10242017182642_500x500Our “Quarantine Cooking” series continues with Picadillo from Coconuts and Collards by Von Diaz. UPF managing editor Marthe Walters tried this recipe with her daughter at home. Below are the instructions for making Picadillo along with recipes for Sofrito and Sazón, two of its ingredients. Marthe approximated these ingredients based on what was available in her pantry, so if you don’t have all the components for this dish on hand, embrace the quarantine cooking challenge and don’t let that stop you!

Marthe’s comments:

We’re vegetarian so we replaced the ground beef in the Picadillo recipe from Von Diaz’s lovely cookbook/memoir Coconuts and Collards with two cans of black beans. It was delicious wrapped in tortillas with extra olives, bell pepper, and cilantro.

From author Von Diaz:

This was one of a handful of dishes always found in Tata’s refrigerator. As a kid I would sneak into the kitchen at night when I couldn’t sleep and eat it out of a container with a spoon. It can be eaten as a main course alongside rice and beans or root vegetables, but it’s also commonly used as a stuffing in empanadas, fritters, and pastelón. I prefer turkey, but beef is traditional.


Makes 3 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup Sofrito*
½ cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Sazón*
2 bay leaves
1 pound ground turkey or beef
¼ cup pimento-stuffed manzanilla olives, halved
1 tablespoon drained capers in brine
1 tablespoon raisins (optional)
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste

  • Heat the oil in a large, deep sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the sofrito* and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the tomato sauce, sazón*, and bay leaves to the pan and cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce darkens and the liquid is mostly evaporated.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and fold in the ground turkey, breaking it up and mixing it into the sauce. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes (15 minutes if using beef), or until the meat is fully browned, the liquid is completely reduced, and a thick sauce is created.
  • Add the olives, capers, raisins, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 more minutes to heat through. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.


Makes 3 cups

1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
3 ají dulce chiles, seeded and roughly chopped
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
6 fresh culantro leaves
6 fresh cilantro leaves and stems, coarsely chopped

  • Put the bell pepper, ají dulce chiles, and garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor and blend into a smooth puree, scraping the sides halfway through to incorporate fully.
  • Add the onion and pulse 5 to 7 times, until the mixture is again blended into a smooth puree.
  • Add the culantro and cilantro and pulse 5 or 6 more times, until the stems and leaves are minced and you have a loose paste.


Makes 8 tablespoons (½ cup)

1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons ground achiote or sweet paprika

  • Combine all the ingredients in an airtight container, cover, and shake well to incorporate. It keeps indefinitely.

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