Cuban beans & rice burgers, and cuban sofrito

Sofrito – cuban style

Aww, man, I’m having trouble writing this post! I was going to keep it simple and brief, and that is still my intention! But I can’t even get started. I keep wandering around, watching Malcolm dismantle the kitchen shelves. (In theory, I’m reorganizing the shelves under the counter to make a home for my new food processor. In practice, Malcolm is spreading pots, pans and dishes all over the kitchen floor). This post feels significant, somehow. It feels like an ur-Ordinary post. It covers Ordinary themes and motifs. I feel like I’ve been assigned an essay on how this meal exemplifies various qualities we go on and on about here at The Ordinary. What are those themes? I hear you asking. And will they be on the test? Yes! It’s all on the test, all of it! First of all, we have sofrito. Sofrito was one of the first things I wrote about, nearly a year ago, in its Spanish form, which is tomatoes cooked very slowly till they’re an intensely delicious paste. I first discovered sofrito, in any form, because of Mongo Santamaria’s brilliant song of the same name, which is one of the first songs I posted. Sofrito fascinated me, at the time, because it’s one of those foods (here comes a theme, take this down in your notes!) that appears all over the world in different forms. It travelled with imperialism and colonialism – people brought the recipe with them from home, and then it changed over time, to become new and distinct and definitive of their new home. Second of all, we ate cuban beans and rice two nights in a row, once as, well, beans and rice, and once as beans-and-rice burgers. Repurposing leftovers is a thing we do. We do it all the time! We even invented a scheme to define it! What were the other themes? I can’t remember! because Malcolm is banging pots and pans around my head and singing “let’s go to the creek creek creek.”

Okay, back to simple and brief. We got some green and purple peppers from the CSA. I don’t love green peppers. I’m sorry, but there it is. I like red peppers! Especially roasted. I was searching my mind for a way to “use up” the green peppers, and I thought of the radio dj describing sofrito, after playing the mongo santamaria song, a year ago. It sounded good. I read some descriptions of it, and I decided to have a go at making it. Obviously it’s not officially cuban, it’s my odd version of cuban sofrito. But it’s very tasty! A relish, almost. And then I just went crazy with a cuban-themed meal. I decided to make black beans and rice, with a cuban sort of flavoring, and I made crispy smoky tofu to take the place of ham. So that’s what we did. The boys loved the tofu, as I’ve described. And David and I loved the burgers we made the next day with the leftover beans and rice. Amazingly flavorful, and a with nice texture. I didn’t try grilling them because of a big dinner-time thunderstorm, but they worked well pan-fried in olive oil.

Cuban beans & rice burger

Here’s Mongo Santamaria’s Sofrito. I know I’ve posted it before, but, remarkably, it’s been nearly a year!


1 onion or large shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 t oregano
1 t cumin
1/2 t paprika
2 t brown sugar
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, diced very fine
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1/2 cup white wine
1 t sherry vinegar
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, cleaned and chopped
salt & pepper

Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion or shallot, and cook for a few minutes till it’s transparent. Add the garlic, oregano and bay leaves. Cook till the garlic starts to brown. Add the jalapeno, brown sugar and wine. Cook till the wine is thick and syrupy. Add the beans and tomatoes, the paprika and cumin. Cook till it’s thickened and warmed through. Add the cilantro, vinegar, salt and pepper, and serve over basmati rice, with crispy smoky tofu, if you like.

Basmati rice, to serve with it.


2 cups black beans, prepared as above (bay leaves removed)
2 cups basmati rice (cooked)
2 slices whole wheat bread, ground
an extra shake of cumin and smoked paprika
1 egg

Process everything together in your food processor, or just mix well with a spoon if you like your burgers chunky.

Form into patties and fry in olive oil in a large skillet, till brown on both sides and quite warm in the middle. Add cheese, if you like. Serve with slices of avocado and tomato, if you like, and with spicy smoky sauce.


1 onion or shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, minced
2 bay leaves
1 t oregano
1 t cumin
2 green (or purple) peppers, seeds removed, and chopped
1 fat tomato, or a few plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup cilantro, loosely packed
1/2 cup white wine
1 t sherry vinegar
salt & pepper

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, and fry for a few minutes, till translucent. Add the garlic and bay leaves. Cook till the garlic starts to brown. Add the oregano and the peppers. Cook till they’re wilted and starting to brown. Add the white wine, and cook till it’s reduced and syrupy. Add the tomatoes and cumin. Cook at a gentle boil until the vegetables are soft but still have some texture to them. Add the vinegar, cilantro, salt and plenty of pepper. Allow to cool slightly. Process until finely chopped, but not pureed. Serve cool.


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