The Mediterranean Diet, Cancer Prevention, and Spanish Sofrito
The most recent New York Times article about the Mediterranean Diet prompted me to revisit the essential components and foods that make up the diet. Although the focus of the diet is reduced heart attacks and strokes, it is also cancer preventative. I considered my diet to consist of foods mentioned in the diet. I always cook with olive oil, love seafood, and regularly eat nuts and whole grains. The quiz, found here, enlightened me to the reality that my diet doesn’t truly fit the mold. It’s not that I wasn’t eating the right foods, but I was not consuming the amounts suggested in the diet. For example I cook with olive oil about 90% of the time, but I don’t consume the recommended minimum of four tablespoons per day!
That being said, no diet is perfect. The number of whole grains suggested per day is too much akin to the food pyramid. Six to Seven servings of whole grains a day is way too much for my caloric requirements. Anyone who has entered menopause or is taking Tamoxifen can probably relate to this.
Taking the best parts of the Mediterranean diet and utilizing those components is the best approach. Dr. Andrew Weil advocates a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the Asian diet.
That brings us to the topic of today’s blog…Sofrito. When I took the quiz for the Mediterranean Diet I wasn’t exactly sure what sofrito was. A quick search of the Internet revealed that it is Spanish in origin. It is said to come form the Catalan region of Spain. It has influenced French, Italian, and Portuguese cooking. Sofrito actually means to sauté or light fry something. During the late 1400s the Spanish brought this dish to the Caribbean and Latin American countries they colonized. There are a myriad of different recipes and variations of sofrito.
When creating a recipe I used the Spanish version of the dish, which typically includes garlic, onions, leeks, tomatoes, and olive oil. Sofrito should be made up ahead of time. The flavors develop and it actually tastes better the following day. Sofrito can be used as a sauce for chicken, shrimp, mussels, and eggs. Serve the chicken and shrimp with sofrito over brown rice. It is fantastic with fried eggs and is very reminiscent of huevos rancheros.
- 1 28 oz. can or box (BPA free) crushed tomatoes
- 1 large red pepper, very finely diced
- 3 large cloves of garlic
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 leek, cleaned well and finely sliced
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1-teaspoon sweet paprika
- Salt and pepper
- Prepare the Sofrito a day ahead for optimum results.
- Add oil to a heavy bottom stock pot
- Add the onion, leek, garlic and sauté until translucent and soft.
- Add the red pepper and cook for about 5 minutes or until tender.
- Add the tomatoes, paprika, salt and pepper.
- Turn the stove to low and simmer the mixture for 20-30 minutes.
Mussels with Sofrito
- 2 pounds mussels, cleaned and beards removed
- 1 cup Sofrito
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ cup water
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Crusty bread for serving
- In a large pot over medium-high heat bring the water, wine, and sofrito to a boil.
- Add the cleaned mussels and cover.
- Cook for about 6 minutes. All the mussels should be open. Cook 1-2 minutes longer if they have not opened. Remove any mussels that do not open.
- Serve in bowls and drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.