Showing posts with label contemporary gastronomy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label contemporary gastronomy. Show all posts

Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Juice Combos for Brazilian Dog Days

We are aware that the majority of our readers live in the Northern Hemisphere, some of them in very cold locations, and for those readers thoughts of "lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer" are far from mind. But Flavors of Brazil comes from Brazil and here in the Southern Hemisphere, January and February are the hottest months of the year (Just three weeks ago, Rio de Janeiro suffered under its hottest day since 1915 - 44C or 111F). So while you might be searching the closet for woolen mittens, or wrapping a thick scarf around your neck before heading out, here in Brazil, everyone is trying to stay cool.

One of the most effective ways to cool the body down is with a cold drink, nutritionists tell us, and Brazilians have long used icy fruit drinks to reduce body temperature when the temperature rises. (They also drink a lot of cold beer too, though nutritionists advise that alcohol impedes the cooling effect of icy liquids. So, in the interests of body-temperature management, we'll restrict the discussion in this post to fruit drinks.)

Brazil is famous for the variety and quality of its fresh fruit drinks, and juice stands are commonplace fixtures on streets and in shopping malls all around the country. Brazil has such an abundance of delicious tropical fruits (oranges, pineapples, mangoes, limes, passion fruit, watermelon, etc.) that juice menus often have twenty or more choices.

Recently, people in Brazil have begun to discover that mixing fruits together, or adding additional non-fruit flavors to a drink can have spectacularly delicious results. As a result, each year, new combinations become popular. A few years ago, fresh pineapple juice blended with fresh mint leaves swept the country, and today it's rare to find a juice stand that doesn't offer that combination. But we all crave novelty, so barmen and women in juice stands, hotel bars, and seaside restaurants continue to offer new mixtures to satisfy demand.

A recent report in Rio de Janeiro's O Globo newspaper highlighted the most popular new juice combos for summer 2013 in that famously hot city. One very popular drink this summer is mango with mint, which employs the cooling sensation that mint gives to pump up the refreshment factor of the juice. It's long been known that citrus-based drinks cool very effectively because their acidity encourages production of saliva which cools the mouth, so new citrus combinations are very popular this year, particularly tangerine combined with carrot.

The addition of non-fruit ingredients to juices is new in Brazil, but popping vegetables into the juicer along with fruits is increasingly popular. Vegetable juices aid in retention of water in the body, which increases the body's ability to resist heat, so there's a valid nutritional reason for adding vegetables as well. Nutritionist Andréa Santa Rosa Garcia recommends a mixture of coconut water and lime juice, blended with parsley and kale, and adds that this combination can also help to alleviate stress.

If it's 10 below where you live, tag this article for reference when the dog days return next summer. If you're enjoying a Southern Hemisphere summer, whether here in Brazil, in South Africe or in Australia get out your blender, get adventurous when shopping for fruits and vegetables, and combine, combine, combine.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

RECIPE - Watermelon Caipirinha (Caipifruta de Melancia)

It's been a rough start to winter in Europe and North America recently, but Brazil is currently suffering one of its hottest and driest summers on record. This past Wednesday (26 December), Rio de Janeiro experienced its hottest day in almost a hundred years - since 1915 to be precise. The official temperature, as measured by the municipal weather department was 43.2 degrees celsius, which translates to 110 degrees fahrenheit. A friend of ours who lives in Rio reported that one of the large time-temperature signs on Rio's beachfront was reading 51F (or 124F) though he did say that the sign was in the sun. Whatever the official numbers were, it was a scorcher, and though the temperatures have moderated slightly in the past few days, these are Brazil's dog days.

At such extreme temperatures, nothing really relieves the heat, though air conditioning, fans, a dip in the sea and a cold drink all help. Brazilians love icy cold fruit drinks in the summer, and although alcohol doesn't really aid in heat relief, a splash of cachaça, Brazil's national spirit, is a traditional addition to fruit drinks.

The most traditional fruit employed is lime, and the most traditional cocktail is the caipirinha, which Flavors of Brazil has covered extensively in the past. But, increasingly, Brazilians are mixing up their fruits and creating new variations on the caipirinha theme. This one, from one of Brazil's best-selling food and wine magazines, swaps cubes of chilled watermelon (melancia in Portuguese) for the traditional lime.

One of the unique things about the caipirinha is that the whole fruit is used in the drink, not just juice. In this case, though the watermelon rind, thankfully, is not included, the cubes of watermelon are crushed in the glass and are not strained. The seeds make for a beautiful drink, and the pulp of the watermelon makes this a cooler that you can chew.

The drink requires a very ripe watermelon, so those readers of the blog who live in the Northern Hemisphere should probably wait until their summer arrives. Brazilians, Australians and other Southern Hemisphere residents can try one now, when the days are hottest and watermelons are ripest.
RECIPE - Watermelon Caipirinha (Caipifruta de Melancia)
Makes one drink

1/2 cup cubed ripe watermelon, chilled
2 oz. cachaça (can substitute vodka or white rum)
1 Tbsp granulated white sugar
1 tsp fresh-squeezed lime juice
cubed ice
In a cocktail shaker or large tumbler, combined the watermelon, cachaça, sugar and lime juice. Using a mortar or the handle of a large wooden spoon, cruch the watermelon cubes to release their juice, but don't completely liquify them - leave some small chunks of pulp.

Fill a large old-fashioned glass with ice, then pour the drink over. Do not strain the drink, leave the seeds and chunks of pulp in the drink.

Serve immediately.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

PHOTOS - Brazil's Own Fleur du Sel - Flor de Sal

As detailed in our most recent post, Brazil's nascent flor de sal industry is centered on the northeastern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte. The state is blessed with the right climatic conditions for the formation of flor de sal crystals, as there is plenty of scorching sun and hot, drying winds. These conditions foster the growth of the salt crystals, but they also make for difficult and trying work. In intense heat and wind, workers harvest the delicate crystals from the surface of pools of hot brine. Flor de sal is a heavenly product that is produced in hellish conditions.

These photos, which come from the Paladar section of Brazil's Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, show both the beauty and the hellishness of flor de sal production. We thought our readers might enjoy seeing them. (Remember to click the photos to enlarge them to full size).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Brazil's Own Fleur du Sel - Flor de Sal

flor de sel crystals
NaCl is the four-letter chemical recipe for salt, a mineral that is an essential component of human nutrition. A chemical compound of one ion of sodium (Na) and one of chlorine (Cl), salt is absolutely essential for animal life, though it can be harmful when consumed to excess. The table salt (also called halite) that most of us consume daily originates, at varying degrees of remove, in the world's seas, where the concentration of this compound is what makes sea water "salt water."

Rio Grande do Norte
Some salt comes from large underground mines, in areas which once were seas. Other salt is harvest directly from evaporated sea water. In Brazil, most of the salt consumed is obtained by this second method, and the large majority of it comes from the northeastern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte. What makes this small state such an important producer of salt? It's a combination of location and climate. Rio Grande do Norte sits on the western shore of the tropical South Atlantic Ocean, so there's plenty of the basic material of salt - salt water. And Rio Grande do Norte's climate, which for most of the year is hot, cloudlessly sunny and reliably windy makes for rapid and efficient evaporation of sea water. As they say in Rio Grande do Norte, salt practically makes itself here.

Most of the salt harvested in the region, whether for industrial use or for human consumption, is made by pumping salt water into large pools (called salinas in Portuguese) up to two meters deep and exposing it to the constant sun and wind, waiting for the water to evaporate and leave only the salt behind. The mineral is then harvesting and refining into the type of salt required by its intended use.

Until recently, in Brazil, salt intended for human consumption was refined for purity, then packaged and sold without differentiation or variety. But in Brazil, as in the rest of the world, in the past decade or so humans have begun to show an interest in unrefined or natural salts, in salts that reflect regional differentiations, and in salts with different crystalline formation. One of the most popular of these "gastronomic" salts is called fleur du sel, a French term meaning "flower of salt", though in Brazil is it translated into Portuguese as flor de sal.

Although imported French fleur du sel has been available for quite a few years in gastronomic emporia in Brazil's big cities, it's only been in the past four years, since 2008, that domestic Brazilian flor de sal has become available, and it's only now that it's becoming widely available. All of that flor de sal comes from Rio Grande do Norte.

The term fleur du sel refers to a specific crystalline formation of salt, one that has a characteristic lightness and crunch and one that is suitable for garnishing a dish at the last minute or for a dish in which the cook wants only a part of the dish to be salty. The technique of making fleur du sel originated in Brittany, in France as much as a millennium ago, and it is this ancient technique which today produces Brazil's own flor de sal. Water is pumped into a series of pools, and as it evaporates, it is moved from pool to pool, becoming more concentrated with each step. When the water finally becomes a super-concentrated brine, and only under perfect climatic conditions of abundant sun, heat and wind, a fine web of hollow salt crystals forms on the surface of the brine and can be cafeully scooped from the surface. This is flor de sal. Formed of fragile, hollow, light crystals, flor de sal is pure salt in its most delicate  natural form. The hollowness of the crystals is what gives flor de sal its typical crunch and what differentiates it from garden-variety salt.

Making flor de sal is difficult, hot, backbreaking work, and it depends on perfect weather conditions - if there isn't enough wind, or there are passing clouds, the crystals won't form on the surface of the water. So in Brazil, as elsewhere, flor de sal is significantly more expensive than table salt. However, since production commenced four years ago, Brazilian consumer acceptance of flor de sal has grown every year, and today there are three firms producing it in Rio Grande do Norte and selling it throughout the country. Today the market is purely domestic, but there are plans to increase production and develop the export market for Brazilian flor de sal. The potential for growth in this industry is enormous, as Rio Grande do Norte is blessed with all the ingredients for making flor de sal. Some other locations, such as the world's large deserts, have plenty of sun and wind - it's the water they are lacking. Others, like Pacific Islands, have all the salt water they can handle, but are too cloudy or humid for the crystals to form. When it comes to flor de sal, Rio Grande do Norte, apparently, has it all.

With material translated and adapted from Paladar, Estado do S. Paulo newspaper.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

RECIPE - Pasta with Chicken and Palm Hearts (Massa ao Molho de Frango e Palmito)

Although there is probably no other ingredient that is more Brazilian than palmito (palm hearts or hearts of palm), for palm trees grow almost everywhere in Brazil and Brazilians have been eating palm hearts since long before the days of European settlement on these shores, it is also an ingredient that is relatively easy to find in most corners of the world.

In Brazil, palmito is often eaten fresh in those areas that have commercial cultivation of palm trees, but in most of the country palmito is eaten conserved in water or brine and preserved in a can. It is the canned palm hearts that can easily be found on supermarket shelves in North America, Europe, or Asia. At one time, in the early stages of the globalization of cuisine, canned palm hearts were considered exotic and strange, and they were relegated to the "gourmet" shelf in markets and supermarkets. They were also very expensive. Today, they're easy to find, usually near the olives, capers and canned artichoke hearts, and though they couldn't be considered cheap, the price is no longer exorbitant.

This Brazilian recipe for a light pasta dish that highlights palmito is an excellent way to serve up a can of palm hearts. Although the flavor of palmito isn't super strong, it often becomes a favorite food of those who come to know it. This dish is a perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with palm hearts, and a welcome treat for those who are already familiar with it.
RECIPE - Pasta with Chicken and Palm Hearts (Massa ao Molho de Frango e Palmito)
Serves 6

500 gr package Italian pasta - your choice
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb (450 gr) boneless chicken breast, poached, cooled and shredded or cubed
3 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp chopped green olives
1 14-oz (300 gr) can hearts of palm, sliced into rounds
2 Tbsp chopped green onion, green part only, for garnish
salt to taste
Prepare the pasta according to package directions or to taste.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a medium frying pan. Add the garlic, chicken, tomatoes, olives and green onion, and cook over medium heat for three minutes, or until the garlic is transparent but not browned and the tomatoes begin to break up. Season with salt to taste, then reserve, keeping warm.

When the past is cooked, drain it thoroughly, then put it in a large decorative serving bowl. Add the chicken/palm heart mixture and toss gently to combine everything. Sprinkle the green onion on top and serve immediately.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The XV Festival of Culture and Gastronomy - Tiradentes, Minas Gerais

The small hilltown of Tiradentes (pronounced cheer-a-DEN-cheese), located in the mountains of Brazil's Minas Gerais state, is known as one of the prettiest and historically most important of Minas Gerais' baroque jewels. Named after Brazil's revolutionary dentist-hero Tiradentes (meaning "tooth-puller" in English) the town offers visitors and tourists lovely examples of Brazilian baroque architecture, a delightful small-town atmosphere and a great collection of inns, small hotels, and restaurants.

For most of the year Tiradentes is a quiet, slow-moving town, even if the number of daily tourists often outnumbers the town's 6000 residents. However, once every year the town explodes in Brazil's best-known gastronomic festival - the Festival Cultura e Gastronomia Tiradentes. This year's festival, the fifteenth edition, is currently on and lasts nine days from August 24th to September 02nd.

The festival offers lectures, exhibitions and festive dinners, and features well-known chefs from Brazil and around the world. This year's star attraction among the chefs is Catalan chef Jordi Roca, whose restaurant El Cellar de Can Roca was recently named the second best restaurant in the world in this year's World Restaurant awards. In addition to Sr. Roca, chefs from Chile, Venezuela, and Peru will join their Brazilian colleagues in presenting demonstrations and special dinners.

The culinary focus of this year's festival will be the food and cooking of six out of Brazil's twenty-six states - Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, Amazonas, Ceará, and Rio Grande do North. One interesting innovation this year is a series of festive dinners created by pairs of chefs from diverse regions of Brazil, for example combining a chef from Pernambuco and one from Amazonas to create a five-course meal, or another with chefs from Rio de Janeiro and Ceará.

Because of the limited number of hotels, pousadas and restaurants in Tiradentes, the festival always sells out, and many festival-goers have to resort to staying in other nearby towns, returning each day to Tiradentes.

The festival has an excellent website, with full details of festival programs, menus of the festive dinners, and plenty of photos and videos (in Portuguese only.) Click here to visit the site.

We here at Flavors of Brazil have yet to experience the festival, but hope to attend the XVI edition in 2013. If we do, there will be extensive reporting on our adventures here on the blog.

Monday, August 13, 2012

RECIPE - Stewed Beef with Cachaça (Carne na Cachaça)

This Brazilian take on the French classic dish boeuf bourguignon retains traditional French touches like pearl onions but makes a bold leap by substituting Brazilian cachaça for the hearty red wine called for in the original. This switch takes the dish from the vineyards of Burgundy to the sugar-cane plantations of tropical Brazil, and it changes the character of this dish completely but interestingly - adding smoky notes that aren't present in the original dish.

Stewed beef with cachaça is a good example of the way in which Brazilian chefs are opening up their minds to the potentials of cachaça as a recipe ingredient. (Click here to read more about this trend). Reinterpreting classics, creating entirely new dishes, all with the distinctive taste of cachaça - just part of how Brazilian gastronomy has shifted its focus from its former slavish imitation of classic French or Italian cuisine. Now native Brazilian ingredients and techniques are front and center as Brazilian food steps into the world's gastronomic spotlight.

This dish is total comfort food and not difficult to make. It's especially suited to cold or damp evenings, especially when accompanied by mashed potatoes, as suggested in the recipe. Cachaça is increasingly easy to find in North American and European liquor shops, so there should be a problem sourcing all the ingredients. As an added bonus, you'll have plenty of cachaça left over, so you have all you need to make your own caipirinhas!
RECIPE - Stewed Beef with Cachaça (Carne na Cachaça)
Serves 6

2 Tbsp neutral vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 lbs (1 kg) stewing beef (chuck or similar), cut into large cubes
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cachaça
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups pearl onions, peeled
finely chopped parsley to garnish
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan, then brown the meat on all sides, in batches if necessary to prevent crowding. Remove the browned meat from the pan and reserve. Add a bit more oil if needed, then saute the onion and garlic in the same pan just until they begin to brown. 

Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pan along with the water, the cachaça and the tomato paste. Mix thoroughly to dissolve the tomato paste, then add salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook at low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.

Add the peeled onions and cook for an additional 10 minutes or so, or until the onions can be easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife.

Put the stew into a decorative serving bowl, sprinkle over chopped parsley and serve with mashed or boiled potatoes.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cooking with Cachaça - A Few Inventive Recipes

There's more to Brazil's national liquor cachaça than hard-core shots and tropical caipirinhas. At least according to some innovative restaurants in Rio de Janeiro there is. Rather than only offering cachaça as a cocktail or digestive, chefs in Brazil's capital of tourism are taking another look at it - wondering how it might be properly used in the creation of new recipes.

Cachaça-seasoned fresh ham at Bar Bracarense
A recent article in Rio's major newspaper, O Globo, highlighted some of the inventive ways chefs are putting cachaça to use. A restaurant called Bar Bracarense, located in the tony Leblon neighborhood, offers the most spectacular cachaça-infused dish in Rio. Bar Bracarence uses aged cachaça to season a whole fresh ham, adding the smoky flavors that result from barrel-aging cachaça to the huge joint of meat. The ham is only made to order as it weighs 8 kgs (almost 20 lbs) and serves 10-15 diners. But it has proved a hit with regular patrons of the restaurant, which charges R$300 (approx. USD $150) to prepare it.

A Quinta da Boa Vista, another long-established Rio restaurant, takes advantage of the way cachaça combines with tropical fruits in a dish called Camarão Dom Pedro, named in homage to Brazil's first emperor. The dish consists of cachaça-marinated shrimps, sauteed and served in a half pineapple, served with rice accented with raisins. An Italian restaurant in Rio, Spaghetteria, adds a cachaça twist to the Italian classic Spaghetti Arrabiata by topping the pasta with two or three sauteed fresh sardines that have been flamed in cachaça .

It's not just in main courses, though, where cachaça is being put to good use in Rio these days. At Aconchego Carioca, a typical boteco-style bar, diners can choose a cachaça flavored tapioca pudding to end their meal, and at Mangue Seco they flambee bananas in cachaça then serve them hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

As cachaça makes its move from behind the bar to kitchen shelves in restaurants not just in Rio de Janeiro but around Brazil, this list of recipes with cachaça will continue to grow. It's all part of the ongoing evolution of cachaça , just as is the current boom in aged, artisanally produced cachaça , which are rapidly becoming the drink of choice of sophisticated Brazilian connaisseurs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Contradiction in Terms? Vegetarian, Organic Feijoada Arrives

Properly made, a plate of feijoada, Brazil's most popular candidate for the status of "national dish", is a vegetarian's nightmare. Centered around a bubbling pot of black beans laden with chunks of all the fattest, greasiest parts of the pig, feijoada must seem like the devil's dish itself to someone who eschews animal-derived food. The cauldron that is the centerpiece of a feijoada table is likely to contain, hidden under the glossy, pitch-black surface of the beans, things like fat links of sausage, racks of smoked ribs, salted pig's tails, ears and feet - anything and everything that's full of animal flesh and fat.

But the love of feijoada runs deep indeed in Brazil, and even vegetarians and veganBrazilians can't imagine living a feijoada-less existence. In São Paulo, at least, they no longer have to. A small enterprise called  Comida & Consciência (Food and Consciousness in English), in the city's upmarket Higienópolis neighborhood, has come to their rescue. Every Saturday (the traditional day for eating feijoada) the owners of Comida & Consciência make organic, vegetarian feijoada for their loyal customers, thus allowing those folks to share in Brazil's weekend ritual of feijoada.

Comida & Consciência is in the business of making and delivering home-cooked ready-to-eat vegetarian meals to their customers' apartments, houses or offices. Because many of their customers get their meals delivered every day from the shop, there are no repetitions on the monthly menu - except for feijoada, that is. It, by popular demand, is available every Saturday. Originally started by two friends who shared a common interest in healthy, organic eating and who began sharing their vegetarian dishes with likeminded friends, Comida & Consciência has become a way for the two women to share not only their philosophy of food, but also, as they say, their "consciousness of life."

Comida & Consciência's feijoada contains black beans, of course, but instead of cooking the legume with smoked pork products, their vegetarian version uses smoked tofu, soya cutlets, zucchini, parsley stalks, beets and strips of dried coconut to give the beans depth and richness. The beans are accompanied by traditional accompaniments - rice, sauteed kale and toasted oat flour, which stands in for the traditional toasted manioc flour. All the ingredients are organic, and the dish is completely vegan. Each serving of feijoada costs R$20,00, or just USD $10 at current exchange rates, plus a small delivery charge which varies depending on distance.

Lighter, less heavy and much healthier than traditional feijoada, Comida & Consciência's feijoada might just be the proof (literal in this case) of making a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

With material from the food section of Estado de S. Paulo newspaper,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Word Is Getting Out - Brazilian Food in the English Press

Last week the highly-respected British newspaper, The Guardian, published a lengthy article on Brazil's new place at the forefront of the world's gastronomy. The article, entitled Brazil: nuts about food was wWritten by Susan Smillie following a trip she made to Brazil, the article covers suchs topics as celebrity chef Alex Atala and his 4th-ranked in the world São Paulo restaurant D.O.M., Brazil's ongoing love affair with the boteco, a bar where you can find good beer, good snack food, and often great live music. She also discusses how the country's leading and most-creative chefs are turning their focus from imitating "continental" cuisine to explore the bounty of native ingredients, techniques and dishes.

Many of these topics, we're proud to say, have been extensively covered in the three years of Flavors of Brazil's existence. We're also very happy that Ms. Smillie used Flavors of Brazil as a reference source for her article, and included several links to posts on this blog in the online edition of her article. Click here to be taken to the Guardian's website and the article.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

RECIPE - Alagoas-style Lobster Tail with Amaranth (Casquinha de Lagosta ao Bredo de Alagoas)

Yesterday we posted a very down-home recipe for green amaranth (bredo in Portuguese) in a creamy coconut-milk sauce. Although there's no proof, it's likely that the dish, or something very similar to it, has been cooked in the kitchens of Northeast Brazil for centuries.

Today, we're taking a look at a very contemporary take on that simple but delicious recipe, a creation of chef Odair Silva of the Hotel Radisson in Maceió, the capital of the almost-but-not-quite smallest Brazilian state of Alagoas. It was recently published in an article featuring the cuisine of  Maceió in Brazilian food and wine magazine Prazeres da Mesa.

Chef Silva combines the distinctly downmarket green with luxurious lobster tail, an ingredient as prized, and expensive, in Brazil as it is in other corners of the world. Brazilian lobster is a type of rock lobster, similar to lobsters found in tropical waters around the world. It is different from its cold-water cousin, the clawed, or New England lobster, though either kind of lobster can be used in this dish.
RECIPE - Alagoas-style Lobster Tail with Amaranth  (Casquinha de Lagosta ao Bredo de Alagoas)
Serves 2

2 lobster tails
1 bunch green amaranth (can substitute spinach or collard greens)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 small green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 green onion, green part only, minced
1/3 cup bechamel sauce
1/3 cup coconut milk
grated parmesan cheese, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Slice open the lobster tails on the ventral side. Extract the meat and cut into small strips. Reserve the meat in the refrigerator. Bring plenty of water to the boil in a medium sauce pan, add the shells and cook at a slow boil for 30-25 minutes. Drain and when cool, cut away the ventral part of the shells, leaving only the dorsal portion. Reserve.

In a medium frying pan, heat the olive oil, then fry half of the onion plus the garlic until the onion is just softened. Add the chopped green and red peppers, fry for a minute more, then stir in the bechamel sauce. Reduce heat, then add the strips of lobster meat and cook for about 15 minutes. Add parmesan, then salt and pepper to taste. Reserve, keeping warm.

Wash the leaves, then boil in plenty of salted water for 15 minutes. Drain and reserve. In a frying pan melt the unsalted butter. Fry the remaining onion for a few minutes, then add the cooked amaranth. Cook for a minute or two, then add the coconut milk, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Reheat the lobster briefly if required. Divide the lobster between the two shells. Divide the creamed amaranth between two ramekins or small coconut shells. Put one lobster tail and one portion of amaranth on each of two plates. Sprinkle the chopped green onion over all and serve hot.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

RECIPE - Grilled Chicken with Lime Marinade (Frango Grelhado com Limão)

A long time ago clever Brazilian cooks and foodlovers discovered that there is a natural affinity between meats and poultry and sharp, lively lime juice. This is particularly true in the case of grilled meats, but a splash of lime juice (or lemon juice for that matter) can wake up a tired sauce and make almost any meat dish come to life.

This recipe, from the Brazilian website Sabores do chef admirably shows off this animating effect of lime juice. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are marinated for at least six hours in a mixture of lime juice, soy sauce, mustard and other seasonings then grilled. The long time that the chicken spends in the acidic marinade makes for tender chicken and ensures that the breasts won't dry out during the grilling process.

This chicken can be served hot off the grill, or at room temperature. If not serving it immediately, let the breasts cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until about one hour before serving. Remove from the fridge to let the meat rise to room temperature before serving. Served in this manner this chicken makes perfect picnic food.
RECIPE - Grilled Chicken with Lime Marinade (Frango Grelhado com Limão)
Serves 4

4 chicken half-breasts, boneless and skinless
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp Tabsco sauce, or other bottled hot sauce
1/2 tsp paprika
2 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
wedges of fresh lime for garnish
Put all the ingredients except the chicken in a large Ziploc-tip plastic bag, close the bag and mix the ingredients thoroughly. Add the chicken breasts, squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag, then seal it. Put it in the refrigerator for at least six hours, but no more than about eight.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about one half hour prior to cooking. Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade for basting the chicken while it grills. Cook the chicken on the grill for 7-8 minutes on the first side and about 5 on the second, depending on the thickness of the breasts. Brush the chicken breasts a couple of times with the reserved marinade during the grilling process. The chicken is done when the outside is nicely browned and the juices run clear. Do not over cook.

Serve immediately, or let cool and serve at room temperature, garnished by wedges of fresh lime.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

RECIPE - Spicy Pressure Cooker Beef (Acém Pimentada na Panela de Pressão )

Judging from the statistics that Google kindly compiles for bloggers whose blogs are hosted on Google Blogger, Flavors of Brazil's recent articles about the continued popularity of pressure cookers in Brazil and related recipes for pressure-cooked dishes have been well received by our readers. These articles have had higher numbers of page views than average. Even though the pressure cooker's glory days have faded in the northern hemisphere there must be a few die-hards who continue to use their mother's old pressure cooker. Either that or there are forward-thinking culinary vanguardistas to are just the first of a new wave of pressure cooker enthusiasts. In either case, our pressure cooker posts seem to have struck a chord.

In an effort to satisfy these readers, and to encourage other readers to take a pressure cooker for a test drive, this recipe for chuck steak (acém) cooked in a pressure cooker shows how Brazilian cooks use pressure cookers to quickly tenderize tougher, though flavorful, cuts of meat and at the same time create a rich and hearty sauce.

Note: If you don't have the hot paprika called for in the dish, you can substitute 1 Tbsp sweet paprika and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper.
RECIPE - Spicy Pressure Cooker Beef (Acém Pimentada na Panela de Pressão )
Serves 8

4 Tbsp neutral vegetable oil
2 lb (1 kg) chuck (acém) trimmed of excess fat and cut into large cubes (2 inch)
2 cloves garlic
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp hot paprika (more or less if you wish a less spicy or more spicy dish)
1 cup vegetable broth, white wine or water
salt and pepper to taste
chopped Italian parsley to garnish
Heat the oil in a pressure cooker and brown the beef cubes on all sides, in batches if necessary to avoid crowding. Reserve.

In a blender, blend the garlic, onion, green pepper, tomatoes, paprika and vegetable broth (or wine or water) until smooth and homogenous. If necessary, blend the vegetables in two batches, using half of the liquid for each batch.

Put the browned beef cubes in  the pressure cooker, then pour the blended ingredients over. Put the top on the cooker and heat over medium-high heat until the pressure takes. Reduce heat to medium-low and pressure cook for 30 minutes. Remove the cooker from the heat and let stand until the pressure is fully released.

Put the put in a decorative serving bowl, pour the sauce over and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve immediately with boiled potatoes or white rice.

Recipe translated and adapted from Mdemulher Culinária .

Sunday, May 20, 2012

RECIPE - Fish and Shrimp Ceviche with Starfruit (Ceviche de Peixe e camarão com carambola)

In Friday's post on carambola, aka starfruit, we mentioned that relegating that beautiful and delicious fruit to being nothing more than a mere garnish on a plate or glass is a culinary crime of the first order. Brazilian chefs are using the fruit more and more these days not just tart up a dramatic plate, but as an integral part of the flavor profile for a dish.

This recipe, which is one of the more inventive results with the current Brazilian craze for Peruvian cuisine, is a variation on the traditional Andean technique of marinading raw fish or seafood in lime juice to "cook" it. Ceviche has taken off in a big way in Brazil in the past few years and now shows up on menus in bars, botecos and five-star restaurants. This recipe comes from Brazilian food and wine magazine, Gula, and was created by chef Carol Caldas of Rio de Janeiro's Santa Satisfação restaurant.

Starfruits are commonly available in North American and European supermarkets, year round, so this recipe is easy to make at home almost anywhere. It makes a delicious first course, or main course for a light lunch.
RECIPE - Fish and Shrimp Ceviche with Starfruit (Ceviche de Peixe e camarão com carambola)
Serves 2-4 (main course or first course)

1/2 lb. firm white-fleshed fish fillet
1/4 lb. raw peeled small or medium shrimp
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 small tomato, peeled, seeded and cubed
juice of 2 large limes
salt and pepper to taste
2 firm small starfruits (carambolas), sliced
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro, leaves only
Cut the fish into small cubes, and halve the shrimps if large. Combine them in a medium mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper and mix in the lime juice. Let marinade, refrigerated, for half an hour. In a separate bowl, chill the sliced starfruit.

Remove the marinaded fish from the refrigerator, mix in the starfruit and cilantro and serve immediately, very cold.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

RECIPE - Tomato and Sun-dried Beef Pasta Sauce (Molho de Tomate com Carne de Sol)

This recipe, an Italo-Brazilian hybrid, comes to Flavors of Brazil from the website of year-old Brazilian TV food network, Chef TV. Just over one year old, the channel has amassed an impressive collection of recipes, Brazilian and international, on its website, where it's also possible to stream the channel's programming. (Click here to read more about Chef TV).

The recipe was created by Chef Fernando Gualtieri, one of Chef TV's program hosts. His show, called Risoto, Pasta & Sugo is devoted to Italian cuisine and its considerable influence on Brazilian cooking. In this recipe he makes a classic Italian meat-based tomato ragù using Brazil's carne de sol, a salted and partially dehydrated beef, in place of the fresh beef used in the classic ragù bolognese.

Carne de sol is uniquely Brazilian and gives this pasta sauce an unusual and wonderfully delicious flavor. Carne de sol is not easy to source outside Brazil, but an acceptable home-made carne de sol can be made anywhere, as long as one has a freezer. Instructions for making carne de sol at home can be found in this post from Flavors of Brazil, from February 2010.
RECIPE - Tomato and Sun-dried Beef Pasta Sauce (Molho de Tomate com Carne de Sol)
Serves 4

1/2 lb (200 gr) carne de sol
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
14 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 medium fresh tomato, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 cup light beef stock
1 green onion, green part only, chopped
fresh-grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
salt to taste
Starting a day before cooking, soak the carne de sol in cold water in the refrigerator, changing the water at least three times during the 24 hours. When ready to proceed, drain thorough and pat dry. Cut the beef into small cubes, then coarsely chop - do not grind or over-chop, the meat should have some substance.

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan, then cook the garlic until it just begins to brown - do not let it burn. Add the chopped meat and brown thoroughly, adding a bit more oil if necessary. Add the canned and fresh tomatoes and the beef stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the sauce until the beef is very tender and the sauce is thickened.

Add the chopped green onion to the sauce, and immediately remove the sauce from the heat. Let stand a minute or two, then serve over pasta of choice, topping with grated Parmesan if desired.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Brazil Gets Its Own Food Network

It was probably inevitable. With cable TV reaching into more and more Brazilian homes, and with the possibility of accessing hundreds of channels becoming a reality for most of Brazil's burgeoning middle class, it was only a matter of time before one of those available channels was filled by a channel devoted to food and cooking. After all, the USA has its Food Network, Canada has Food Network Canada, Australia's got Lifestyle Food, and France has got Le Canal Gourmandises, so why shouldn't Brazil have a food channel too?

It's not to say that Brazil didn't already have lots of TV programs devoted to food, cooking and food culture. Popular cooking-themed shows (particularly reality-TV style programs like Top Chef and all of Gordon Ramsay's *!$#% shows) from other countries are imported and subtitled and shown on cable lifestyle channels. GNT, a cable network aimed at women and owned by Brazilian media giant Globo, offers a diet of cooking shows along with talk, beauty and fashion shows. Major broadcast networks, like Globo itself, offer a few cooking shows weekdays during the morning. But up until 2011, Brazil didn't have a 24-hour, domestic, Portuguese-language food network.

That all changed, though, on January 17, 2011 when Chef TV went on the air for the first time on the TVA and TV Alphaville cable systems. Owned by Grupo Mídia do Brasil and based in São Paulo, Chef TV transmits food-related programming 24/7 to its subscribers. Its programming content also be streamed anywhere in Brazil direct from the channel's website Chef TV.

More than 80% of the channel's programming is produced domestically in Brazil, with the remaining 20% being rebroadcasts of international content. A glance at the channel's program grid reveals a total lack of reality-TV style elimination shows and a very small number of personality-chef based programs (so far). Most of the programs are thematic in nature, covering one aspect or another of gastronomy. For example, tonight's prime-time programs include a wine show starring a well-known sommelier, a cocktail show hosted by a bartender, a chef's TV diary and recipe collection, a program about the history of gastronomy, a program in which viewers can have their culinary questions answered, and a show devoted to the pizza. Other programs on the channel's schedules include a program about Brazil's Bahian regional cuisine, a seafood show, and of course, a dessert and pastry show. Many of the shows are cooking demonstrations, and all recipes from all shows can be found on the Chef TV website.

As devoted viewers of The Food Network in its early days, and as heart-broken spectators watching the network's degeneration into food-star silliness over time, Flavors of Brazil has its fingers crossed for  Chef TV. So far, it's a gastronomy channel and not merely foodetainment. We fervently hope it'll stay that way.

Friday, March 16, 2012

RECIPE - Napa Cabbage Salad (Salada de Acelga)

This light and healthy Brazilian salad, which features the Asian green known in English as Napa cabbage or Chinese cabbage and which is called acelga in Brazil, can successfully be served as a side salad or in larger portions as a main course for a light lunch, particularly on hot days (which are the norm in Brazil).

The dressing is made with plain unflavored yogurt, and although the recipe calls for natural, full-fat yogurt, if you want to make a less caloric version you can successfully substitute non-fat yogurt.
RECIPE - Napa Cabbage Salad (Salada de Acelga)
Serves 5 as side salad, 2-3 as main course

1 medium head Napa cabbage (acelga)
1 large carrot, coarsely grated on a box grater or julienned with a mandoline
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1 small tub natural yogurt
1 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper to taste
Tear off the outer leaves of the head of cabbage. Starting at the end away from the stem, thinly slice the cabbage, only going down about 2/3 of the way to the stem end.

Place the cabbage in a large salad bowl, and toss the leaves to separate them. Sprinkle the grated or julienned carrot and the olives on top. Reserve, preferably in the refrigerator.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, lime juice and honey and mix well with a fork. Add the mint and mix again. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the salad with the dressing on the side so that diners can add to taste.

Recipe translated and adapted from Gastronomia & Negócios, a UOL website.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

RECIPE - Salt Cod with Coconut Milk and Ginger (Bacalhau ao leite de coco e gengibre)

This recipe, which comes from A Crítica newspaper in Manaus, the largest city in Brazil's Amazonian region, highlights the local-produced  "salt cod" made from piracuru, the world's largest fresh-water fish. (Click here to read more about this salt-cod, known in Brazil as bacalhau da Amazônia.) Although this dish was developed by Manaus chef  Felipe Schaedler specifically to showcase the recently-introduced Amazonian salt cod, it can easily be adapted to standard salt cod, made from fish found in the North Atlantic. Chef Schaedler was recently named Manaus' chef of the year at the young age of 25 by Veja magazine's Comer & Beber Manaus. Currently, unless you live in the Amazon basin, you'll have to make this substitution, as bacalhau da Amazônia is only available in the region. Soon, however, it should be available elsewhere in Brazil, and potentially in other world markets.

Chef Schaedler combines the fish with local flavorings coconut milk, ginger and orange juice to give the dish a tropical feel. Most traditional Brazilian recipes for salt cod derive from Portuguese originals, and consequently are combined with vegetables that can grow in temperate zones and with seasoning found in European pantries. This modern take on salt cod Brazilianizes it by combining it with flavorings that are tropical in origin. However, in today's global economy, these flavorings are widely available in non-tropical countries, so the ingredients for this dish should not be difficult to source almost anywhere.
RECIPE - Salt Cod with Coconut Milk and Ginger (Bacalhau ao leite de coco e gengibre)

2 lbs (1 kg) good-quality salt cod
extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red bell-pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated, with its juice
4 Tbsp fresh-squeezed orange juice
cilantro or Italian parsley (optional)
Three days before cooking, place the salt cod in a pan or deep platter and cover with fresh cold water. Place in the refrigerator. Twice a day remove the fish from the refrigerator, drain it, cover again with fresh cold water and replace in the fridge. When ready to cook, drain thoroughly, cut into serving sized pieces and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 350F (170C). Place the fish in a roasting pan, drizzle with plenty of extra-virgin olive oil, and roast for about 20-25 minutes, or until the fish begins to brown and is starting to flake.

Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, heat a small amount of olive oil, then saute the onions, garlic and red bell peppers until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Add the orange juice, bring to a boil and reduce the liquid by half. Stir in the grated ginger. Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil, reduce slightly to thicken. Reserve.

When the fish is cooked, remove it from the oven. Spread some of the coconut milk-ginger sauce on the bottom of a deep dinner plate, then place a piece of roasted fish on top. You may garnish with a leaf of two of Italian parsley or cilantro. Serve with write rice or mashed potato.

Friday, February 24, 2012

RECIPE - Gratineed Deviled Eggs (Ovos Recheados Gratinados)

Deviled eggs are one of those foods that for many people evoke memories of earlier times in their lives, not always pleasant times - church-basement suppers, pseudo-sophisticated cocktail parties, ant-ridden picnics in the summer heat. Perhaps it's because of memories like those that deviled eggs have gotten a bit of a bum rap, and seem to have disappeared. But a truly well-made deviled egg, served at the right occasion and at the right temperature, is nothing to be scorned. It is marvelously, if unexpectedly, delicious and worthy of being returned to its proud place on the buffet table or hors d'oeuvres tray.

In Brazil, deviled eggs are known as ovos recheados. The term recheado simly means filled. (Which makes us wonder, why does the English language consider deviled eggs to be devilish?) Although they do pop up oat buffets, and are often seen as one of the offering of the pay-by-weight self-service restaurants that are found everywhere in Brazil, they often tend to be underseasoned and bland - just a mixture of mashed egg yolk and mayonnaise for the stuffing with perhaps a bit of chopped green onion to give it at least a breath of life.

This Brazilian recipe, however, is neither underseasoned nor bland, and it puts deviled eggs front and center - as the main dish for a lunch or light supper. Served piping hot straight from the broiler, three or four of these eggs makes a substantial offering without being over-filling. Employing the classic combination of ham and eggs, and sassing it up with best-quality grated Parmesan, this dish is a winner. And - here's a secret - it's embarrassingly easy and quick to make.
RECIPE - Gratineed Deviled Eggs (Ovos Recheados Gratinados)
Serves 4

8 eggs, free-range if possible
4 oz (100 gr) good-quality, lean, deli-style ham, thinly sliced
4 oz (100 gr) fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
ground white pepper to taste
Stack the ham slices, then cut them into matchstick-size julienne strips. Reserve.

Hard boil the eggs, according to your own favorite method. (if you don't have a favorite method, see below). Let them cool completely, then peel and cut them in half carefully, along the vertical (longer) axis.

Remove the yolks from the halved eggs, place in a medium mixing bowl. Using a fork, mash them, being careful not to overmash them. You want them to still have some texture. Add the julienned ham, then taste for seasoning and add salt only if necessary. Add white pepper to taste.

Fill the halved eggs with the yolk/ham mixture, mounding the mixture. Do not overpack the eggs.

Preheat your broiler. Put the eggs on a wire rack set in the bottom half of a broiler pan. Sprinkle the eggs with the grated cheese. Broil for about 3-4 minutes, or until the eggs are hot and the cheese topping is melted, bubbling and nicely browned. Serve immediately.

The Cook's Illustrated Test Kitchen's Foolproof Hard boiled eggs

(Note: Eggs are easier to peel when they are not fresh. Let farm-fresh eggs age for at least two weeks before hard boiling. Supermarket eggs have normally aged already and can be used as soon as you wish after purchase.)

Put the eggs in a large pot with cold water to cover by 1 to 2 inches. Put the pot on the stove, turn the heat to high and bring quickly to a boil. As soon as the water comes to a full boil, remove the pot from the stove, cover tightly and let stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath in a large mixing bowl, combining cold water at a lot of ice cubes, at least one full tray's worth. When the eggs have stood for 10 minutes, remove from the hot water with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water. Let them stand at least 5 minutes in the ice water.

When fully cool, peel and use as needed in the recipe.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Moqueca in Addis Ababa? - Brazilian Cuisine in Africa

Addis Ababa
Until fairly recently, Brazilian cooks and chefs often exhibited a tendency to devalue local Brazilian cuisine and to rely on Italian or French recipes, menus and techniques when they wanted to appeal to a sophisticated clientele. Sure, local holes-in-the-wall served true Brazilian food - always had done and always will do was their motto - but big-city restaurants that wanted to indulge and impress their clients gilded their menus with such dishes as vichyssoise, risotti, crêpes Suzette and tiramisù.

Not today. The best and most creative chefs strive to outdo each other in offering authentic Brazilian cuisine - local recipes, local techniques and local ingredients. As in many other fields 21st century Brazilians have developed a new pride in Brazilian cooking and gastronomy.  One restaurant might source an artisanal cheese that's been made the same way for three or four centuries in one remote location, while another restaurant might find in another location a fruit that's been eaten in a small territory for three or four millennia.

The Brazilian government now recognizes the importance, both domestically and internationally, of supporting Brazilian food culture. It sponsors local food festivals and gastronomic events, its tourism department has a sophisticated approach to culinary tourism, and its economic development branch supports Brazilian food exports.

Currently, thanks to the Brazilian embassy in Addis Ababa, three prominent Brazilian chefs are in Ethiopia to showcase Brazilian gastronomy in the high-altitude African capital. During the Brazilian food festival in Addis Ababa from February 03 to 27, the three chefs - Mara Salles, Paulo Machado e Eduardo Duó - will offer a Brazilian menu at one of the Addis Ababa's best restaurants, the Kuriftu Diplomat, at lunch and dinner. In addition to the festival at the restaurant, the chefs will also work with cooks from hospitals from the interior of Ethiopia to develop a healthy and sustainable food programs for those institutions.
The Brazilian culinary team

The chefs have taken it upon themselves to try to showcase Brazilian food using Ethiopean ingredients where possible, although they carried with them certain essential ingredients that cannot be found in Ethiopia, such as manioc flour, dendê oil and cachaça. For example, they will be offering a very traditional Brazilian moqueca (a spicy fish stew) but will use fresh-water fish from the River Nile rather than a frozen imported product. Even though Brazil is one of the world's largest coffee producers, they will serve Ethiopian coffee to honor the country where coffee was first drunk.

In addition to presenting Brazilian food at its best, the chefs say that they will also take advantage of the opportunity to learn about Ethiopian cuisine, which is almost completely unknown in Brazil. Maybe on their return journey they will be bringing back new and exciting Ethiopian ingredients to offer in their own restaurants back in Brazil - just one more fruit of this interesting and forward-looking program of showcasing Brazilian cuisine to the world, and one more link in the increasingly connected global world of gastronomy.

Based on material from Brazilian website Gastronomia & Negócios