Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

We just left the month with many festivals in Brazil – the June Festivals (“festas juninas”) – the high point of which is the feast for St. John (June 24th). It’s a huge tradition the Northeastern region, with parties, dances, fireworks and other cultural displays. Since it is also the high point of the corn harvest in that region, corn dishes such as canjica, munguzá, pamonha among others are a common sight in the festivities of the month.

I’ve always found making those dishes quite hard (unless you can find one of the pre-cooked version in the supermarket, which are ok but not nearly as good as the originals). Often when I go to Brazil on vacations I bring some canjica and munguzá packets for a quick breakfast treat (which the kids love), but the pamonha has always eluded me. It’s hard to make, and it requires corn husks which we can’t find easily around here. But last week I found one recipe in a blog from another expat from my region living in the US (From Brazil to You) for a kind of pamonha which is baked, and I decided to give it a try.

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One thing I liked about her recipe is that it was really quick to prepare – blend a few ingredients, mix some others, put in the oven. The kids even liked helping me with mixing the ingredients (and cracking the eggs, a challenge on its own :-), which made it more fun.

The end result – it turned out really good, although it really didn’t taste like the pamonha I remember having. The fact that I forgot to add one ingredient (sugar) probably didn’t help my case either ;-), but even though I don’t know whether to call it a proper “pamonha”, I’ll definitely be making it again in the future!

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. (about 2/3 of a can) of sweet corn
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3.5 fl. oz. coconut milk
  • 1 oz. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 14oz. can condensed milk
  • 5 oz. heavy cream
  • 3.5 oz. dehydrated shredded coconut (I had actually tried making it with the non-dehydrated, sweetened flakes a week before, but it didn’t turn out as good)
  • [the original recipe asked for 1/4 cup sugar, but I forgot it, and actually liked the way it came out, so your call whether to use it or not]
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • pinch of salt
  • confectioner’s sugar for decoration

On a large blender, blend the corn, eggs, coconut milk and parmesan cheese until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add the remaining ingredients (except the confectioner’s sugar), stirring to combine well.

Grease a bread loaf pan with butter, then sprinkle some flour to help unmold the cake. Transfer the mix to the pan, and bake it in an oven pre-heated to 350ºF for about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean when inserted in the middle.

After it cools, unmold it and serve warm, sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.

Enjoy!

We live in the Pacific Northwest, where hippies are not something out of the ordinary. In our house we already separate the trash in 3 buckets – “regular”, recyclable and compostable. I drive a fairly small car, not one of the gas guzzlers which are typically associated with people living in the US. I have a (very) small vegetable garden in my backyard. And in my quest to get my hippie card, I decided to follow a friend at work and make homemade granola.

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There’s no standard recipe for granola (even store-bought ones have different ingredients), and I’ve already played with the ingredients a few times to get to what we prefer in our house. Most supermarkets around here have a great section for foods in bulk (cereals, grains, nuts, etc.), so I was able to experiment with some different recipes over time. The basic idea is simple: a cereal (usually rolled oats) for the base; some nut for flavor and crunchiness (I usually go for walnuts, but I’ve already used slivered almonds and pecans); seeds for texture and healthy properties (pumpkin seeds are my favorites); some syrup to bind everything together (I like maple syrup best, but honey or even corn syrup should work as well); and more “healthy” ingredients which don’t compromise the taste (oat bran, flax seeds, etc.). A few times I also added raisins (or craisins – cranberry raisins), but I usually skip those.

One thing which I’m often impressed is that even though I use quite a lot of maple syrup, it still tastes a lot less sweet than the packaged cereals – no wonder so many people condemn those as one of the culprits of the obesity epidemic. I wouldn’t go as far, but it’s nice to have something healthy which you know all the ingredients which went into it. This recipe is one which I prepared last month.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds, raw
  • 1 cup walnut pieces, crushed to small pieces
  • 2/3 cups oat bran
  • 1/3 cups flax seeds
  • 1 1/3 cup maple syrup

Mix all the ingredients well then spread them in a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet (it will likely require to be split in two sheets). Bake in a 350ºF oven for 12 minutes, then remove and stir. Return to the oven and bake for 15 more minutes, until the oats start to brown. When it starts smelling of roasted oats it’s about time to remove it from the oven (the time may vary depending on the oven and the amount of granola).

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It can be served in different ways. I like to eat it either as a “regular” cereal with milk and some berries, or mixed up with plain or vanilla yogurt.

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Enjoy!

Getting my kids to eat vegetables, especially leafy ones, isn’t the easiest thing to do. Sometimes they will eat broccoli, corn, peas, carrots, but leafs just aren’t their thing. To my surprise, my daughter said that she tried kale chips at her school, and she liked it (“if you put a lot of salt”).

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So we decided to try it at home, and it was amazingly easy – and a hit with both kids (and adults as well). The leafs, dried up on the oven, almost vaporized in our mouths and, indeed, the salt helped the flavor. As a bonus, I had an eager helper for the preparation.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • a little drizzle of olive oil
  • salt to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF. Remove the hard stems from the leaves, then tear the leaves in 1-2” pieces (great for kids). Spread the leaves in a cookie sheet, and lightly drizzle with olive oil (do not overdo it; the first time we did it ended up too much). Finally, add the salt and put it in the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the leaves start to brown. Remove them and put them on top of some paper towels (or a rack) to let the excess oil to drip. Let it cool for a couple of minutes and enjoy!

After preparing the pork tenderloin with cachaça, I ended up with some pineapple leftover, since I didn’t use all that I had bought. The pineapples I were used to when growing up were really sweet and great to be had by itself, but around the Pacific Northwest they tend to be more to the sour side and are best used in recipes or salads. But while shopping at a supermarket, I remembered one situation where I was at a juice bar a few years ago. The person in front of me was having something light-green, which definitely didn’t look very enticing. The person behind the counter, probably noticing my puzzled look, offered me a sample.

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After knowing the ingredients (pineapple, ginger, spinach, frozen yogurt), I was even more intrigued, but when I tried it it turned out to taste really great, so every once in a while I prepare it again at home, and everyone who I’ve offered it to had the same reactions: puzzlement, surprise.

Ingredients (for 2 people):

  • 1”-long ginger root piece, peeled, sliced in small pieces (my blender isn’t too powerful, so cutting it that way helps preventing the fibers from getting in the juice)
  • 1 cup spinach leaves
  • 1/2 pint vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 1/2 cup pineapple, cubed

Blend well all of the ingredients. If your blender (like mine) can’t get the job done at first, you can help it by adding some water or milk, only enough to get it to blend. You may want to strain it to get some of the (small) fibers of the ginger out, but if it was sliced small enough it shouldn’t be an issue).

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Enjoy!

“Cuscuz” is a very traditional Brazilian dish, based on a steamed ground corn (unlike the “couscous” more widely known in the US, made with semolina), typically served as a breakfast course, or as a part of a (fancy) supper. Depending on the region in Brazil, however, “cuscuz” can mean different things. In the Northeastern part of the country (where I grew up), cuscuz is a simple dish, made with nothing but cornmeal, water and salt, and served either with butter (and eggs) or with milk and sugar. In other parts, such as the Southeastern state of São Paulo, cuscuz (or the aptly named “cuscuz paulista”, where “paulista” is the adjective relative to that state) is a dish where the plain cuscuz is filled with vegetables, eggs and some meat (usually shrimp) – there’s one recipe on the Flavors of Brazil blog, one of my favorites for Brazilian cooking, written by a Canadian living in Brazil.

Cuscuz is very common (quite cheap, quick to make and nutritious), and in my house we used to have it a lot, and many times there would be leftovers. Since it could get dry if not eaten shortly after it’s made, reheated cuscuz wasn’t very sought after in our house, so we often used it to make “farofa” – instead of using the typical manioc / cassava flour, we’d use the dry cuscuz as the base of the recipe. It was a nice change, and depending on which seasoning was used (children tended to turn their noses to vegetables inside the “farofa”, and I wasn’t an exception) it could be a big hit. It can be used as a side dish accompanying any saucy meats or beans, since the dry cornmeal would be a greatly compliment to them.

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Making cuscuz in the US has always meant going to a Brazilian store and buying the pre-cooked versions which we used back home. But this time I decided to try with “native” ingredients only, so I tracked the cornmeal package which resembled the most what we have – and found an organic, medium grind cornmeal which would be the subject of the experiment. So I mixed it with water and salt, cooked it in the “cuscuz pan” (a 2-part steamer, with a bottom part for water and a sieved top where the food goes, with a lid) for more than the usual 10 minutes after boiling (since it wasn’t pre-cooked), and the result… turned out quite dry. So the cuscuz experiment by itself didn’t work, but it turned out to be a great consistency for a “farofa”. And that’s where it started.

There’s no “right” recipe for a cuscuz farofa – as long as you use some butter and salt, the remaining ingredients are usually what is on hand. I typically like to use onions (well sautéed) and tomatoes, and this time I also added green onions. I only had 1 tomato, but another one would have been better (and given it a nicer color as well).

Ingredients (6 people):

  • For the cuscuz:
    • 2 cups medium-grind whole cornmeal
    • 2/3 cups water
    • salt (1-2 tsp.)
  • For the farofa
    • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
    • 1 tomato, chopped in ~1/4” pieces
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
    • 2 tbsp. butter
    • salt & pepper

Prepare the cuscuz: in a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients, then mix it well. Let it rest for 10 minutes, transfer it to a steamer, with water on the bottom, then cook it for 30 minutes after it starts boiling on medium heat. Remove from the heat and reserve. Once it cools off, fluff it with a fork (or your hands) to remove and large lumps.

Prepare the farofa: melt the butter in a medium, non-stick pan over medium heat, then add the onion and the green onions, salt and pepper, and sauté them until the onions start becoming golden. Add the tomatoes, season it a little more and cook it for 2 minutes. Finally add the cuscuz and mix it well, until the corn absorbs all the moisture from the tomatoes and it’s fluffy again.

Serve it with any saucy food (meat with sauce or beans) and enjoy!

While reading Slate this week I saw a recipe for a frittata, it seemed like something easy enough to do and a nice break from the everyday bread / butter / cheese dinners which we usually have at home. Getting home I realized I definitely could not use the recipe from Slate (it was called “frittata with greens, feta and dill – I didn’t have any greens, feta or dill). So whatever was on the fridge became the recipe of the day.

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Since I had never cooked one before, I had no idea of quantities or even the material (pan) to use. I ended up using a very large (>12”) oven-safe skillet which I had, which ended up being too wide (the dish in most pictures looks deeper, mine ended up quite shallow), but the taste was actually pretty good. I ended up using the ingredients found in traditional omelettes, tomatoes / cheese (a Mexican shredded cheese blend, leftovers from a taco day) and mushrooms. It was indeed quite easy to make, being ready in about 30 minutes.

Ingredients (for 4 people)

  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (Mexican blend)
  • 4 eggs
  • 6oz. sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter (onions)
  • salt & pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC). On a medium, oven-safe skillet over high heat, add the olive oil and the butter then add the onions, season them with salt and pepper and sauté them until they’re golden. Add the tomatoes (adding a little more salt & pepper) and cook them for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and mix well, cooking for another 5 minutes.

On a medium bowl, beat the eggs then add the cheese and the nutmeg. Remove the skillet from the heat, then pour the eggs over the onions / tomatoes / mushrooms, stirring gently to distribute the ingredients in the skillet. Transfer it to the oven and bake it until the top of the frittata is firm, about 10 minutes. Serve it immediately.

Enjoy!

When shopping for the Yogurt-Chicken Curry, I bought a pack of sliced white mushrooms that I thought would go well with the sauce. But, as I do quite often, I forgot that ingredient and it remained chilling in the fridge until the next day when I realized my memory lapse… That same week I went to a friend’s house who was cooking some gougères (which were great, by the way), I noticed a recipe for flambéed mushrooms (I don’t know where it came from). Since I like to play with fire (and we still had some cognac left), the next dinner I decided to try it out at home.

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If you have pre-sliced mushrooms, this is really, really fast to prepare (about 10 minutes, or more if you want to gratin it with cheese as I did). It also tasted really good (although since I only had about 1/4 cup of cognac left it didn’t leave as much flavor as I ‘d wish), so I’ll definitely try it again.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. sliced white (button) mushrooms
    • Other kinds probably would work as well, such as chanterelles or shitakes.
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cognac (I’d use 1/2 cup if I had more)
  • grated parmesan or pecorino cheese (I used the latter, although the former would also work out just fine)
  • salt & pepper

On a large pan (non-stick is preferred), heat the oil and the butter until the butter is completely melted and starts foaming. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and sauté them for about 5 minutes, until there’s hardly any liquid left in the pan.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the cognac, lighting it up with a long match. Swirl the pan until the fire is extinguished. Transfer them to an oven-safe dish, then grate some hard cheese on top of it. Add to a pre-heated broil for 3 minutes, then serve immediately.

Enjoy!