In my Ecuadorean recipes, I always talk about using Achiote, a.k.a., annato-infused oil, and refrito as bases for Ecuadorean cuisine.  I thought it would be appropriate to include a few pictures of what these two look like, and how to make them.

Achiote:
I normally make achiote (ah-CHOH-teh) on the spot.  I remember that my nana used to make a batch for the week and store it in a container.  She would put oil in a pan and add the achiote seeds and warm them up – low heat – until the seeds released their color.  Once cooled, she would store it – seeds and all – in this container that resembled the concept of a gardening watering can, except that there was no spout and the holes were on the side of the can.  The seeds continue to release their color while they soak in the oil.  I have not practiced this method, although I probably should as it would save me time during my cooking – all 5 minutes!

I normally use 1/2 tsp of achiote seeds for every 2 tbsp of oil – vegetable or olive.  I heat up the oil on low heat, add the seeds and remove them once I have achieved the red coloring I want.

This is what you will see once the seeds have released their color
Refrito:
All you need is 1 tomato, 1 red onion (or yellow or white), and 1 green pepper.  You blend or process them all.  Once processed, you add it into the pan with the achiote, turn the heat to medium/medium-high and sautee.  Once you’ve sauteed it, you add the rest of the ingredients, whatever it is you are making.
The mixture will then absorb the red coloring from the achiote.