Gloribell Taveras was shocked by what passed for sofrito, the vegetable cooking base omnipresent in Latin cooking, when a time crunch forced her to buy ready-made instead of making her own. Faced with options that were either loaded with fillers and preservatives, frozen, or both, she decided to bring a fresh, preservative-free sofrito to market.
Along with her best friend, Susana Columna, Taveras started Chulita's Famous. "Our goal," she says, "is to take sofrito to the masses." Sofrito Verde, the basic version, is made with peppers, spices, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, and sea salt, while the Sofrito con Spices adds paprika and cumin to the mix. Sofrito is "extremely versatile," Taveras explains, "It's not just a sauce, it's a base that you add along with whatever spices you're using." They also make two spice blends, Adobo Saboso and Sazon con Sizzle.
While Columna is "the strategic person behind the scenes," Taveras describes herself as "the creative side, more the face of the company." The word chulita is a term of endearment meaning sassy, a quality Taveras embodies that serves her well during tastings and events with the public.
"People don't realize how healthy Spanish food can be," she says, "A lot of Latin food has a lot of oil and salt, but it doesn't have to. Take some black beans, our sofrito, some tomatoes... You've got tons of flavor without calories or preservatives."
Recipes on the site provide numerous ways to use sofrito. Some are dishes Taveras has created to showcase the products, while others are old favorites. "The eggplant stew is a basic recipe I make at home," she says, "It was my favorite growing up."
For a full list of stores carrying Chulita's Famous, like Greene Grape and Brooklyn Fare, and scheduled appearances and tastings, visit their site.
About the author: Stephanie Klose has more mustard than you. You can follow her on twitter at @sklose.