Posts Tagged ‘Brazilian cuisine’

Baião de dois

Posted: October 7, 2012 in Beef, Brazilian, Main course
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A while back I started a quest for a decent substitute for “queijo de coalho” , one of my favorite types of cheese from my hometown in Brazil. The options had varying qualities, but it never really hit the spot with the perfect substitute. Earlier this year, however, while going to my local farmer’s market, I found one type cheese from a local producer, Ladysmith (from Samish Bay Cheese) which had all the qualities I was looking for: appearance, taste, crust when fried. I’d say that it’s about 90% of the original, which was amazing. Every Saturday when we went to the market I had to buy some of that cheese.

But our local farmer’s market is only opened from May to October, so with the year getting close to the end, my weekly cheese fix was coming to an end. So last week I decided to get a larger-than-normal piece of cheese, and to start enjoying it more – not only by itself, but within Brazilian recipes as well. And this one is from my home state of Pernambuco, called “Baião de dois”, which combines rice, beans, cheese and some other ingredients.

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There’s no good translation for “Baião de dois” – “baião” is a kind of music from Northeast Brazil, so it could be roughly interpreted as a pairing of two ingredients (in this case, rice and beans) to make something so great that it’s almost musical. Dried beef, bacon, coconut milk and some vegetables complete this dish.

Another thing which I like about it is that it’s one of the everything-in-one-pan meals, like lasagna, which don’t require any side dishes – it already has everything in it. I got its recipe from the great cookbook collection “Cozinha Regional Brasileira”, in the book about Pernambuco, but I changed it a little: used less coconut milk, butter and oil than it suggested; added some regular beef in addition to the dried beef (I can’t find it around here with very good quality); used black-eyed peas for the beans (they’re actually considered “beans” in Brazil, not peas); and some other minor changes.

Ingredients (for 8 people):

  • 10 oz. thick-sliced bacon, cut in 1/2” pieces
  • 6 oz. dried beef (found a piece in a local Brazilian store)
    • This type of beef is really, really salty, so you need to de-salt it first: cut it in 1/4”-thick slices, then add to water in a pan and bring to a boil; change the water and bring it to a boil again, then discard the water
  • 1lb. beef strips (it can be found in supermarkets marked as “for stir fry”), seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 cups of cooked black-eyed peas (that comes out a little less than 1lb uncooked)
  • 2.5 cups cooked rice
  • 8 oz. coconut milk (the recipe asked for 1 liter, I think it was too much)
  • 1/4 lb. fresh Ladysmith cheese (if you can’t find it, you can substitute it with “queso fresco”, although it won’t have the same tanginess of the original), finely crumbled
  • salt & pepper
  • chopped green onions, for decoration

Add the bacon to the pan, frying it until most of the fat has rendered, then reserve. Remove about 1/2 of the rendered fat and reserve. In the remaining fat in the pan, fry the beef strips until the desired doneness, then reserve. on the Cut the dried beef in thin slices, and fry it (in the same pan) for about 5-10 minutes (the beef that I found was really hard, so I sliced it really, really thin), then reserve.

Return the reserved fat to the pan, add the chopped onion and the garlic, season them with salt and pepper, and cook until the onion is soft. Add back the bacon and dried beef, the beans, mixing it well, then the rice and the coconut milk. Add back the beef and mix well. Finally, add the cheese and cover the pan, leaving it on slow heat for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts.

Sprinkle chopped green onions and serve hot.

Enjoy!

P.S.: At the end, I talked to the farmer at the market, and he mentioned some other farmer’s markets where I could find them year-round, so my cheese fix is safe after this month 🙂

I recently returned from a trip to Brazil, and one typical dish in some restaurants is a fish filet served with a creamy sauce made with passion fruit. I always loved it, but finding that fruit here around Seattle isn’t as easy, so I decided to make a similar version, with limes instead of the more tropical fruit

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The sauce itself turned out great (some of the other parts were under-salted, something to be fixed in a future attempt at this recipe), and was fairly quick to be prepared. I used tilapia loins which I can get at my local Costco, but other kinds of fish filet would work as well.

Ingredients (4 people)

  • Fish
    • 4 tilapia loins (about 1/4 lbs. each), thawed if previously frozen
    • juice of 1 lime
    • salt & pepper
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Sauce
    • 2 tbsp. butter
    • 2 tbsp. flour
    • zest + juice of 1 large lime (or 2, if it’s small or not too juicy)
    • 1/3 cup whipping cream
    • 1/3 cup milk
    • 1 tbsp. sugar
    • a little salt & pepper

Prepare the fish: dress it with the lime juice, season it with salt and pepper and reserve for at least 30 minutes. Heat the olive oil in a large pan, then add the fish, cooking for about 3-5 minutes on each side (depending on the thickness of the loins). Transfer to a serving dish and cover with aluminum foil to preserve the heat.

Prepare the sauce: melt the butter and mix in the flour, salt and pepper. Add the lime zest and juice, and mix to dissolve. Add the whipping cream and the milk, mixing well. Add the sugar at the end, and mix to combine. Pour it on top of the fish.

Serve with white rice and vegetables, and enjoy!

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!

“Bobó de camarão”  is a typical dish from the Northeastern state of Bahia, but growing up in the neighboring state of Pernambuco I had that many times, so the influence of that dish has spread around. It’s a shrimp cooked in a sauce based on cassava (yucca root) and oil (usually palm oil – “dendê” – but olive oil is also used when that’s not available). It has never been known for being easy to make, but last time my mother-in-law visited us she prepared one she found and said (her words) that it was really easy. When she returned to Brazil I asked her to send me the recipe, and that’s what we came up with at home. The recipe isn’t exactly the same, since here had amounts listed in technical terms such as “a good amount of”, “a finger of”, “some”, and so on. 🙂

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Easy to prepare? Not quite, but definitely not as hard as I thought it would be. And the fact that I found the cassava already peeled and frozen in an Oriental market made my life easier still. It came out really good (although I had to use some tomato paste to get it the same color as the one my MIL had prepared, which wasn’t in her recipe).

Ingredients (for 6 people):

  • 3 lb. large shrimp, cooked, thawed
  • juice of 3 limes (lemons work as well)
  • 1 lb. peeled cassava, thawed if previously frozen, cut in small cubes
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 5 tbsp. tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste (for color)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Season the shrimp with the lime juice, salt and pepper, and reserve.

Add to a blender the onion, chopped tomatoes, bell pepper and cilantro, with enough water to help the blender go through all the vegetables and turn them into a paste (about 1/4 cup water is enough, depending on the strength of the blender). Add 3 tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper, then reserve.

In the same blender (no need to wash), add the cassava and the milk and blend it until the cassava doesn’t have any more lumps (more milk may be necessary) – I had to use the pulse option to get this done, even though the cassava wasn’t too hard. Transfer it to a large pan, and cook it for about 10 minutes over low heat, stirring often. Add the reserved vegetables and the tomato sauce and cook for another 20 minutes, still stirring. What I had at that point was more of a greenish color, so I added about 2 tbsp. of tomato paste to get it to the expected color. At this point you can take the pan off the heat.

When close to the serving time, bring the pan back to medium heat, add the coconut milk and cook for 10 minutes, stirring well. Add the shrimp, cook for another 10 minutes. Serve over white rice.

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Enjoy!

And as usual I’m back to my favorite Brazilian food book series, “Cozinha Regional Brasileira” (Brazilian Regional Cuisine) this time to the book about food from Paraíba, a state which borders where I grew up (Pernambuco). This is a recipe for pork tenderloin marinated with cachaça (a Brazilian spirit made from sugar cane, which can now be found in many stores in the US) and “mel de engenho” (molasses). Since the beginning of the colonization of Brazil brought many sugar mills (“engenhos”) to that region in the mid 1500’s, sugar and sugar-derived foods have been a part of the local culinary for many years now.

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This recipe had many ingredients which I like – pork, cachaça, and a combination of savory and sweet flavors which go really well with pork. The citric fruits (pineapple, orange and limes) combined greatly with the meat, and this turned out to be one of the best recipes I’ve tried in a long time, and will certainly be repeated in the future. It is also fairly easy to make, although it needs a long prep time.

Ingredients (for 6 people)

  • About 3lb. pork tenderloins, fat trimmed
  • 2/3 cup cachaça (I used one which I had from the state of Paraíba, to add to the authenticity, but since it was used in a marinade, any decent brand would work)
  • 2 tbsp. molasses
  • 1 orange, sliced in 1/4” circles
  • 1 lime, sliced in 1/4” circles
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 15 whole cloves (the recipe asked for ~1tsp. ground cloves, but since I only had the whole cloves, I used them and it didn’t cause any problems)
  • salt
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1/2 pineapple (lengthwise), cut in 1/2” slices
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter

The day before: store the tenderloins with the cachaça, molasses, sliced orange / lime and some salt in a closed Ziploc bag (or any recipient to hold the marinade, but remember to cover it with plastic film – the bag was the easiest thing I could find). Every 6 hours or so, shake the bag (or turn the tenderloins in the recipient) for the marinade to act over the meat evenly.

On a large pan, heat the oil and the butter. Remove the tenderloins from the marinade (don’t discard the marinade), and fry each side of them in the pan, until it starts browning. Strain the rest of the marinade into the pan, and add the orange juice. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for about 1.5 hours, turning the tenderloins a few times throughout the cooking.

On a non-stick pan lightly buttered, fry the pineapple slices (both sides) then serve them with the pork, drizzling the sauce from the pan over it. Serve it with white rice, farofa de cuscuz and “feijão de corda” (black-eyed peas, recipe to come soon).

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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!

Virado à paulista

Posted: February 16, 2012 in Brazilian, Food, Main course, Pork
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After a few months dabbing in international cuisine, I decided to go back to my favorite food collection, “Cozinha Regional Brasileira” (Brazilian Regional Cuisine, http://www.abrilcolecoes.com.br/colecoes/cozinha-regional-brasileira-486777.shtml), to try another one of the typical dishes from around Brazil. This time I chose one which is from the state of São Paulo, called “virado à paulista” (really hard to translate into English, it would be something like “food turned in the Paulista style”, paulista being the adjective from someone from that state). Never having tried the original, I also invited some good friends from that state to assess whether it was close to the “real thing”, so we have their impressions as well.

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First of all, this is not a very complicated or fancy dish. Far from that, the “virado” is a common lunch fare in that state, often served as a cheap lunch in many downtown restaurants for a blue-collar workers, but it has reached a “cultural” status that it’s appreciated by people from all income levels.

There are a few variations of the “virado”, but they all have some meat (pork or beef), white rice, “tutu de feijão” – beans mixed with “farinha” (dried, toasted manioc flour), “couve mineira” (thinly sliced collard greens fried with bacon and garlic), “calabresa” sausage (typical in Brazil) and banana. The banana can be of the regular kind, or one similar to plaintains, also raw or fried (breaded). Sometimes it’s also served with an egg on top. The one I made I used pork chops and a kielbasa in place of the calabresa, used plain bananas and skipped the egg (there was already a lot of food in the plate, the egg would have been too much).

Based on the “natives” opinion, it was quite close to the original, but the beans should have been cooked a little more. Since that was their only remark, I took that as a sign that the dish came out good 🙂

Ingredients (for 4 people):

  • 4 pork chops, bone in (~2lb)
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • salt & pepper
  • 6oz bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1lb kielbasa, cut diagonally in 1/4”-thick strips
  • 3 cups cooked beans, with the liquid
  • 1/2 cup “farinha”
  • 2 bunches of collard greens

Prior to cooking: remove the stems from the collards and cut them into thin strips, then reserve. Season the pork with the lime, salt and pepper, and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes.

In a large pan, add the sausage slices and cook them both sides until they’re golden, about 3 each side, then reserve. If the sausage didn’t render a lot of fat, add a tbsp. of olive oil. Add the pork chops, then fry them until they’re close to the desired doneness, but not there, then move them to an oven pre-heated to 350ºF (175ºC) to finish in 10-15 minutes. In the same pan, add 4oz of the bacon, cooking them until the fat has been rendered. Add the collard greens (you’ll need a large pan, because it will be a lot, but they’ll shrink considerably) and salt, mixing it often while the beans are being prepared. When the greens are done, if you want to fry the banana, you can use the same pan to do so at that point.

For the “tutu”: while the bacon is being rendered in the large pan, add the remaining of the bacon and the 1 tbsp. of olive oil to a medium pan; when most of the bacon fat has been rendered, add the onions and the garlic, and cook until the onion is golden. Add the beans and cook for 10 minutes, mixing it occasionally. Add the “farinha” very slowly to prevent lumps from forming, mixing it well. Cook it for another 5 minutes, still mixing it often.

To assemble the plate, put some white rice, beans and a pork chop in each plate, then top the rest with the sausage, bananas and the collards. If you still want a little more cholesterol, feel free to top it off with a sunny-side up egg.

Enjoy!