I grew up watching my family members eating mangos and making a huge mess in the process. Some varieties of Brazilian mango are so fibrous that the “correct” way to eat them is to cut a small hole in the top and suck out the juices while compressing the fruit, which leaves your mouth, face, hands, and possibly even your clothes covered with juice and sticky mango bits. Some people view this process as part of the fun, but both me and my Dad had nothing to do with it, and only enjoyed a mango if it was laying on a pristine plate, dissected by a knife and fork, with a napkin alongside.
This simple dessert would certainly receive the seal of approval from my Dad.
MANGOS FLAMBE (MANGAS FLAMBADAS) (inspired by my friend Vanda)
4 ripe mangos
1 Tbs butter
2 Tbs granulated sugar (or more)
pinch of salt
1/4 cup rum (or Cointreau or a mix of both)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Cut the mango in medium-sized pieces. Go take a quick shower (optional). Come back and melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced mango, sprinkle sugar all over it, add the salt, and cook gently until the mango starts to get soft. Taste a piece and decide if you need more sugar.
Carefully add the rum, heat it for a few seconds, and ignite with a match. Wait until the flames die down, sprinkle a little lemon juice, taste again. Serve over vanilla ice cream.
Comments: You can change this basic recipe in many ways. For example, you may first caramelize the sugar, and then add the fruit on top. But, I prefer this preparation I’m posting because it’s simpler and the taste of the fruit is more pronounced. You may also skip the alcohol with no major harm, but I like the extra flavor it imparts. If you have leftovers (highly unlikely), they are delicious in the morning with yogurt and a little granola sprinkled on top. You can prepare bananas in almost exactly the same way, or even along with the mango, but when making bananas flambe, I like to caramelize the sugar first. My friend Vanda, who makes risottos and souffles with her eyes closed and one hand tied behind her back, loves to prepare mangos this way. After dicing the fruit, she usually grabs the pit and takes great pleasure in sucking all the mango-goodness clinging to it, standing next to the sink. Unfortunately, I never seem to have my camera ready when that happens. 😉
When traveling to a country for the first time, it’s a good idea to pay special attention to their “street food.” In Paris, for example, the tiny shops selling crepes (sometimes slathered with Nutella!) are a delight as one strolls along the avenues. Many big cities are filled with such delicacies, and in fact, one of my favorite cookbooks revolves around this topic.
On the streets of Brazil, you might stop to buy a “pastel,” and after sampling it, immediately return to the vendor for a couple more (plural = pasteis). These fried savory pastries are sold at the entrance of street markets: every week on the same day a few blocks of a neighborhood street close to traffic, while farmers sell their produce from early morning until slightly past noon, with prices dropping as the hours pass. You’ll smell the pasteis from a distance, and it’s impossible to resist eating more than just one… The vendors are usually hard working Chinese-Brazilians, with red faces from the intense heat in their huge woks.
Growing up in our house, my memories of pasteis go well beyond the street markets. Luisa, a cook who worked for my Mom every Saturday, often made them, and always from scratch. She used no machines or special gadgets, but only her strong arms, a rolling pin, and a fantastic disposition.
Luisa routinely prepared two batches, one for the whole family, and another for my Dad, which no one else would touch. What was so special about his pasteis? They were filled with minced peppers, and I am not talking jalapenos, poblanos, or serranos. Those were incendiary Brazilian peppers that can make a grown man cry. Dad was absolutely addicted to them.
Besides his love for hot peppers, he loved a good laugh. You might see where this is headed: he’d sneak into the kitchen to steal a couple of pasteis as Luisa was busy frying them, and then hide one of his “special ones” in the middle of the normal batch. He later patiently waited for a very unlucky camper to bite into it. Although everyone was on high alert at the beginning of the meal, we always seemed to forget until someone started howling in pain! Dad, laughing to the point of tears, insisted that he didn’t do it, that Luisa had certainly made a mistake. 😉 The best times were when Mom got the fiery one… Normally soft-spoken and even-tempered, a mouthful of hot pepper really made her fume, literally. It’s been almost six years since my Dad left us, but the memories will never fade.
PASTEIS (recipe adapted from my friend and fantastic cook, Anita)
for the dough
250g all purpose flour
1/2 cup warm water
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 Tbs pinga (or vodka)
1 tsp baking powder
vegetable oil, for frying (around 2 cups, depending on pan size)
Mix all ingredients together until very smooth. Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes to 12 hours in the fridge, covered by plastic film.
Using a pasta machine, open small portions of the dough – on a Kitchen Aid, I roll up to number 5, not thinner. Place the dough on a floured surface and cut into squares. Add the filling of your choice to the center of the square and close the dough around it, pressing the edges with the tines of a fork to prevent it from opening as you fry it. Make absolutely sure there are no holes for the oil to sip in, or they will be soggy.
Fry in extremely hot oil until golden, turning them only once. Remove to a tray with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Pasteis can be kept in a 200F oven while you fry the full batch.
Ground beef filling
1 pound ground beef
1 Tbs olive oil
1/4 diced onion
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs pitted, diced green olives
1 Tbs minced parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 Tbs cornstarch
1 boiled egg, finely diced
Saute the onions in the oil until translucent. Add the ground beef, and saute until cooked through. Add the tomato paste, green olives, salt and pepper and cook in slow-heat for 10 minutes. Add the boiled egg, mix well. Make a slurry with water and cornstarch, add to the ground beef mixture, cooking for a few minutes, until it thickens slightly. Let it cool completely before using. Leftover filling can be frozen.
(makes about 20 pasteis)
PDF file under preparation…… (it had a mistake when originally published)
Comments:If you don’t want the trouble of making the dough, won ton skins will work reasonably well, and they are quite easy to find in grocery stores. But, this recipe will produce an authentic version, with a crust full of blisters and slightly more “substance” than you’ll get from won ton skins.
Pasteis can be filled with many different things. Pastel de queijo (cheese pastel) is very popular in Brazil: just enclose a piece of mozzarella with a sprinkle of oregano, and remember that it will be very hot once it’s done frying. Hearts of palm is another popular filling (pastel de palmito) that I’ll definitely post about in the future, because I’m very fond of it. Your own imagination is the limit: roasted chicken with a little cream cheese, cooked shrimp with tomatoes and herbs, all veggie….. Have fun with it!
Pasteis can be made in a small size that’s perfect as an appetizer with a cold caipirinha on the side. But my favorite pasteis are as part of a full meal, with rice and a fresh salad. Tropical paradise on a plate!
For more photos, follow the slide show…. And for a quick lesson on Brazilian Portuguese, click on the sound files down below.
If you want to pronounce it like a native, listen carefully:
I suspect that many people have never tried it, and that those who saw manioc root for sale didn’t take it home, because it looks too strange and intimidating. That’s all quite sad, because it means they’re missing this: the Brazilian version of french fries.
For many Brazilians, “mandioca frita” is even better than french fries. I know, it sounds heretical, but trust me – once you try it you will be hooked. Crunchy outside, creamy inside, with a flavor that can only be described as addictive. I won’t lie to you, mandioca frita takes some effort. But if you follow my instructions you won’t regret it.
Manioc, also known as cassava and yucca, is a major ingredient in many cuisines of the world. You can read all about it here.
To cook the manioc, you first must peel it, a task that requires a good quality veggie peeler. The root is often sold covered with a thin layer of paraffin, but don’t worry about it, just peel the brown skin to reveal the white root underneath (Don’t even consider feeding the peel to your garbage disposal – you’ve been warned!).
Here’s a before and after shot…
Next, using a big, sharp knife and some caution cut it into pieces: it’s a reasonably tough root….
… now you’re ready to begin cooking. Fill a large pan with slightly salted water, and place the pieces of manioc inside. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and allow the pieces to cook until they’re tender, easily pierced with a fork (the time is somewhat unpredictable, anywhere from 25 to 50 minutes). Some pieces might burst open; just remove them from the water. In this photo you can see what they look like when ready.
Cooking manioc is a labor of love. Not all the pieces will be ready at the same time, and some pieces might never become tender. In Brazil, “mandioca” is sold in street markets as well as grocery stores, and similar to what happens in France, once you establish a relationship with a particular seller in your neighborhood, you’ll always have great quality mandioca. 😉
Once you cook it, you’ll notice a tough “string” in the very center of the root: remove it before frying. It’s too tough to eat, although it won’t hurt you if you don’t remove it.
Here in the US I’ve found excellent manioc root in Asian markets, but as you can see from the next photo, in the same batch I had a mixture of varieties (white and yellow), something that never happens in Brazil, because they would be sold separately. Their taste is almost identical, although in my family you might witness heated discussions defending the qualities of one kind over another. To avoid taking sides, I pledge endless love for both.
At this point you can fry them right away or save them for later. I normally cook a large batch, fry as many as we want for dinner, and then freeze the rest. If you have a vac-saver system, you can use it to store the cooked manioc root. When you want to fry them, simply remove from the freezer and let them sit for half an hour; no need to even completely defrost them, although I wouldn’t go straight from frozen into the hot oil.
To fry the cooked pieces, add 1/2 inch of vegetable oil to a large skillet and heat it until the manioc sizzles when it touches the oil. Fry as many pieces as will fit without crowding, and allow the first side to brown before moving them around, or they’ll get a bit greasy. When finished frying, put them on absorbent paper and add some salt to taste.
Now, close your eyes, and dream of a tropical beach, coconut trees, a hammock, and perhaps a refreshing “caipirinha” with your mandioca frita!
If you happen to know any Brazilians leaving abroad, ask them to name the five foods that they miss the most. I’m willing to bet that “pao de queijo” (little cheese bread) makes the list. Some might even shed a tear or two thinking about it.
Originally from the beautiful state of Minas Gerais, they are made with a farmer’s type cheese, quite unique (Minas’ cheese, read about it here). Brazilian cheese bread is so popular that nowadays you can buy it in stores all over the country called ‘Casa do Pao de Queijo” (Home of the Cheese Bread), or as a dry mix, in colorful bags available at most grocery stores. I’ve lost track of how many such bags we’ve stuffed in our luggage coming back from annual trips to visit family and friends.
Last year I found a recipe for pao de queijo published by Fer, in her blog Chucrute com Salsicha. She is a Brazilian-American like myself, and she raved about them. When things like pao de queijo are on the line, Brazilians attentively listen to each other… At least three Brazilian bloggers back this recipe. Try it, you’ll love it
BRAZILIAN CHEESE BREAD
(adapted from Fer, original recipe from Neide)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup farmer’s cheese (see comments)
1 T Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
1/2 tsp salt
for topping (optional)
fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
Add all ingredients, except those for the topping, into a blender. Blend very well at full speed, stopping a couple of times to scrape the surface of the blender’s cup, making sure no bits of tapioca starch are left unmixed.
The mixture will be a little thinner than pancake batter. Pour the batter in mini-muffin tins, to no more than 3/4 of their capacity, as shown here. The recipe makes 24 little cheese breads.
Add a little bit of salt and rosemary on top, place in a 400F oven, and cook for 20 minutes.
Most will come out right away without sticking. If some stick slightly, allow them to cool for a few minutes and probe them out gently with the tip of a knife.
Comments: In the original recipe, Neide was trying to mimic little cheese breads she had at a restaurant in Rio de Janeiro. She used exclusively Parmigiano cheese in the batter. I’ve made this recipe many times, and now settled on a combination of two cheeses: a melting type, preferably Mexican, and a small amount of Parmigiano to sharpen the taste. Of course, depending on the type of cheese, adjust the salt. In this batch I did not add any rosemary, but please do so, it is perfect with it.
They resemble popovers in texture, but are gluten-free, so folks with gluten allergies can still enjoy them!
Now, allow me to share a couple of photos sent by Mia, a reader of my blog who just made a batch! In her version, the mixture ended up with a firmer texture, so she was able to roll them as little balls, which I must say made them a lot more “authentic-looking”. Awesome job!
Mia, thanks so much for trying one of my favorite Brazilian recipes, and for sending the photos and allowing me to publish them… Now I am craving “pão de queijo” again…..
Always together, rice and beans are the staple of Brazilian home-cooking. As a child growing up, I had them many times every week, alongside beef, chicken, pork, or even seafood. In Rio de Janeiro black beans are more common, whereas in Sao Paulo you’ll see a more reddish variety. I’m from Sao Paulo, but my Mom was born and raised in Rio, so in our home you never knew what kind of beans to expect. Indeed, cooking beans is a weekly endeavor in Brazil: you make enough to last the whole week, then you make it again. And again. And again. It sits in the fridge, waiting, getting better each day.
I’m not talking about “feijoada“, Brazil’s national dish “par excellence“, made exclusively with black beans. I’ll post a feijoada recipe in the future, but for now here’s a much simpler preparation that you can adapt in many ways to suit your tastes. The only thing that I won’t endorse (or forgive) are canned beans. If you go that route, you’re on your own. 😉
BRAZILIAN-STYLE BLACK BEANS
2 cups dried black beans, picked
2 bay leaves
1/2 T vegetable oil
2 very thick slices of bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t ground cumin
red pepper flakes
ground black pepper
fresh cilantro (optional)
Place the beans in a bowl and cover them with two inches of water. Allow them to soak overnight (I normally do that early in the morning and cook the beans in the evening). Drain, discarding the water. Place the soaked beans in a pressure cooker, add cold water to cover by 1 inch, add the bay leaves, and bring it to a boil. Cook under pressure for 15 minutes, then release the pressure. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, help the economy and buy one right away! 😉 Actually, you can cook them in a normal pan, but it will take 1 to 2 hours. Cook until the beans become tender (they can be prepared up to this point and then kept in the fridge overnight).
Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Sautee the bacon pieces until they are golden, add the onion and sautee more, until dark golden. You do want some color here. When the onion is getting dark, add the garlic and cumin and sautee for a couple of minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper, add red pepper flakes.
If you made the beans the day before, heat them until boiling, then add the bacon/onion mixture plus all the oil accumulated in the pan. Mix it all well and allow the beans to simmer for a while (10 to 30 minutes), uncovered. Remove some of the beans into a small bowl and smash the grains with a fork, forming a paste. Return the paste to the simmering pan and cook everything for 5 or 10 more minutes. Add salt to your taste; add more pepper and cilantro if you desire. Remove the bay leaves.
Serve over white rice with the meat of your choice. We had it with pulled pork and arugula salad, served on the same plate, the way my family likes to do it…
Time for another traditional Brazilian recipe! Heart of palm (“palmito” in Portuguese), is, as the name suggests, the core of a palm tree sapling: it’s very delicious, but their harvest came at a huge price: to obtain the “palmito“, the whole tree was killed. Brazil was the greatest producer until the 90’s, but the population of palm trees decreased to near extinction. Other varieties of trees that are perennials are now cultivated to take the place of palmito; the most promising is called “pupunha“. To listen to the correct pronunciation of those words, click the sound wave below. “Pupunha” might be a challenge for Americans, but practice makes perfect! Go ahead and give it a try…
Heart of palm is often associated with salads (as the classic “millionaire’s salad”), but I want to expand your palmito-horizons to cooked dishes, like this wonderful pie. It is great warm or cold, by the way. Make sure to read my comments after the jump for some more thoughts on “palmito“.
Clique no link acima para a receita em portugues….
2.5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), cold, cut in pieces
3/4 cup yogurt
1 t salt
1 egg yolk
2 T olive oil
1 onion, diced small
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 can hearts of palm, diced
1/2 cup olives, diced (I used a mixture of kalamata and green olives)
1/2 cup green peas (frozen is fine)
green onion and Italian parsley, to taste (minced)
4 – 5 oz cream cheese
1 T flour
salt and pepper to taste
Make the filling first, because it needs to be used cold. Saute’ the onion in olive oil until translucent, add the tomatoes, allow them to release some liquid, then add the diced heart of palm, olives, salt and pepper. Cook a couple of minutes, add the cream cheese, parsley, green onions, and flour, cook for a couple more minutes until the cheese melts and the texture turns creamy. Transfer it to a bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature. You can prepare the filling the day before and keep it refrigerated.
For the dough: add almost all the flour (2 + 1/4 cups) and the salt to a large bowl, work the butter into the flour with your fingers or a pastry fork, then add the yogurt (cold). You may or may not need to use the rest of the flour. Do not overwork the dough. Allow it to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes (you can also prepare the dough the day before).
Open half of the dough in a circle and cover the bottom and sides of your pie dish, making sure the dough is not rolled too thin. Add all the filling, open the second half of the dough, and either cover the pie completely, or cut strips, forming a simple grid over or a more elaborate lattice pattern. Brush the dough with egg yolk mixed with a little water to thin it. Cook in a 375F oven for about 40 minutes (please see my comments for variations on this).
Allow the pie to sit for 15 minutes before slicing.
It’s time for me to post something typically Brazilian. For those who are not familiar with Brazilian cooking, this dish is a great introduction. It originates from Bahia, a very beautiful Brazilian state, where Summer never ends. Most dishes from Bahia, or as we say “comida baiana”, are very spicy, just like in other hot places of the world. The warm climate goes hand in hand with a ton of pepper, which helps get the sweat going…
The only exotic ingredients for moqueca are coconut milk and dende (a kind of palm oil). These days one can find coconut milk rather easily – I advise you to buy brands from Thailand and make sure it is NOT the sweetened version. I feel a bit queasy just imagining a moqueca made with sweet coconut milk.
At the risk of receiving hate mail from Brazilians, I will share with you my recipe for shrimp moqueca, which does not include dende oil, for two reasons: first, I am never able to find Brazilian dende here. Second, I actually do not mind a moqueca made without it. With this last phrase, I’ve infuriated the whole population of Bahia (more than 14 million people), and 95% of all other Brazilians (about 168 million folks).
If you are still with me, allow me to show you a slightly unconventional, but delicious moqueca recipe… And, by the way, if you want to listen to the correct pronunciation of the word, click here to listen to the very writer of this blog saying it in native Brazilian portuguese 😉
SHRIMP MOQUECA a la Sally (receita em portugues ao final da proxima pagina)
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil (or a mixture of dende oil and olive oil)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup roasted red bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes (I like to use fire roasted, they work very well in this dish)
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup coconut milk
hot pepper sauce (Tabasco, Sriracha)
fresh cilantro to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare a mild brining solution mixing 1 quart water with 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1/4 cup sugar, plus the juice of half a lemon. Submerge the shrimp in the solution for about 15 minutes (see my comments). Remove shrimp from brine, rinse briefly and dry on paper towels.
Saute the onion in olive oil until it starts to turn golden, add the red bell pepper, garlic and fresh cilantro and saute for a few minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes with their juices, cook for 5 to 10 minutes to marry the flavors, and add the shrimp. Cook just until it turns opaque, add the coconut milk, reduce the heat to low, and cook until everything is heated through and the sauce is smooth. Do not let the coconut milk boil too much or it may separate (it will still taste delicious, but it will look curdled). Add hot pepper sauce, taste, adjust seasoning and right before serving add more fresh cilantro and the juice of the other half of the lemon.