Monday, August 24, 2009

Puerto Rico, my heart's devotion...Part One

Before I'd ever heard of West Side story or happened upon this scene-wherein Rita Moreno blurts this post's title in full-on sarcastic saccharinity, I knew I loved Puerto Rico. If I am to be honest, this love began with Puerto Rican boys, the Ortiz brothers, if I am to be unabashedly shameless!

Growing up in
NYC; the melange of beautiful people, languages and customs, ensures you will not escape culturally unenriched. A friend said to me just last week, "Meek, you're the only Black girl I know who knows more Spanish than Spanish people." To which I replied, "You should hear my Greek and French!"

This week, with my Favorite Guy home for a few extra days, I decided to schedule the trial run of veganized pasteles. Pasteles are a traditional Puerto Rican cuisine served at Christmas. The recipe consists of two main components; the masa or dough comprised of pureed root vegetables, green bananas and green plantains (pumpkin or calabazas is also used by some) and the filling, which is traditionally a strained guisadas (stew) of pork butt or shoulder. However, as animals are our friends, I've gone with marinated firm tofu cubes and chick peas combo in a rich tomato base. And of course, before all of this happens, you must whip up a batch of sofrito, no-I mean, no Puerto Rican dish is complete without sofrito.

The most beautiful head of garlic ever and a bright bushel of fresh cilantro

Sofrito with bits of soy bacon for smoky flavor

Grated yucca for the masa (dough)

The finished masa: salted green bananas, plantains, a Russet potato and yucca

Only one downside, we have far fewer willing preparation participants than a traditional Puerto Rican family holiday gathering, so this experience will be continued...

Peace, roots and culture


Mequet said...

So, pasteles are Puerto Rican tamales? Dude, I so know the feeling. At Christmas, we make them with my dad and even though we usually have a minimum of 6 people, it takes us at LEAST 3 hours just to put them all together. We generally make about 15-20 dozen each time. The assembly line consists of masa spreaders, meat-putter-inners and tamale-rollers. The prep process is INSANE. My dad has to stew down a pork butt with all kind of spices and whatnot, use the broth plus lard (yes, actual lard) melted with chili powder to mix the masa with, separate, wash, and soak the corn husks... All of that BEFORE the putting together process. AND, it takes an hour to steam each batch (each steamer batch is usually about 3 dozen). I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Also, ew. The word verification is *inces*.

Kathy said...

I love to eat buy I hate to cook. Man that looks like a lot of work. You can come cook for me any time though!

Renée aka Mekhismom said...

Can you please start posting the recipes? My mouth is watering with the idea of eating veggie pastales!

Jhon said...

WOW!.... Thats wonderful recipe, I love it...
thanks for posting....

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fly tie said...


"which is traditionally a strained guisadas (stew) of pork butt or shoulder. However, as animals are our friends..."

that cracked me up for some reason. yes they are. :-)

i'm a major fan of spanish cuisine but don't believe i've had puerto rican. i know for sure that i've never cooked it at home, so i shall be making an attempt at this...

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