Puerto Rican Tofu Pasteles

Wrapped cooked pasteles
Pastele, unwrapped
Recipe contributed by Maria Flores

Makes 20 pasteles

Annatto oil, sofrito, filling and masa may all be made a day ahead. Chilled masa is easier to handle. Boil only as many pasteles as will be used for one meal; freeze remainder raw, and cook when needed.

ANNATTO (ACHIOTE) OIL - Makes 1 cup, enough for 20 pasteles


In a saucepan on medium heat, toast annatto seeds until fragrant. Add oil and heat until seeds begin to bubble and fry. Reduce heat and simmer (seeds sizzling) about 4  minutes, until oil turns dark, ruddy red, but not long enough to blacken. Remove from heat, let stand 1 minute, then strain into a small bowl and set aside. Annatto oil may be made in advance and kept refrigerated.

TOFU FILLING

  • 1 block extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds and white ribs removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 to 1 cup water, divided
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sofrito (recaito)
  • 1/2 (7 ounce) jar whole or sliced green olives with pimento
  • 2 tablespoons liquid from olive jar
  • 2 can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic, to taste
  • 1/2 to 2/3 teaspoons salt, to taste

Slice tofu and peppers into strips about 1/4 x 1 1/4 inch. Set tofu aside. If olives are whole, halve them across the middle. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and sauté peppers 3 to 5 minutes until softened. Add 1/4 cup water and dissolve bouillon. Add tomato paste, sofrito, olives with reserved liquid, chickpeas, 1/8 teaspoon garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; mix well. Add tofu, mix to coat, and cook a few minutes for tofu to absorb flavors. Add up to 3/4 cup more water, until liquid level is about 1 inch below surface of ingredients. Simmer a few minutes, taste and adjust garlic and salt, then turn off heat, cover and set aside until needed.

MASA

  • 1 bunch (about 6) guineos verdes (very green bananas)
  • 5 large firm yautía
  • About 3/8 pound calabaza pumpkin
  • 1 green plantain
  • About 5/8 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup strong vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/8 cup annatto oil

Fill a large container with very warm, very salty water. Soak bananas, unpeeled, at least 5 minutes to help prevent juice from blackening fingers when peeling. Cover work surface with a large plastic garbage bag. Peel yautía and add them to water (storing vegetables in water prevents browning). Peel bananas and return them to water. Slice calabaza, scrape away and discard strings and seeds, and peel slices; add slices to water. Peel plantains and add to water. Using a food processor fitted with the grater blade, grate all veggies in batches and transfer them to a large bowl. Change to S-blade and process grated veggies in batches until extremely smooth (like baby food), and transfer to another large bowl. Add annatto oil, coconut milk, broth, garlic and salt; mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Pasteles paper & string
ASSEMBLY

  • 20 sheets pasteles paper (and/or banana leaves)
  • 20 (5-foot) lengths of pasteles string (To measure easily, hold the end of the string in one hand and the ball in the other hand, run the length of string around your back, extend your arms forward, and cut the string.)
  • Bowl of remaining annatto oil, with a teaspoon
  • Bowl of masa, with 1/2 cup ladle or serving spoon
  • Bowl of filling, with 1/8 cup scoop

Fill a very large saucepan 3/4 full with generously salted water (batch or use multiple pans). Cover and bring to a boil. If pot boils before all pasteles are wrapped, keep on a low simmer and return to a full boil before adding pasteles. Cover work surface with a large plastic garbage bag. A picture is worth a thousand words; YouTube has many demonstrations of styles of pastele wrapping and tying, but I will describe our family's method:

Lay out 1 pastele paper. Place 1 banana leaf (if using) in the center of the paper. Place 1 teaspoon of oil on center area and spread with back of spoon. Spoon 1/2 cup of masa on oiled center and spread to about 5 x 4 inches. Spoon generous 1/8 cup of filling on center of masa. Fold paper (and stuffing) over in half widthwise. Join long edges by folding twice into a narrow crimp (to seal out the water!). Fold over again widthwise to encase stuffing. Join short edges by folding twice into a narrow crimp. Fold these ends up and over the top of the center like flaps, to encase stuffing. Tie pastele with string like a package. Start widthwise, then alternate with lengthwise: total 3 times widthwise spread about an inch apart and 2 times lengthwise down the middle. (Advance preparation: Pasteles may be prepared up to this point and frozen raw.)

COOKING

Add pasteles to boiling water, return to boiling, then partially cover and boil gently 45 minutes, turning pasteles occasionally. If boiling frozen pasteles, boil 1 hour. To serve, unwrap packets and plate pasteles.

CLEANUP

Juice and pulp of guineos verdes will stain black and leave residue. Soak vessels and utensils in hot water before washing. A brush may be needed to loosen residue, even after running in the dishwasher.

9 comments:

  1. Great! Thanks for posting!!! =)

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  2. I am sooo glad I found your recipe!! I made traditional pasteles last year for the first time. Just in the last month, my husband and I have gone mostly vegan, and I was so sad that I wouldn't be making pasteles, as my mom just passed away. Now, I get to have Mom's pasteles, but with a vegan twist!

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    1. Thanks for letting me know you like the recipe. I told my friend, the mami who first veganized the traditional recipe and shared it with me, about your comment, and we're both very happy.

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  3. I am not a fan of tofu, do you think I can use TVP for the filling instead? I had great success using TVP to make "meatballs" last night. I was wondering if TVP can be made firm enough to cut into pieces instead of crumbles so they feel more authentic. I am cooking for vegetarians and non so I want to fool the Nons.

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    1. Rather than crumbles, you could try soy protein curls or cutlets, sliced, or chicken style meatlike products such as Gardein or Beyond Meat. Not sure they'd fool a carnivore though. If you try it, please let me know how it worked out.

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  4. I am not a fan of tofu, do you think I can use TVP for the filling instead? I had great success using TVP to make "meatballs" last night. I was wondering if TVP can be made firm enough to cut into pieces instead of crumbles so they feel more authentic. I am cooking for vegetarians and non so I want to fool the Nons.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this recipe, I'm in the process of gathering ingredients and will attempt to make these soon. I LOVE pasteles and haven't had them in years, living in a very rural part of N Ca, my best option is to make them since family & cities w/options are far. I have a question, to make MASA, the first ingredient is one bunch or 6 guineos verde (very green bananas)...do you mean plantains or sweet bananas that are typically eaten when yellow & ripe?

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    Replies
    1. Monica, look for under-ripe absolutely green bananas, the regular kind, not plantains. :D

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