We used freshly-made recaito with culantro and a variety of familiar, pungent spices as the sazon, or seasoning, in this traditional Puerto Rican dish. You can substitute 2 packets of Sazon GOYA with Coriander and Annatto for the spices if you'd like. (This product can be found in the ethnic section of most large supermarkets or at Hispanic markets.) Also, if you can't find fresh or canned pigeon peas, look for dried and cook ½ cup dried beans in 2 cups of water for 1 hour, at a slow simmer. When adding the cooked peas to the dish, add ½ cup of water along with it.
Yield: 5 main-dish servings
- 4 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup cubed ham
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
- ½ cup fresh, frozen, or jarred recaito
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
- 15 oz canned or fresh green pigeon peas, undrained (or ¼ cup water added to fresh)
- 2 cups medium-grain rice
- 1 cup water
- 2 cup broth (chicken, vegetable, or beef)
- ½ cup olives stuffed with pimientos, sliced (optional)
- Fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
- Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ham, and cook until ham begins to turn brown.
- Reduce heat to medium; add onion, garlic, and green pepper, and cook until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.
- Add recaito and next 8 ingredients; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add tomato sauce and peas; bring mixture to a boil.
- Add rice, water, and broth, stirring well. Return mixture to a boil; cover tightly, reduce heat to low, and simmer 25 minutes. Do not remove lid during cook time.
- Remove from heat. Gently fluff rice mixture with a fork. Cover, and let stand 5 minutes.
- To serve, spoon rice mixture onto serving plates, and garnish with sliced olives and fresh cilantro leaves, if desired.
Featured Ingredient: Culantro
Culantro, an herb native to Mexico, Central, and South America, has a strong, aromatic scent that fills the air when you brush up against it. Although typically used in small amounts, its very strong flavor is used as a seasoning in a wide range of foods, including meats, vegetables, and chutneys. While culantro and cilantro look very different, the leaf aromas are similar. This easy-to-grow herb has many culinary uses in Caribbean, Latin American, and Asian cuisine. Learn how to grow your own culantro.