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Cielito Rosado used to host frequent dinner parties to satisfy her friends’ craving of her Puerto Rican criollo cooking.
They worshiped her carne mechada, (Puerto Rican-style pot roast) and coffee-flavored flan. She often joked she should start her own catering business. The idea at first sounded foolish to her, but became more appealing with the birth of her first child and her desire to spend more time at home. In 1989, she took the plunge into catering.
During that same time, her cousin Linda Hernandez, vice president of news at Univisión of Puerto Rico, invited her to do a cooking segment on the show “Tu Mañana” (Your Tomorrow).
“I told her she was crazy, plus cooking a meal in a minute and a half seemed impossible, but she insisted it was a good way to promote my catering business,” Rosado said.
And Hernandez was right. The cooking segment, took off quickly and paved the way to Rosado’s culinary TV career with a permanent cooking segment on Univisión. Later in 1999, she moved to WAPA-TV, an independent TV station in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, where she launched two cooking shows, “Las Sabrosuras de Cielito” and “Cielito What’s Cooking.” (You can watch Cielito on WAPA America, a broadly available cable channel here in the States.)
Today, Rosado says her TV experience contributes to her style of cooking, which she describes as practical and simple, which suits her well in the compressed timeframes of TV segments. For Rosado, using common ingredients is key, “I don’t want to send the public on a hunt for a weird ingredient that is not only going to take them a long time to find but probably never use again,” she said.
Must-haves in her kitchen and a foundation ingredient to many recipes include her own unique sofrito (sauce made with tomato, onion, garlic and other vegetables cut in very small pieces and slowly cooked in olive oil) and adobo (marinade or seasoning mix, a rub used principally on meats).
In her recipes and non-Puerto Rican dishes, Rosado enjoys adding her own spin like replacing raw fish in sushi with pollo guisado (chicken stew) and adding flavors such as coffee, pistachio and mango to coquito, a traditional Puerto Rican coconut-based liqueur.
Her inspiration goes back to home cooking. “My mother’s love and dedication to please us and take the time to cook something different every day is most inspiring,” she said. Her favorites are simple, flavorful dishes. My favorite childhood dish is arroz con habichuelas (rice and beans) and bistec encebollado (steak with onions). I always asked my mom for it with lots of caramelized onions.”
3 cups of chopped onion
3 cups of chopped green pepper
10 minced small sweet cooking peppers
10 garlic cloves
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch of culantro
½ tbsp. of fresh oregano
¼ cup of olive oil
Blend all ingredients in food processor until crushed. Then store in the refrigerator until ready to use for cooking. If use isn’t immediate, you can quickly freeze the sofrito in small plastic containers or ice trays to divide it into smaller portions. Once frozen, remove from trays and pack in resealable bags and store in the freezer.
Photo credits: Cielito Rosado