This green, herbaceous cooking base is one of the most essential ingredients in Puerto Rican cuisine. It is basically sofrito without the tomato sauce and so is an excellent substitute for any recipe calling for sofrito. They are so similar that some Puerto Ricans use the words as synonyms (see Sofrito Eggs). Recaíto contains culantro (AKA recao), a piquant relative of cilantro, which is scarcely found outside of Latin and Asian markets. If you can’t find it locally, substitute with an equal amount of cilantro. This recipe has amazing flexibility. In addition to the culantro swap, the peppers can be substituted with the more common green bell pepper variety – though the batch will taste a bit less peppery. I’ve also made this recipe at times with a little less onion or a little more garlic. As long as it contains the four main components – peppers, herbs (cilantro/culantro), onion, and garlic – it can be adjusted to suit what’s on hand and still turn out just fine.
1 pound mini sweet peppers
1/2 pound Cubanelle peppers (about 2 medium)
1/4 pound culantro (about 2 bunches)
1/4 pound cilantro (about 1 bunch)
1/2 pound onion (about 1 large)
3 ounces garlic (about 1 large bulb)
large (5-quart) colander
large capacity (9-cups or more) food processor
1. Rinse all peppers, culantro, and cilantro thoroughly.
2. Peel onion and garlic. Core peppers.
3. Rough chop peppers, culantro, cilantro, and onion.
4. Combine all ingredients in food processor – in batches, if necessary – and puree until blended into sauce.
NOTES & TIPS
• For long term storage, pour into a large (1-gallon) freezer-safe plastic bag, gently press flat, seal, and freeze. That way, it’s not necessary to defrost the whole batch before use – just break off frozen chunks as needed. For more precise measuring, pour 1 tablespoon into each cup of a lidded ice cube tray. (The intense aroma of recaíto will permeate other items in the freezer if tray is not covered.) It’s best to permanently designate a tray for this purpose, as all subsequent ice produced from that tray will taste like recaíto.