I am making Cuban Picadillo for dinner on Sunday, but I had difficulty finding any Cuban green vegetable side dishes. I needed to make more of my orange sugar, which always leaves me with two or three navel oranges to use up after I have removed all of the zest. I decided that an orange wedge and baby lettuce salad would do the trick. To make the vinaigrette “Cuban” I used lime juice and a bit of culantro Recaíto sauce.
Note: A Recaíto is a sauce made from culantro and/or cilantro, bell peppers, onion, garlic, oregano and sometimes chili and spices. Purest say it should not be made from both. It was originally a way of preserving herbs that spoil quickly in the Caribbean heat. It is used as a starter sauce or sofrito for a variety of Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes.
Culantro is a different plant than cilantro, but has a similar smell and taste. It is also called “long coriander” and has a broad five inch leaf. Many recipes adapted from the Cuban originals substitute cilantro, but the Cubans can taste the difference.
Goya makes two kinds of Recaíto sauce, one with culantro and the other with cilantro. You have to look carefully at the word under Recaíto to be sure of which one you are getting. If there is no descriptive word on the label the sauce is probably made with the cheaper cilantro or a combination of the two.
Note: Strangely, I can find few references to Goya’s Recaíto Culantro cooking sauce on the Internet, but I am sitting here with the bottle in front of me. For those unable to find commercial Recaíto in their area, here is a recipe for making your own sauce.
Karl’s Orange and Baby Greens Salad with Cuban Vinaigrette
2 navel oranges
4 cups baby greens
½ green pepper, coarsely chopped
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. fresh orange juice
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. Goya’s Recaíto Culantro cooking sauce
pinch black pepper
pinch kosher salt
1. Segment the orange and put any released juice in a small lidded jar.
Tip: Cut the top and bottom off of the orange and lay one end flat or the cutting board. Slice off strips of the peel, following the curve of the orange. Continue removing slices until all of the peel has been removed. Hold the orange in one hand and slice as close to membrane of the orange segment as you can and cut to the middle of the orange. Make a cut on the opposite membrane and pop the orange wedge into a bowl. Continue cutting each segment until you have freed them all.Squeeze the juice from the end cuts and any peel slices—where you cut a bit deep—into the jar.Waste not—want not.
Note: Once you have removed the orange segments from their tough membranes, they will start to fall apart. Treat them gently when you toss the salad.
2. Add the lettuce and peppers to the bowl.
3. Put all of the vinaigrette ingredients in the small lidded jar. Shake to mix thoroughly.
Tip: Let the vinaigrette meld for at least 15 minutes.
4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.