Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: soups (page 1 of 2)


This is a variation on the traditional fish soup we use to have back on the block. On the Island and the barrio, the soup was made with several whole fish. The fish was cut into thick slices, highly seasoned and simmered, while the fish head and tails were used to create a fish stock. Nowadays, fish fillets and water can be used instead of a whole fish.  Instead of water, you can also create your own fish stock by using half water and half clam juice. Also, in  the traditional fish soup, shrimp, clams and even mussels were added.

This recipe simplifies the whole process. It’s Sopa de Pescado y Garbanzos,  i.e. fish soup with chickpeas. You just sauté fish fillets (such as cod, haddock, whitefish, etc.) in olive oil with typical Nuyorican herbs. Add water (or the half water and half clam juice) and let it simmer until done. Add canned garbanzo beans and cook 5 minutes more, That’s it. With a crusty whole loaf, it’s a meal for the ages—and perfect for this time of year.

(Fish and Chickpea Soup)


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 cups water (or half water, half clam juice)
3 sprigs fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
2 pounds white fish fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
Juice of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 (15oz.) cans garbanzo beans, drained


  1. Heat oil in a kettle or pot. Add onion and garlic. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until onion is soft and tender.
  2.  Add water or stock, parsley, oregano, thyme and bay leaf
  3.  Add fish, lemon juice and turmeric. Stir to mix. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
  4.  Add garbanzo beans and simmer 5 minutes longer. Remove bay leaf and serve.
    Yield: 6 to 8 servings.



Back on the block, in my family, this was one of our popular meals, especially when times were lean. Essentially it was just a soup of garlic and beans but, through time, we added other ingredients to enhance our palette. That’s the beauty of this dish. You can doctor it anyway you want depending upon what’s on hand. In terms of the beans, we always liked white beans, although it also works with garbanzo beans (chick peas).  We never did it with red, black or pinto beans, although you’re welcomed to try and let me know how it works out.

In our version, apart from the garlic, we add parsley, marjoram, salt and pepper, and sazón accent (you can substitute Goya sazón if desired). You can also use a teaspoon of turmeric in place of the sazôn. Your choice.  Note that in our culture, we soak the beans overnight and then cook the following day. If you’re press for time you can do the quick soaking method:  drain beans, place in a heavy pot or Dutch oven with 2 quarts (8 cups) water and bring to a boil. Cover and boil over moderate-low heat and cook until beans are almost ender. Then follow recipe as given. Also note that the recipe calls for water or chicken broth.  To us unsophisticates, adding 2 chicken bouillon cubes to the water counts as chicken broth—unless you have ready made chicken broth on hand.

With a good crusty loaf of bread you have a perfect inexpensive or (as my father use to say) beggar’s banquet. And you can make the soup as thick as you want adding less water (about 4 cups) and turn it into a stew.

(Garlic-Bean Soup)


1 pound dry white beans
2 quart water or chicken broth (or less if you want to make it into a stew)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 clove garlic, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped marjoram or 1 teaspoon dried
1 large potato cut into chunks (wash, scrub but do not peel)
1 packet sazón accent
Salt and ground black pepper to atste


  1. Soak beans overnight in a pot with water to cover. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Place in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven with 2 quarts water or chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover and boil over moderate-low heat until beans are tender, about 1 hour.
  2.  Heat olive oil in a skillet or frying pan and sauté  garlic, parsley and marjoram for 3 minutes. Add to beans along with the potato chunks and sazôn. Stir to combine.
  3.  Add  salt and pepper and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
    Yield: 6 to 8 servings.


Thanksgiving is over. Now comes the hard part: what to do with the turkey leftovers. You could make mayo and tomato sandwiches for days. Or you can buck up and make something palatable and delicious with the bird remains. Below we give four recipes that will make your turkey meat leftovers glorious. You can serve each over rice or pasta—like in the Turkey Stir-Fry where it is paired with hot noodles. Family and friends will come over just to have the leftovers. In each case, the portions amount to four or more servings.


Note that this is my version of leftover turkey curry. If you want to add other ingredients like turmeric, cinnamon, cloves or ginger to give it a more Indian or Asian flavor, go right ahead.

1/2 stick butter
½ cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 cups leftover turkey meat cut into 1/2-inch chunks or pieces
Salt to taste

  1. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook briefly until combined and starting to bubble, about 3-5 minutes. Do not let the flour darken.
  2. Pour chicken broth into flour mixture. Whisk to combine until smooth. Here, you can adjust for thickness: cook, whisking, until thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Or If you want it thinner, add more broth.
  3. Add curry powder and stir to blend. Stir in turkey meat. Add salt and cook until heated, and serve. Some folks like to add yogurt, about ½ cup, to the curry. Your choice.


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thinly
2 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 can (14 ½ oz.) stewed tomatoes
1 chicken bouillon cube or 1 packet chicken granules
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups turkey meat, chopped or cut into ½-inch chunks or pieces

  1. Heat oil in a skillet or frypan. Add onions and cook over moderate until and translucent. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more.
  2. Add undrained tomatoes, bouillon cube, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir in turkey meat and cook until bubbling.


2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced into ¼-inch strips
1 cup fresh green beans, cut into ½-pieces (can use frozen but need to be thawed).
2 cups turkey meat, cut into chunks or ½-inch strips
½ cup scallions, chopped into ½-inch pieces
½ cup sliced bamboo shoots
½ cup sliced water chestnuts
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
Pinch each of nutmeg and ground pepper

  1. In a large frying pan or wok, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute.
  2. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and cook 4 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. In this case, serve over hot, cooked egg noodles.
    Note that there are no set rules for stir-frying. You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand.


1 cup rice
1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1  clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
½ teaspoon capers
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 cups turkey meet, chopped or shredded
4 cups water

  1. Place rice in 1 cup water and let it soak.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add onion, garlic, bell pepper, oregano, capers and tomato sauce. Sauté over moderate heat for 10 minutes.
  3. Drain rice and add to pot. Stir to combine while gradually adding 4 cups water. Bring to a boil and cook on high heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  4. Add turkey meat, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes more or until rice is tender. Serve immediately.
    Note that this recipe will make a thick soup or stew. If you want it thinner, add more water as desired.


This is my version of Irish Lamb Stew. And we serve it with parsley dumplings; which is nothing more than a variation on Puerto Rican domplines.  In my version of the stew, I eliminate the browning of the lamb. I just put all ingredients in the pot and let it cook until the lamb is tender. I found that this saves time and gives the stew a flavor all its own.



4 pounds lamb chuck, cut into cubes
2 carrots, washed, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 potatoes, quartered (wash but do not peel)
4 whole black peppercorns
1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)


  1. Place lamb in a stew pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil.
  2.  Skim foam from top. Lower heat and add remaining ingredients. Simmer, covered for 60 to 70 minutes or until lamb and vegetables are tender. Serve with parsley dumplings (see recipe below).
    Yield: 8 servings.



½ pound flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¾ teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
Water as needed
½ cup minced parsley


  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, pepper and baking powder.
  2. Beat eggs and olive oil together and add to flour mixture. Stir until blended with enough water to make a soft dough, usually about half cup. Stir in parsley.
  3.  Form dumplings, using about a tablespoon of dough in palm of hand. Drop dumplings into pot of boiling water. Cook until they expand, about five minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. Arrange on a serving platter and sprinkle with additional parley. Place on stew and enjoy.


This is one of the premier entries in my cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America: Nuyorican and Bodega Recipes ( Running Press). Sopa de Lentejas, or lentil soup, is an old family favorite. Back on the block, our preference was for red lentils. But green lentil can be just as good. Your choice. When preparing this soup, the mind boggles with what you can mix in. Celery, carrots and mushrooms are among the most common vegetables added to the pot. Smoked ham or ham hocks  are other ingredients popular in this stew. In some recipes rice is mixed in with the broth. Depending on amount of liquid and cooking time, you can make it as thin  or as thick as you like. Whichever way you make it, with some crusty bread and a hearty red wine, this dish can’t be beat.

Our version is quite simple: lentils, chorizo and potatoes. We include tomato sauce for added flavor and color. Some cooks prefer to adjust their seasoning with salt and pepper added after the soup is done. It’s a matter of personal taste. However you season it, the soup should be served piping hot, with or without croutons, Back in the apartment in Harlem, we never added croutons.

Also note that you can double the quantity of ingredients to make 6-8 servings.


1 cup red lentils (or green)
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium  green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 cups chicken broth
3 small potatoes (or 2 medium), washed and quartered
2 chorizo sausages, casings removed and sliced into ½-inch rounds
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
½ can tomato sauce
Salt and ground black pepper to taste


  1.  Rinse lentils  under cold running water (best using a fine strainer). Set aside.
  2.  Heat oil in a kettle or Dutch oven.  Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Stir-fry until tender but not browned.
  3.  Stir in lentils. Add broth and remaining ingredients. Mix well and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat until tender but not mushy (about ½ hour).
  4.  Remove and discard bay leaf. Serve immediately.
    Yield: 4 servings.





Due to the Covid-19 virus we have stocked up on beans. By that, I mean the dried variety. The are cheap, still plentiful and a healthy food source. Thus we’re always on the lookout for a creative way to use legumes (fancy name for beans). In this effort, beans and sausage are incorporated into a stew. For the dish I used white Northern beans. But you can also try it with red beans, black beans, chickpeas (garbanzos), black eye peas, and lentils. It s a multi-task recipe. Add a good crusty loaf of bread and some dry red or white wine to wash it down, and you have an unforgettable meal.

For a Nuyorican meal one would use the spicy chorizo sausage so beloved in our culture. But you’re not limited. You can use whatever sausage you prefer, be it sweet Italian sausage, French Andoille, kielbasa, even turkey or  chicken sausage. Holly and I came across a wild mushroom sausage with Italian herbs. It peaked our interest.  And you know what? It came out scrumptious. So if you come across something unique, don’t be afraid to experiment. That’s what cooking’s all about.

Let me add that you can use canned beans, if that’s what you want. The recipe won’t take as long but, honestly, it won’t taste the same; and it’ll be a whole different recipe. If you’re using the carrots, you may have to parboil them before adding them to the cooked sausage, along with  the canned beans (and their liquid). And you may have to add more liquid for the soup content. Lots of luck.

(Bean and Sausage Stew)


2 table spoons olive oil
1 pound sausage, sliced ¾-inch thick
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 medium carrots, diced
1 onion, peeled and sliced into rings
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 pound dried Great Northern  beans, rinsed and picked through
Salt taste
3 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
2 large rosemary sprigs or ½ teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper or more to taste


1. Heat oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate, and set aside.
2. Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables had softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Ladle into warm serving bowls and served drizzle with additional vinegar and olive oil, if desired.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.




Pappa al Pomodoro

Spring is upon us and that means that soon we’ll enjoy fresh, lush tomatoes denied to us in winter—unless you want to take a chance on those tasteless cellophane-wrapped things found in supermarkets. In fact, they taste like the cellophane they’re wrapped in. In winter, I mainly rely on Italian canned tomatoes, the only thing comparable to the summer stuff.

One of my favorite dishes at this time is a thick Tuscan tomato soup, papa al pomodoro. Now, here translations get tricky. “Papa” in Italian, is a phrase for “father.” Then we have Il Papa , which is the Pope. So could this soup translate as the “Pope’s soup?” My Italian friends tell me there is no reference to this dish having anything to do with the Pope. They say the closest thing one can refer to this soup is as a mash or “mush of tomatoes.” Whatever.  The soup can be prepared with any spices on hand. But everyone agrees it usually contains garlic, olive oil, and basil. But the prime ingredient, apart from tomatoes, is bread, preferably stale or day-old bread. I’ve cooked this soup with fresh and stale bread and I’ve noticed no difference whatsoever in taste or texture. Wanna be traditional, use stale bread. Don’t have it, use fresh bread. Your call. Either way, it’s the perfect summertime dish served at room temperature.

Let me add that I like this soup thick, so I don’t use that much chicken broth (¾ cup is enough). If you prefer it soupier, you can add more broth as desired.




4 clove garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1-2 pounds ripe tomatoes (or 1 28-oz can Italian plum tomatoes), coarsely chopped

½ loaf of large baguette or Italian bread, cut into 1-inch chunks

¾ cup chicken broth or stock

2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Ground black pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes, and cook for about 30 seconds (do not let garlic get brown).
  2. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in bread, chicken broth, and basil. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 1 hour or more. Serve at room temperature, topped with additional olive oil, black pepper, and Parmesan cheese.

Yield: 4 servings.











Puerto Rican Beef Stew

This weather is tailor made for Carne Guisada, or beef stew Puerto Rican style. Carne guisada is prominent in what we call criollo cooking. That is, traditional Puerto Rican cooking derived from native Caribbean influences. As such, we Nuyoricans (New York Puerto Ricans, whether born or raised in New York City) love the dish; although it has countless variants. I’ve seen recipes where raisins and sweet peas, carrots and even squash are added. My cousin Yvonne used to boil the meat first then add the remaining ingredients. Some cooks add beef bones to the stew. Others cook the potatoes separately. Whatever method is used, the results are uniformly good.

This dish is not the standard beef stew found in the U.S. mainland and other parts of the world. It has more seasoning than the usual salt and pepper. It also includes achiote, that is, annatto seeds cooked in a little olive oil. The oil then acquires a deep red color that is added to the dish. If you don’t have the patience to prepare achiote, you get get a store bought variety in any Asian or Caribbean market (or, for that matter, most supermarkets these days). Or you can substitute sazón accent (Goya products makes a good version). Carne guisada is usually served with rice and tostones (deep fried plantains). Recipes for tostones and achiote can be found in my first cookbook,Puertio Rican Cuisine in America Perseus Books – Running Press).

     (Beef Stew)

2 pounds beef round steak, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tomato sauce
1 tablespoon achiote
10-12 pimento stuffed olives
1 tablespoon capers
1 bay lead
1/2 cup water
1 pound Maine or Idaho potatoes, peeled and cubed 

1. Wash meat and pat dry with paper towels.
2. In a Dutch oven or heavy kettle, heat the oil, add beef chunks, onion, bell pepper, oregano, garlic and stir-fry over moderate heat until meat is brown.
3. Add salt, tomato sauce, achiote, olives, capers and bay leaf. Mix and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add water, bring to a rapid boil, cover and simmer over low hear for 30 minutes.
5. Add potatoes, stir to combine, and bring to a rapid boil. Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes.
6. Serve over steamed white or yellow rice.
    Yield: 5 servings.

Photo: courtesy of YELP – José Enrique: Photos

What is Cock-a-Leekie?

No, its not what you think. Cock-a-Leekie, believe it or not, is a soup of Scottish origin made with leeks and chicken. It is referred to as Scotland’s “national soup.” Think of asopao in Puerto Rican cooking, udon in Japanese cuisine, or good old chicken soup in America. According to the New York Times Food Encyclopedia, the dish most likely originated in France, where it was initially made with onions. By the 16th century it had reached Scotland, and the onions had been replaced with leeks. How the name “cock-a-leekie” came about? No one knows. But tell any Scotsman or woman about cock-a-leekie, and their eyes will sparkle.

Let me add that in some recipes, prunes are added to the soup. I’ve never added prunes. Also, I add onions to to my recipe, which I acquired years ago. I also add garlic since I’m a garlic freak. This soup goes great with a hearty ale (I prefer an IPA or India Pale Ale) and some good crusty bread.


1 three-pound chicken with giblets
8 cups water or more to cover
Salt to taste
10 whole peppercorns, crushed
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs parsley
1 carrot, trimmed, scraped and quartered
4 cups finely shredded leaks (before shredding, cut the leeks into 3-inch lengths)
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

3 tablespoons rice

1. Truss the chicken if you prefer. Add it to large pot or kettle, and add the neck, if used, and giblets. Add the water, salt, pepper, bay leaf, parsley and carrot. Bring to a boil and simmer, skimming the surface often to remove scum and foam, for 20 minutes.
2. Add the leeks, onion, garlic and rice, and continue simmering 20 minutes longer. Remove and discard the parsley and bay leaf.
3. Remove the chicken and giblets. Now, you can either serve the soup, without the chicken, as a first course; and serve the chicken later, carved as a main course. Or you can serve the cut-up chicken in bowls with the soup.
    Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Picture: courtesy of Farm Clipart Images


In Puerto Rican and Nuyorican cuisine, one of our aces is asopao. I think it’s a conjured up word from our culture. Spanish meas “soup.” An asopao is A-soup+; that is, a hearty, stick to the ribs stew that, though hailing from the Caribbean, is prefect for the kind of weather we are now enduring on the East Coast, or any Nordic climate. Nothing beats this hefty dish traditionally served with tostones (fried green plantains).

When the day gets cold, or you’re recovering from the flu, asopao is our version of Jewish penicillin: chicken noodle soup. The favorite Rivera family asopao is made with pigeon peas with rice soup. Now, here we come to the classic argument: whether to use fresh pigeon peas or canned peas instead. The cooking time will be cut by more than half if you use canned pre-cooked peas. Problem is, as my elders claim, it will not be kosher. You lose the soul of the dish when using canned peas. Some people really believe that. If you’re looking for quickie convenience, honestly, this is not he recipe to try. But if you put in the time and love required, you’re taste buds will be transported and you’ll be amply rewarded. If you don’t have tostones, this recipe goes great with good, warm, crusty bread. Add a light red wine such as a Bardolino or Gamey, and you’re in heaven.

The recipe given is from my cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Avalon Books: Thunders Mouth Press).


        (Pigeon Peas with Rice Soup)
1/2 pound fresh pigeon peas
2 quarts (8 cups) water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup rice
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ounce lean cured ham, washed and diced
1/2 ounce salt pork, washed and diced
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
4 fresh cilantro leaves, washed and chopped
6 pimento stuffed Spanish olives
3 aji dulce (sweet chili pepper), seeded and chopped
4 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 packet sazón accent (a flavoring with cilantro and annatto found in most ethnic stores and even most      
   supermarkets these days. Goya brand is a good one)

1. Rinse pigeon peas under cold running water, drain. Place in a large saucepan or pot with water and salt. Boil on moderate-high heat, covered, for 1 hour. Drain, reserve cooking liquid and set peas aside.
2. While peas are cooking, place rice and 1 cup water in a bowl and let soak.
3. Heat oil in a large kettle or Dutch oven. Add ham and salt pork and stir-fry over moderate-high heat until brown.
4. Add onion, bell pepper, tomato, cilantro, olives, capers, aji dulce and tomato sauce. Sauté over moderate heat for 10 minutes.
5. Add sazón accent and pigeon peas. Mix well and cook for 5 minutes.
6. Drain rice and add to kettle. Pour in reserve liquid. Stir to combine while gradually adding 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and cook on high heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
7. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
    Yield: 8 servings.

Note: photo courtesy of Puertoricanmarket.com

Enhanced by Zemanta
Older posts

© 2024 Oswald Rivera

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑