Food We Love: Best friends Linda Yu and Sylvia Perez cook up something special

Almost 30 years of friendship. Sylvia Perez and I met in our news director’s office at ABC7-Channel 7 in Chicago. We both knew instantly that we would be friends.

It has been nearly three decades of working together, becoming the first all-female anchor team in Chicago with our own midday newscast. We’ve anchored and reported together during major crises, political trials, fires, murders and special events.

We’ve experienced life-changing times together; pregnancies, delivery rooms, personal tragedies, career successes, raising children, making new friends.

And oh, the meals we’ve shared! From chicken Caesar salads across the street from ABC7 at Catch and Carry to new restaurants, old favorites and neighborhood stops. We’ve shared osso buco, pâtés, every kind of Chicago steak, sushi, deep dish, hot dogs and brats. Home meals included turkey and prime rib Thanksgivings, and our mutual favorite ingredient — butternut squash in soups and stews.

In all these many years, through all these countless meals and plenty of conversations about my Chinese culture and her Puerto Rican heritage, Sylvia has never made arroz con habichuelas for me, even though I know that red beans were the food of her childhood.

Sylvia Perez and Linda Yu get ready to cook in the Chicago Sun-Times kitchen studio. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Sylvia Perez and Linda Yu get ready to cook in the Chicago Sun-Times kitchen studio. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

So this family recipe is something new I’ve learned from my friend, as well as new stories about her growing up, why this dish is so important to her, the secret her mother kept from her, and what makes her sometimes feel the envy of her sisters and brother.

The Perez Family Arroz Con Habichuelas

  • Servings: About 4
  • Time: 30 minutes

Puerto Rican Rice and Beans.

Homemade sofrito

  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced (whole if using pilon)
  • Cilantro, chopped to taste (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano fresh or dried

Alternative:Use two tablespoons of store-bought sofrito. Goya brand can be found at most grocery stores. Select the green jar that says recaito instead of sofrito. If using the sofrito jar decrease the amount of tomato sauce in recipe by half.Arroz Con Habichuelas

  • 2 tbsps. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of diced ham or bacon cooked and crumbled
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 15-ounce cans pinto beans
  • 1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1 packet Sazon Goya Con cilantro y Achiote (optional but makes a difference)
  • 1 tsp. adobo
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • 2 tbsps. of spanish pimento stuffed olives
  • 2 cups cooked white rice


Start by pounding the first five ingredients, the sofrito, in your pilon (unless using store-bought). You can use a regular bowl if you don’t have a pilon.Prepare rice, then set aside.

In a medium pot, saute sofrito and ham for 3 minutes, or until aromatic, making sure not to burn the garlic. Add tomato sauce, beans, water and sazon packet. Season with pepper, adobo, and a little garlic powder. Stir, taste and adjust spices to your liking. Sylvia says to throw in a little sugar when no one is looking.

Add olives and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve over or alongside white rice. Serves about 4. Enjoy!

Download and print The Perez Family recipe for Arroz Con Habichuelas here

We hope you’ve enjoyed this segment of “Food We Love with Linda Yu.” Next week Linda talks to Sonat Birkener, the co-founder of Koval Distillery, Chicago’s first distillery since Prohibition. Sonat shares two family-inspired recipes: a cocktail and a favorite dessert. Plus, we’ll hear the story of the many family influences that inspired her North Side distillery. #foodwelove


WATCH: Linda Yu talks about her new food series for the Chicago Sun-Times

Linda Yu shares her family recipe for Chinese Rice Stuffing

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