Thursday, September 27, 2012

On the Road - Salvador - Pt. 1

Salvador, Bahia
From time to time since beginning this blog in 2009, we've featured series of reports from various cities and regions of Brazil. We call them On the Road, and in the past we've reported on the gastronomic culture and food scene in such places as São Luis, Rio de Janeiro, Jericoacoara and Belém. Every one of these series originated with a trip to the location in question - visiting markets, street-food stalls, restaurants, museums and supermarkets. And in each, we've included restaurant reviews, photos and videos, and recipes.

This weekend we're in Salvador, Bahia, preparing for the next in the series. The state of Bahia, and in particular its capital, Salvador, is home to the most well-known and widely-appreciated of all of Brazil's regional cuisines, referred to in Portuguese as comida baiana and in English as Bahian cuisine.

Brazil's food culture is a complex mixture of influences, but there are three essential referential points - the gastronomy of Europe, particularly of Portugual, the native American gastronomy of the indigenous Amerindian cultures, and the gastronomy of Africa, which was brought to Brazil by captive slaves. Bahia's food culture rests primarily on African roots - the slaves who came to Brazil from Africa beginning in the 16th century carried very little with them in the holds of slave ships. Only their African cultural heritage - food, art, religion, music, rhythms and the like - survived the trip across the South Atlantic from Angola, Benin and Guinea to places like Bahia, Pernambuco and Minas Gerais in Brazil.

The African influences on Bahian culture bubble and stir together in a large open pot - the spicy dishes that Bahia shares with Africa are served in the temples of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé, and the rhythmic songs and chants of Bahia often sing the praises of local delicacies. It's all connected organically, and the mixture is unique to Bahia.

Starting at the beginning of next week, when we're back from Bahia, check out Flavors of Brazil, On the Road - Salvador. If you know Bahia, it should bring back some great sensory memories. And if you've not been there, it will surely whet your appetite to go.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

RECIPE - Cartola Nordestina

We're wrapping up our trip of recipes from the Brazilian state of Paraíba with a dessert that's not only typical of the state that is the birthplace and home of Flavors of Brazil honoree,  Chico César, but of neighboring states in Brazil's northeast as well.

Back in February of 2011, we published another recipe for Cartola - a recipe one that is popular all over Brazil. What makes this version specifically northeast is the addition of powdered cocoa, which adds an additional flavor to the traditional recipe, and the specification of queijo coalho, a non-salty, feta-like cheese from the northeast.
RECIPE - Cartola Nordestina
Serves 2

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp granulated white sugar
4 ripe, but not over-ripe bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp powdered cocoa
1/3 cup, dry white cheese, grated on box grater, largest holes
powdered cinnamon to taste
Mix together 1 Tbsp granulated sugar and 1 Tbsp powdered cocoa. Reserve.

In a large frying pan, melt the butter. When hot, add the 1 Tbsp sugar, stir, then fry the bananas on both sides until they are softened and beginning to brown. Remove from heat.

Put half of the fried bananas on each of two plates.  Sprinkle half the sugar/cocoa mixture evenly over the surface of the bananas, then cover with the grated cheese and sprinkle again with the remaining half of the sugar/cocoa mixture. Dust lightly with powdered cinnamon to taste.

Serve immediately, while the bananas are still hot. You can put a ball of vanilla ice cream on top of the bananas if you wish.

Monday, September 24, 2012

RECIPE - Leg of Lamb, Paraíba-style (Pernil de Cordeiro)

After yesterday's recipe for a shrimp cocktail first course, our three-recipe homage to Chico César continues with this substantial main course from the semi-arid interior of the state of Paraíba.

In the harsh scrub-and-cactus landscape called the sertão, only men, plants and animals that can adapt themselves to hot, dusty and dry conditions can survive. The people of this region are known for their toughness of character and for their stoicism in the face of conditions that would drive more sensitive souls to flee to more benign conditions along the coast. And the animals have to share the same conditions as their owners, so they too share their masters' characteristics.

One domestic animal that is perfectly at home in the sertão is the goat, and the original of this recipe probably was for a goat. However, as goat is not always easy to come by, and because some people don't like the strong gamy taste of goat, here the recipe is adapted for a leg of lamb.

Tomorrow we'll wrap up our three-recipe collection with a dessert from Paraíba.
RECIPE - Leg of Lamb, Paraíba-style (Pernil de Cordeiro)
Serves 6

1 bone-in leg of lamb, about 3 lbs (1.5 kg)
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
3 bay leaves
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic,, crushed
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp canned tomato pulp
1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
8 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup unsalted butter,melted
chopped Italian parsley (for garnish)
Season the lamb with salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, combine the wine, bay leaves, onion, garlic, tomatoes, tomato pulp and mustard and mix well. Spread this paste over the entire surface of the lamb, then marinade the lamb, refrigerated, for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven tp 350F (180C). Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 30 minutes before beginning cooking. Put the lamb in a large roasting pan, and cover loosely with a tent of aluminum foil. Cook the lamb for 60 minutes, then remove from the oven, and baste with melted butter. Return to the oven, uncovered and let brown for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with honey. Return to the oven, then again after 10 minutes, remove from oven and brush a final time with honey. Cover the roast with tin foil and let rest for at least 20 minutes.

Put the potatoes in rapidly boiling water and cook while the roast rests until they are just tender. Remove from the heat, drain thoroughly and reserve keeping warm.

Remove the lamb from the roaster and place on a large serving platter. Put the potatoes in the roasting pan and toss them in the roast's juices and sauce. Place them around the lamb on the platte,r, then pour the remaining sauce over all. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately, carving at the table.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

RECIPE - Shrimp Cocktail Paraíba (Camarão ao Vinagrete)

The small northeastern state of Paraíba (home of Chico César, subject of yesterday's homage on Flavors of Brazil) is a longish narrow strip of land, with a hundred miles or so of Atlantic coastline on its eastern edge, backed by the semi-arid terrain common to Brazil's northeastern interior. Because of this geographical orientation, there are really two cuisines of Paraíba - a seafood-based one along the coast and a dried-meat based one in the hot interior.

This recipe, which obviously has its origins along the coast, makes a wonderful first course, and is a welcome change from the ketchup and horseradish-based shrimp cocktails of yore. Less sweet than the ketchup cocktails, this recipe also lets the flavor of the shrimp shine through, never masking it with the sauce.

In Portuguese, this recipe is called "Shrimp in Vinaigrette". In Brazil, though, vinaigrette doesn't mean the same thing as it does in France, Europe or North America. It's not a salad dressing consisting of olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Brazilian vinagrete is a refreshing mixture of chopped tomatoes, green peppers and onions marinated for a short time in a diluted vinegar mixture.
RECIPE - Shrimp Cocktail Paraíba (Camarão ao Vinagrete)
Serves 2

For the vinagrete:
1 medium red or white onion, chipped
2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 medium green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp green onion, green part only, chopped
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water

For the shrimp:
3/4 lb (300 gr) large shrimp, peeled and deveined
juice of 1/2 lime
salt to taste
wedges of lime to garnish
Prepare the vinagrete: in a medium mixing bowl, combine the onion, tomatoes, green pepper, cilantro, and onion. Pour over the vinegar, olive oil and water, then toss all the ingredients in the marinade. Reserve for a minumum of 15 minutes and a maximum of 30 minutes.

Prepare the shrimps: season the shrimps with lime juice and salt. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan, then cook the shrimps in the water for about 3 minutes, or until the shrimps are opaque and firm. Drain completely, then add them to the reserved vinagrete. Let cool for about 15 minutes, then serve in small bowls or ramekins, with an added wedge of lime if desired.

Recipe translated and adapted from Cozinha Regional Brasileira by Abril Editora.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

An Homage - Chico César

Presumably the Brazilian singer/songwriter, journalist, activist and politician Chico César loves to eat, as his music, his lyrics and his writings are full of the absolute delight in sensual enjoyment in all its forms. But, in reality, he has little to do directly with Brazilian gastronomy - the nominal subject of this blog.

However, having attended a stupendous show of this remarkable artist last night in Fortaleza, it's impossible for us not to honor him with his own post here on Flavors of Brazil. Among all the flavors of this vibrant country, he is one of the richest, and certainly among the spiciest.

Chico César comes from Brazil's long-suffering northeast, from the tiny state of Paraíba, and he has long been a champion of his state and of his region. His music reflects the rhythms and dance styles of the northeast - from the frevo of Recife's Carnaval, to the endemic dance rhythm, forró, and on to the tradition of folk ballads from the harsh sertão in the interior of the northeast that punishes those that live in it and love it.

His career began as a journalist in Brazil's biggest city, São Paulo, where he learned to play guitar (marvelously) and began to compose his first tunes. From the beginning his lyrics became known for their linguistic cleverness, complexity and beauty. Unfortunately, as with all poets, his lyrics are practically impossible to translate, at least in all their richness of allusion and connotation. But take it as gospel that they can be beautiful, moving, hilarious, and ascerbic - sometimes all at once.

He was never satisfied just to be a popular musician and composer, though that he was, with success in Brazil and Europe, and in 2009 he returned to the capital of his native Paraíba, João Pessoa, where he assumed the presidency of the city's Cultural Foundation. In 2010, he took the post of Minister of Culture for the state, a position he holds today, even as he continues to write music, release CDs and DVDs and tour.

In honor of this great Brazilian, our blog will feature traditional recipes from Paraíba in the next few posts. In the meantime, do yourself the favor of searching out Chico César on the usual spots on the Internet. You won't be disappointed. To get you started, here's a video of his from YouTube that showcases just a few of the aspects of his artistry. It was filmed in his hometown and co-stars his family and neighbors. It's called Mama Africa and the lyrics are in praise of the African spirit that inhabits and inspires the poor and downtrodden of the northeast.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

RECIPE - Left-over Rice (Arroz de lambiragem)

Since the vast majority of Brazilians eat rice every day, usually at the mid-day meal, it's not uncommon for there to be some rice left over when the family stands up from the table at the end of the meal. No one, especially a Brazilian home cook, wants to run out of rice in the middle of a meal, so the temptation is to cook just a little bit more than what a cook estimates will be eaten during a meal.

If the left-over rice is a small quantity, it can be thrown out or composted, but if there's a significant quantity, it's usually put away for eating at a later time. At least in frugal Brazilian kitchens it is. Brazilians strongly believe that it's a crime (if not a sin) to throw away good food. Perhaps this is a relic of Brazil's past, when poverty meant that people sometimes starved to death, or perhaps it's just that it's just good Brazilian common sense not to waste food. Whatever the reason, from time to time there will be left-over rice in the fridge, ready to be re-used and recycled.

So what do Brazilian cooks do with this rice? This recipe, from São Paulo chef Carlos Ribeiro, is a restaurant-style reimagining of a traditional Brazilian way to serve left-over rice. In the recipe, rice is combined with whatever other left-overs might be on hand and fried in the style of Asian fried rice. It make perfect economic and ecologic sense to empty the refrigerator of all left-overs, and it makes great culinary sense, as the dish is tasty, satisfying and filling.

A recipe such as this one is a framework for creating a dish, not a step-by-step gastronomic manual. Therefore, there are no quantities given and all ingredients (except rice) are optional.
RECIPE - Left-over Rice (Arroz de Lambiragem)

cooked rice, white or brown
whole eggs, lightly beaten
neutral vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
left-overs of the day (meat, chicken, fish, potatoes), cut into bite-sized pieces
ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
onions, chopped
olives, pitted and chopped
In a large frying pan, combine the oil and butter and heat until the butter is melted and the oil is hot. Add the eggs and cook without stirring until done. Remove from the pan, rip into strips and reserve.

Add all the other ingredients except the rice to the pan. Cook and stir for a minute or two, then add the rice and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the rice is very hot. Mix in the reserved egg, season for salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Expocachaça - Prize-winning Cachaças Announced

Brazil's national cachaça trade show and exhibition, Expocachaça, recently wrapped up it's 2012 edition which was held from September 04 to 09 at São Paulo's magnificent Central Market, familiarly known as the Mercadão. Divided into sessions for trade professions and the general public, the exposition showcased more than 150 producers of cachaça, ranging from artisanal mom-and-pop distilleries to the large national and international brands.

Along with tasting lessons and sessions, lectures and demonstrations on how to mix drink with cachaça and how to use it in cooking, there was a juried selection of the best cachaças in four categories: white, aged in urubama (a native Brazilian wood), aged in oak or other wood, and Special Super Premium.

The most coveted awards are those in the Special Super Premium category, and this year there were three distilleries honored with gold-medals in this group. They were Cambraia Extra Premium, Porto Morretes and Weber Haus Extra Premium.

Cabraia Extra Premium is a product of  Cachaça Cambraia from São Paulo state. The distillery was recently purchased by large national distiller Pirassununga, although it is still operated independently and produces only premium small-batch cachaças.

The other two gold medal winners were from Brazil's souther region, one from the state of Paraná and the other from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's southernmost state.

From Paraná comes Porto Morretes cachaça distilled in the small town of the same name, while Rio Grande do Sul boasts Weber Haus Extra Premium Cachaça from Cachaçaria Weber Haus, a distillery that has won prizes and trophies for its fine cachaças at shows and expositions around Brazil and internationally.

As it's only very recently that there has been international interest in cachaça, it's quite difficult to source artisanal cachaças outside Brazil, although the situation is slowly improving as the drink becomes more well-known and appreciated outside its native territory. A quick online check of international availability of the three gold medal winners shows that only Weber Haus has representation outside Brazil, specifically in Australia and in Europe.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

RECIPE - Café au Lait Pots-de-creme (Potinho cremoso café com leite)

This astonishingly contemporary recipe is the last one in Flavors of Brazil's trilogy of 19th century recipes from Fazenda Capoava Ranch and Hotel in the state of São Paulo. Like our two previous recipes from the hotel's restaurant, this simple and elegant dessert was adapted from the original hand-written recipes found in the hotel's archives by Heloísa Bacellar, a reknowned chef from São Paulo (the city).

RECIPE - Café au Lait Pots-de-creme (Potinho cremoso café com leite)
makes 6

4 large whole eggs, preferably free-range
1 cup brewed coffe, strong, preferably dark roast
2 cups whole milk
2 cups granulated white sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
coffee beans (optional), for decoration
Preheat oven to 325F (160C).

Have ready 6 ovenproof ramekins or custard cups. Put 1 cup of the sugar in a small saucepan, add the 1/4 cup water and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until you have a medium brown caramel. (Click here for a demonstration how to make caramel). Using caution because of the high temperature of the caramel, immediately pour 1/6 of the caramel into the bottom of each ramekin. Reserve the ramekins, letting the caramel cool.

Prepare a bain-marie by having 4 cups (1 liter) of water at the boiling point. Carefully position the 6 ramekins in a large roasting pan or lasagne dish.

Over a medium mixing bowl, pass the eggs through a sieve into the bowl. Add the coffee, milk and the other cup of sugar. Mix well with a spoon, then beat with a whisk or eggbeater until you have a frothy, like mixture. Pour the mixture into the 6 ramekins in the roasting pan.

Carefully place the roasting pan in the preheated oven, then pour the boiling water into the pan to create the bain-marie. Cook for 35 minutes or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a custard comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and let cool completely on a wire rack. When completely cool, refrigerate for at least six hours.

Serve the ramekins cold. If desired, decorate the surface of the custards with one or two coffee beans.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

RECIPE - Chayote Gratin (Tigelada de Chuchu)

The recipe, the second that we have published from the historical recipe collection of the Fazenda Capoava Ranch and Hotel in São Paulo state (as reimagined by chef Heloísa Bacellar) is an interesting combination between a traditional French vegetable gratin and a souffle. And the choice of chayote (chuchu in Portuguese) as the principal ingredient makes it thoroughly Brazilian as well.

The dish combines the bechamel sauce, grated cheese and bread crumbs that are integral parts of a gratin with beaten egg yolks and white that lighten it in the style of a souffle. The result is a substantial and rich side dish, one that adds some punch to the subtle delicate flavor of chayote. The dish could probably be made successfully with other vegetables if you can't find chayotes in your local market; however, this native American vegetable can increasingly be found in supermarkets everywhere, and can easily be sourced in Latin American markets.
RECIPE - Chayote Gratin (Tigelada de Chuchu)
Serves 4

2 medium to large chayotes, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk, wamr
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 whole eggs, separated
softened butter and dried breadcrumbs to grease and prepare the bowl
salt to taste
Prepare a deep ovenproof bowl or dutch oven by greasing it thoroughly with softened butter, then dusting with dried bread crumbs. Reserve.

In a medium saucepan with a lid, melt half of the butter, then add the onions and garlic and cook over low heat until they soften and just begin to brown . Stir in the cubes of chayote, cover the pan and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, or until the chayote is softened. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley and reserve.

In a small saucepan, prepare the bechamel. Melt the butter, then slowly add the flour, blending completely to avoid lumps. When you have a thick paste, begin to add the milk, stirring constantly. When all the milk has been added continue to cook until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and combine with the reserved chayote. Stir in the cheese and season to taste with salt. Reserve, letting cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). In a large bowl beat the egg whites to the firm peak stage. Stir the lightly beaten egg yolks into the chayote mixture, then carefully fold in the egg whites, taking care not to deflate the beaten eggs. Spoon or pour the mixture into the prepared ovenproof bowl. Smooth the surface gently, then sprinkle bread crumbs over. Put in the preheated oven and cook for 40 minutes, or until it has risen, and turned golden.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately in the bowl it was cooked in.

Monday, September 10, 2012

RECIPE - São Paulo-style Moqueca (Moqueca Paulista)

Although moquecas are associated with the Afro-Brazilian cuisine of Bahia in the minds of most people, there are numerous regional variations on the moqueca theme in traditional Brazilian cuisine. For example,  the state that is immediately south of Bahia, Espírito Santo, has its own way to make a moqueca - the liquid for the stew is made from tomatoes rather than from coconut milk and dendê oil as is done in Bahia.

The one thing that most moquecas do have in common is that they are cooked and served in a deep bowl of some sort, often clay, as they are normally rather liquid, soupy stews. However, there is one regional style of moqueca that dispenses with the deep bowl. In fact it dispenses with a serving dish of any type. Traditional paulista (from São Paulo) moquecas are served wrapped up in banana leaves, creating individual packages to be opened by diners at the table.

In the recipe archives of Fazenda Capoava, 100 km. from the city of São Paulo, there is a hand-written 19th century recipe for just such a moqueca. As part of her project of recreating recipes from the ranch's archives for use in the current-day restaurant at Fazenda Capoava, chef Heloísa Bacellar updated the old recipe for modern kitchens and modern cooks. The result - the recipe below - now has a place on the Fazenda Capoava menu.

Note: The recipe calls for the moqueca to be wrapped in banana-leaf parcels for cooking and serving. French or frozen banana leaves can often be found in Latin American and Asian food markets in metropolitan areas in North America or Europe. If you can't source banana leaves, the packages can be formed from aluminum foil, though some of their tropical charm will necessarily be lost. The same stores are good sources for farinha, also known as manioc flour, or cassava flour. This is essential to the dish and shouldn't be substituted with other types of flour.
RECIPE - São Paulo-style Moqueca (Moqueca Paulista)
Serves 6

1 free-range chicken (about 2-3 lbs), in serving pieces, with giblets, or the same quantity of chicken pieces
2 large onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
4 cups water
2 Tbsp butter
4 very ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
12 sprigs Italian parsley
2 cups manioc flour (farinha)
4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled
salt and pepper to taste
2 full-sized banana leaves, thawed if purchased frozen (can substitute aluminum foil)
In  a large sauce pan, combine the chicken pieces, half of the onion and garlic, the bay leaf, salt to taste and the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the chicken meat is falling off the bone. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve. Bring the cooking liquid back to the boil and cook at high heat until the liquid is reduced to about 1 cup. Reserve.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and shred it by hand. Reserve.

In a large saucepan melt the butter and when it's hot but not smoking, add the remaining onion and garlic and saute them until they are lightly golden. Then add the tomato, the olives and parsley and the reserved chicken and cooking liquid. Correct for salt and add black pepper to taste. Slowly add the manioc flour, stirring constantly, and cooking over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens into a thick paste that begins to pull away from the sides of the pan when you stir. Remove from the heat and let cool until no more than warm.

Preheat the oven to 375F (200C). Cut the eggs into three thick slices each. Have a large baking dish ready.

Cut the banana leaves into 12 portions, each one about 8 by 8 inches (20 x 20 cm). If using aluminum foil, cut squares of the same size. On each square, put about one 12th of the moqueca mixture in the middle, place one round of egg and a sprig of parsley on top, then close and seal the package (if using banana leave, cut ties from the banana leaves and use them like gift-wrapping ribbons to seal the packages.

Put the packages in the baking dish and cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the banana leaves are nicely browned. Place two packages on each plate, serve, and let the diners open their own packages at the table.

Based on material written by Camila Bianchi for Prazeres da Mesa magazine.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mining Gastronomic Treasures - Brazil's Fazenda Capoava Hotel

Casa Grande - Fazenda Capoava
Located in the hills of São Paulo state, only 100 km (60 miles) from the megalopolitan state capital, the city of São Paulo, the Fazenda Capoava hotel and restaurant offers guests a relaxing stay on a ranch that has been functioning since the 17th century, being at successive times a sugar plantation, a coffee plantation and a cattle ranch. Today, visitors come for the comfortable accommodation in chalets that surround the original casa grande (big house) built in 1750, as well as numerous leisure activities such as horseback riding, hiking, kayaking, bicycle touring, plus a spa and massage facility.

An integral part of the hotel/ranch complex is a building called the Espaço Memória Fazenda Capoava, meaning the Capoava Ranch Memory Space. This museum of the ranch's history is open to the public as well as to hotel guests, and is a repository for artifacts and documents from the ranch's past. The museums collection includes antique industrial-sized coffe grinders, farm implements, and valuable antique furniture from the casa grande. Alongside the artifacts, the museum has an impressive display of documents from the archives of the ranch. There are also many documents for which there is insufficient space to display. These, however, are available to historians and researchers.

Among the most interesting documents, according to Danilo Costa, the food and beverage manager of the ranch, is an extensive collection of 19th century recipes from the ranch's kitchen - four generations-worth of hand-written recipes. Sr. Costa has taken the initiative of inviting one of São Paulo's best-known chefs, Heloísa Bacellar, to study the recipe archive and to recreate several of the best recipes for 21st century cooks. These recipes are now being served in the hotel's restaurant.

Sra. Bacellar chose to begin her task by reinterpreting three 19th century dishes from the ranch - a Paulista-style moqueca, a chayote gratin and a sweet coffee-flavored pudding. The dishes are now available to diners at Fazenda Capoava and in the next few days Flavors of Brazil will publish these historial recreations for our readers.

Based on material written by Camila Bianchi for Prazeres da Mesa magazine.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

RECIPE - Roast Chicken with Turmeric (Frango Assado com Açafrão-da-terra)

If you only reach for the turmeric on your spice shelf when you're making an Indian recipe, or perhaps a hand-me-down-from-Grandma mustard pickle recipe, then this traditional Brazilian recipe for chicken thighs marinated in a fragrant turmeric and cinnamon paste will be an eye-opener. Turmeric's earthy aroma and taste perfectly complement the sweetness that cinnamon brings to the rub. By using more flavorful thighs rather than breasts the recipe ensures that the strong flavors of the spice mixture do not overwhelm the chicken itself.

Brazilians have been using turmeric (curcuma or açafrão-da-terra) for centuries even though it's not native to the Americas. Turning a dish an appealing golden yellow is only one of the rhizome's qualities - try this recipe to discover how its contribution to the taste of this dish ranks just as high as its color-giving properties.
RECIPE - Roast Chicken with Turmeric (Frango Assado com Açafrão-da-terra)
Serves 6

12 chicken thighs, skinned
2 Tbsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp powdered cinnamon
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
extra-virgin olive oil
In a large mixing bowl, combine the turmeric, cinnamon, chopped onion and minced garlic, plus salt to taste. Stirring constantly, slowly add olive-oil in a thin stream, stopping as soon as you have a thick paste. Do not make the rub too liquid. Add the thighs, turning them over and over in the spice paste until they are completely coated.

Transfer the thighs to one or two large ziplock bags, squeezing out all the air to ensure that the paste adheres to the meat. Put the bags in the refrigerator and let the chicken marinate for at least 3 hours, up to 8.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator one half hour before you want to begin to cook to bring the meat to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Put the chicken in a large, non-stick baking pan, and cook in the oven for 40-50 minutes, or until the juices run clean when a thigh is pierced with the tip of a sharp paring knife.

Serve immediately, accompanied by rice or potatoes and a green salad.

Recipe translated and adapted from Globo Rural Picadinho.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mara Rosa - Where Brazil Grows its Turmeric

In the sparcely populated northern stretches of the central Brazilian state of Goiás, where the cerrado that covers much of central Brazil begins to give way to the rain forests of the Amazonian basin, lies the hamlet of Mara Rosa. Although Mara Rosa counts only about 300 families, almost all of them share an  occupation - they are all turmeric farmers.

Turmeric (called curcuma in Portuguese) is an essential spice in the Brazilian pantry, even though it originated in Asia, like its botanical cousin ginger. Brazilians use the spice not only for its earthy, almost musty, flavor but also for the way it imparts a brilliant yellow color to dishes in which it is employed. As a food colorant, turmeric often serves as a substitute for saffron, which also give dishes a golden hue, but which is infinitely more expensive than turmeric. Alternative Brazilian names for the spice, such as açafrão-da-terra  meaning saffron-of-the-earth, demonstrate the link between turmeric and saffron in Brazilian gastronomy. In fact, many Brazilians simply call turmeric açafrão, and are perhaps unaware of the existance of true saffron, which can only be found in the best, most expensive gourmet shops in Brazil's bigger cities.

Turmeric has been grown in Mara Rosa since the 17th century, but it's only recently that local growers have banded together as a turmeric-growing cooperative, Cooperaçafrão. The aims of the cooperative are to stabilize and increase the price they are paid for their harvest, to improve cultivation yields through techniques such as crop rotation, and to restrict sales from the co-op to pure, dehydrated rhizomes of turmeric. Very little whole turmeric is sold directly to consumers, and the bulk of the co-op's sales are to spice companies, who grind the rhizomes and package the spice for consumers.

For most North Americans and Europeans, the color and taste of turmeric is primarily associated with Asian food, especially Indian food in which turmeric is an essential ingredient of most curry powders. In Indian cuisine, however, turmeric is normally mixed with other spices in the creation of spice powders and pastes, so the flavor of turmeric doesn't shine through. In Brazilian cuisine, where it's used alone, the intense and distinctive flavor of turmeric is allowed to be the dominant spice note in many dishes. Tomorrow, Flavors of Brazil will publish a typical Brazilian recipe which gives turmeric a starring role.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

RECIPE - Bolinhos de Chuva

This recipe for "little cakes of rain" (the direct translation of the Brazilian name bolinhos de chuva) comes from the website of the popular Brazilian morning TV show Mais Você, and is a very typical recipe for the sweet mouthful that is so popular in Brazil.

Tasting and looking very much like the American snack commonly known as doughnut holes, these little round balls are just the right size to pop into the mouth, and just like American doughnuts have a power affinity for a cup of coffee to accompany them.

Bolinhos de chuva must be deep-fried, and anything that claims the name without having been cooked in a deep-fryer is a fraud. That does mean that you'll need to have the proper equipment for deep-frying at home if you wish to make them, and that you know how to deep-fry safely in a home kitchen.
RECIPE - Bolinhos de Chuva

1 large whole egg, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk, cold
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp white granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
neutral vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup granulated white sugar combined with 2 tsp powdered cinnamon (for dusting)
In a large bowl, combine the egg, milk, butter, sugar and salt, beating well to mix thoroughly. Add the flour in batches, beating in each batch before adding more until you have a uniform dough. Add the baking powder and mix in thoroughly.

Heat sufficient oil in a deep-frying to medium heat. Using a tablespoon, drop spoonsful of dough into the hot oil and fry them, turning them over once, until they are golden brown. Do not overcrowd the oil; fry them in batches if necessary. Remove the balls from the oil, place them on a wire rack set over several layers of paper towels to drain.

When completely drained and only slightly warm, dust the balls on all side with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. This is best done using a flour sifter and a wire rack. Let the balls cool complete and serve immediately, or keep at room temperature, covered tightly, for up to 24 hours.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Brazil's Beignets -the Bolinho de Chuva

Just as you can find variations on baked or grilled flatbread all around the world, from Mexico and its tortillas, to Lebanon's lavash, Italy's pizza and Indian naan, the idea of making a loose dough then dropping small balls of it into hot oil to deep fry can be found in countries and culture here and there on all continents. There's something deeply comforting (and addicting) about these sweet treats that seems to appeal universally to human's appetites.

Almost no one doesn't like a doughnut, America's contribution to this type of food. Canadians, though, have recetnly trumped the Americans and now have become the world's highest per capita consumers of doughnuts. The idea of visiting New Orleans and not eating a beignet is scandalous to many , and elsewhere in the American south you'll run across the charmingly-named hush puppy. The Netherlands has its oliebollen, and in Belgian Wallonie they've got croustillons. Quebec has chosen to call their version (rather rudely) pets de nonne. Presumably because the little balls are light and sweetly fragrant, Quebecs seem to think these sweets deserve to be called "nun's farts".

Brazilians too love these sweet treats, and have christened their version bolinho de chuva which means little cakes of rain. Bolinhos de chuva, dusted with plain or cinnamon sugar are a favorite accompaniment to late afternoon coffee in Brazil, and are considered to be the standard version. Numerous variations do exist, even including some savory recipes, though these are still massively outnumbered by recipes for sweet bolinhos. Because bolinhos are so light and airy, they are sometimes stuffed with sweet whipping cream or doce de leite. Brazilian cooks seem to have oringally inherited their recipe for bolinho de chuva from Portuguese sweet kitchens, where bolinhos de chuva are also found.

For many Brazilians there is a deep nostalgic connection between bolinhos de chuva and a long-running childrens' TV show called Sítio do Picapau Amarelo (The Yellow Woodpecker's Farm). The show was based on a classic book of Brazilian childrens' literature of the same name, written by Monteiro Lobato. One of the show's most-loved characters was kindly Tia Nastácia (Aunt Nastácia) who was always making bolinhos de chuva for rag doll Emília and the show's other characters.

Next post, we'll publish a typically Brazilian recipe for bolinhos de chuva.