I had this post almost typed up and for some reason WordPress thought it would be funny not to save it. Quite frankly, and being honest with myself, that isn’t such a bad thing – it was a little dry. Lets see if it, like everything else, is better the second time around..
Sofrito is a very slow cooked mixture of finely chopped tomatoes, onions and garlic. This all gets slowly cooked in olive oil until reduced, caramelized and very flavorful. Bell peppers are often added in to the mix as well – but a classic sofrito is just those aromatics mentioned above.
The last time I did a sofrito was about this time a year ago and it took for bloody ever. The whole deal took about 5 hours – course most of that was cooking and drinking time, which is never all that bad – but it took a while. Typically sofrito is used as a rich flavoring component, and not something featured on its own. Last year I used it in a halibut and bean recipe, which was one of my more favorite things I have ever cooked. Honestly, that is most likely because of the sofrito, and after cooking it for so long I was sure as heck gonna enjoy it.
So once again fate happened, and I ended up with a bunch of tomatoes and bell peppers, wondering what to do with them. I thought of sofrito again – the first time in a while. Then I hit myself in the head with a pan, just for thinking of a building block that takes ages to make given my hectic schedule. Now, I never like to let a pan get the better of me, so I started thinking of sofrito again – this time out in the garden, away from anything I could bludgeon myself with.
My thought this time was to treat sofrito as a main dish, rather than a flavoring component, or side. This really bowed well with my thoughts on vegetable cooking – “use the best seasonal veg you can, keep it simple, highlight the vegetables flavor – don’t mask it”. What I thought this time was slow roasting the vegetables separately, in large pieces until richly caramelized and stocked full of flavor. Instead of diced yellow onion I favor whole shallots in this recipe – their size works out much better. I am sure something like cippolini onions would work great too – those can caramelize wonderfully. Tomatoes – use some good ones, you know ones from your yard or the farmers market.
Bell peppers are a little non traditional in sofrito, but I really like them in there. For simplicity I charred a few of them under the broiler, and then removed the skins and tore up the flesh into large roughly shaped pieces to go in to the sofrito dish.
For the garlic component I wanted something subtle. So, I made a garlic confit. Really that is just a poncy way of saying “cooked a shit load of garlic in a shit load of oil, for a while”. Well, a while is maybe a little strong – 30 minutes did the trick over a low temperature. The garlic cloves I saved for another use, but used the garlic flavored olive oil from the confit as a dressing for the vegetables. If you want more garlic flavor feel free to toss in some of the garlic cloves too (those make great additions to sauces and pasta dishes too BTW).
The roasted tomatoes, shallots, peppers all get tossed with the garlic oil. Then a splash of sherry vinegar goes in to the mix. Top it all with a good piment d’espelette and some salt, and you are well on your way to something extremely tasty. Oh, a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley will liven things up a good deal too.
Personally I like to eat this just by itself, with some good bread to mop up the juices. Just with the original sofrito mix, this would go fabulously with either eggs or sausage – or both.
Modern rustic Sofrito recipe
NOTE: everything can get cooked a couple of days ahead of time, and then combined together before serving.
(serves 2 or so)
2 bell peppers – red or green (or one of both)
6 cloves of garlic
olive oil – about 1 cup for the confit, more for cooking the veg
sea salt to taste
pinch of piment d’espelette
small handful of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1) turn your oven to 325F
2) Cut the tomatoes in half. Toss in a little olive oil. Lay out on a baking sheet.
3) Peel the shallots, toss in a little oil too, and place those on the baking sheet as well.
4) Sprinkle the tomatoes and shallots with salt, and roast for about 1.5 hours until deeply colored. You might need to turn the shallots every 30 minutes to give even browning. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
5) Cut the bell peppers in half, scoop out the core and seeds. Toss with some oil. Lay these on a baking sheet, skin side up. Put these under a hot broiler until the skin is blistering and burnt in a few places.
6) Carefully put the peppers in a glass bowl, and cover this with plastic wrap. Let them steam for at least 15 minutes. Remove one at a time and peel the skin off. Repeat with all the peppers.
7) Peel the garlic cloves, and put in a small saucepan, and cover with oil. Personally I just use my 1 cup metal measuring thing. Works a charm. Simmer over a very low heat for about 45 minutes, until the garlic is soft and the oil is flavored.
Into a large bowl put the roasted tomatoes. Tear the peppers into large pieces, and add to the bowl. Cut the shallots in half (or if large quarters) and add to the bowl as well. In goes a good pinch of decent sea salt. Dress with enough of the garlic infused oil to coat nicely, and a splash of sherry vinegar. Add enough chopped parsley to look pretty.
9) Serve on to two plates or small bowls, sprinkle with a little piment d’espelette and serve.