list, of course, but mix and match them up and you will have a big table of big, bold food that will introduce everyone to new flavor combinations without scaring them off!

Have a terrific weekend everyone! Buen provecho…..

1. Tostones – Our version of french fries…made with plantains. This is the authentic method with some secret steps!

Serve these as an appetizer, topped with sour cream and caviar (Thanks Patricia Wilson!), a garlic mojo, or in mayo-ketchup, as follows

Serve these as an appetizer, topped with sour cream and caviar (Thanks Patricia Wilson!), a garlic mojo, or in mayo-ketchup, as follows

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Arroz con Habichuelas Rosadas (Puerto Rican Rice and Beans – authentic/how to fake them)

15 Nov

Oh the sweet taste of victory!

My victory? My victory garden!

My little baby peppers

I managed to coax a couple of ajies (Capsicum chinense or sweet cooking peppers) from seeds that I saved from a pepper from my mom’s cousin’s kitchen garden in Mayaguez, to go with the recao (Eryngium foetidum or sawtooth coriander) that I grew from a seed packet from Puerto Rico. Next year I will be much more aggressive about how early I plant all my peppers, but for this year, the teeny-tiny-ness of my harvest does not diminish the absolute joy of it. Continue reading

Sopa de pollo y fideos (pre-Sandy Chicken Noodle Soup)

4 Nov

Thanks to all those who sent messages of support before, during and after the storm. You are reading the words of someone who feels incredibly blessed; aside from losing power for a few days and a big branch down in the backyard, we came through pretty well. I was even able to attend a teaching conference in Albany (the capital of NYS) which was not affected by the storm, and present successfully with my colleagues from Thursday to Saturday; we were among the few who made it from downstate.

Big tree down in the backyard

Please lend a thought or prayer to the many who have lost lives, or homes, or peace of mind, who are still without power as the temperature drops, or don’t have clean water  or food to eat.

I go back to teaching tomorrow. We already know of one student in our program who lost his life. I am praying for him and his family, as well as hoping that none of our other students were so fatally affected.  I have only heard from three out of my nineteen students and am very anxious for their well-being. We’ll now see how we can help. Our students are immigrants and international students; certainly we will have to help the boy’s family raise the funds to send his body home. Continue reading

Arroz con pollo clásico (Puerto Rican Chicken and Rice, traditional and epic)

21 Sep


Piled high in a platter and garnished with roasted red pepper and peas, this is a Puerto Rican classic!

Puerto Rican food is not as widely known as some other Caribbean cuisines (think Cuba and Jamaica), but when it comes to arroz con pollo — chicken and rice — you know what I am talking about. And I know I should have blogged this one for you a long time ago. Here, finally, is the one you’ve been waiting for.

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Pastelón de amarillos/plátano maduro (Puerto Rican lasagne, with ripe plantains!)

2 Apr

I have been ripening this recipe for weeks. No kidding.

I bought a bunch of plantains on sale (15 for $2) at a Caribbean grocery store three weeks ago, made tostones with some and then let the last 6 get black on my counter. Black, I tell you. Not just mottled yellow, but black and withered, while my son looked on with occasional science experiment interest, sort of a Peter Greenaway film of disintegration but not quite as exquisitely grotesque and not with the speedy convenience of time-lapse photography.

I find already ripened amarillos (yellow plantains)  in my regular white-people supermarket (I hate saying non-ethnic, because white people are ethnic too!), but Latin supermarkets are your safest bet.

Pastelón is the Puerto Rican answer to lasagne – or maybe shepherd’s pie – but sweeter, spicier, meatier – all around naughtier. If you love a dish that has balance while being excessive, this is the meal for you!

I had the Seasoned Ground Beef frozen in a pint container and so it was fast and easy — just added a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste while it simmered and piled everything together. Just so you know, Leandro took the top off and only ate the meaty insides; the sweet vs. meat thing is not for everyone. But it is definitely FOR ME.

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Puerto Rican Rice and Beans (Arroz con habichuelas)

26 Feb

I didn’t mean to make arroz con habichuelas last week, but when I dashed into a Latin supermarket for something else, I was stopped dead by the presence of something that looked pretty close to Puerto Rican pumpkin (or calabaza, as we call it). The Fates intervened with my dinner plans.

Native to the Americas, pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) has been an integral part of diets in this part of the world for thousands of years. The flesh and the seeds are used for many purposes. (in Mexico the crushed seeds are used to coat meats as you might use breadcrumbs). It is also one-third of the famed Three Sisters agricultural practice. Corn stalks make a trellis for beans, while pumpkin enjoys the shade underneath. Each plant supplies a nutrient to the soil that the other one needs, so the soil stays naturally healthy and fertile, while the produce provides invaluable nutrition to people. It just makes sense.

I have published this recipe before, but this time I include more substitutions if you don’t have a nearby source for Latin style ingredients. Check your “International foods” aisle for prepared sofrito – Goya has a wide reach and its sofrito is used by Caribbean Latin cooks all over, so you are in good company with this shortcut.

The new substitution of cooked ham steak for the salt pork reflects what I’ve been doing since I can’t find the kind of cooking pork I like. It is neat and tidy, fairly cheap, adds good flavor, and the extra can be frozen for another day (the cooked ham steaks are super-easy to chop fine or mince when frozen).

If you don’t find calabaza (and in fact the one that made me whip up this pot of beans was a Jamaican style and not quite what I like, but perfectly serviceable), acorn squash is my favorite substitute.

Note: With the leftovers I make quesadillas or nachos…yum. Also goes great with rotisserie chicken!

Don’t be put off by the number of ingredients; once you do the prep, you are almost done.


  1. 1lb calabaza caribeña (Caribbean pumpkin) OR 1 lb. acorn squash, washed, cut in half, seeds removed and cut into big chunks (you can cut the rind off before boiling or peel it off after). It should be boiled for 15 minutes, or until tender. Set aside and reserve ½ cup cooking liquid.
  2. ½ lb salt pork, diced (don’t discard the hard rind, just score the fat as best you can). You can also use ham steak – readily available in the supermarket (4 oz cooked ham is a worthy substitute)


(sofrito is the roux, the mirepoix, the basic saute seasoning of Puerto Rican cooking and is very difficult to reconstruct in the mainland U.S., which is why Goya makes a fortune selling it in jars. So if you can get most of the ingredients for sofrito at the local bodega/supermarket, then do this! –actually, quadruple or quintuple it and freeze it in ice cube trays for use later. Otherwise, buy commercial sofrito and use a couple of heaping tablespoons)

½ onion, minced (about ¾ Cup)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cubanelle (long green Italian cooking) pepper, seeded and diced

Five or six ajíes (non-spicy green peppers that look exactly like scotch bonnets/habaneros, but are not at all spicy! Taste them! They are hard to find but Latin supermarkets often have them), seeded and diced. Use another cubanelle – the redder the better — if you can’t get these.)

Five or six hojas de recao – culantro leaves- chopped. (Not to be confused with cilantro, these look like dandelion leaves without the curvy sides. They are hard to get, usually come from Costa Rica and their potency disappears quickly after cutting. I actually grow my own in the summer, which takes forever and yields very little in my part of the world. If you find them, use them as soon as you get them home! If you can’t find them, buy the sofrito WITH culantro)

3 Tbs tomato paste or Latin style tomato sauce/salsa de tomate (optional)

1 Tbs dried oregano (2 Tbs fresh)

2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

  1. two 15-oz cans pink beans (habichuelas rosadas), rinsed and drained


While you are boiling the calabaza, heat the pork in a heavy pot. Cook it through and remove the scored rind. Leave the diced meat. Add a bit of olive oil, if necessary, then sauté the sofrito ingredients until tender, adding optional tomato at the end. Add beans. Add cooked calabaza and the reserved liquid. Cook for 15 minutes and serve on white or brown rice.

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