ANOTHER TWISTED SISTER OF THE SHEPHERD’S PIE

Gastronomic heresy alert: I am calling Shepherd’s Pie a concoction made with ground turkey and cauliflower topping. And what’s even worse, I’ve committed this sin before an I am doing it all over again, without a hint of shame.  This preparation is filling but moderately so. It won’t let you go into a state of total lethargy once you move away from the table. It is also low in carbs and saturated fat, in case you worry about those details. I used a trick quite popular in keto-type recipes to give ground turkey a more pleasant texture upon cooking. It involves baking soda and a few minutes of your time. Absolutely worth it. Read on the comments for full explanation on the baking soda trick.

TURKEY SHEPHERD’S PIE
(adapted from several sources)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 head cauliflower, core removed, florets cut in pieces
½ cup water
Salt and pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 pound 93 percent lean ground turkey
¼ teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 tablespoon harissa
¾ cup homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan until ver hot. Add cauliflower and cook until softened and beginning to brown. Pour 1/2 cup water, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook until the cauliflower is fully tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor, and process until smooth. Add the egg and paprika, and process a few more seconds. Reserve.

Prepare the ground turkey: in a bowl, add the meat, one tablespoon water, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and baking soda, mixing everything together. Set aside for 15 minutes. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Make sure to use a skillet that can go under the broiler.  Add mushrooms and celery and cook until no liquid remains.   Stir in harissa and cook for a few more minutes.

Add broth, carrots, and Herbes de Provence,  and bring to a simmer.  Add the turkey meat, breaking it up with a fork.  Cover and cook until turkey is cooked through, about 10 minutes, stirring and breaking up the meat every few minutes. Whisk cornstarch and the 2 tablespoons water together in small bowl, then stir mixture into filling and continue to simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Pat the meat mixture to make it leveled, and spread the cauliflower puree all over the surface.  If you like, use tines of fork to make a pattern of ridges on the surface. Place skillet under the broiler and broil for about 10 minutes, if necessary move the pan around to get homogenous color on the surface.  Allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Quite often ground turkey develops a dry, unpleasant texture when cooked, unless you use alternative methods such as pressure cooking, or the crock pot low and slow for a long time. The addition of baking soda changes everything, by raising the pH. This has two benefits: it reduces the interaction between protein molecules in the meat (by a mild denaturing effect) and accelerates browning. Since the proteins are not able to interact with each other very efficiently, they acquire a more tender texture. It is important to not overdo it. You don’t want the meat to get all mushy, it is a delicate balance. In other words, don’t add the baking soda and walk away for a couple of hours.

This recipe can be assembled all the way and kept in the fridge. When it’s time to eat, place it covered in a low oven to warm up, then uncover and run under the broiler.  Leftovers are superb, and as usual, they showed up as my lunch two more times that week.

Note added after publication: a dear friend of mine from UK brought to my attention that a lesser sin would have been to call this a Twisted Sister of the Cottage Pie, as that at least involves other kinds of meat, whereas the Shepherd is always made with ground lamb.  So there you go, a bit more culinary trivia for us all.  I will keep my title, since one sister was already out there… (wink, wink)

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TURKEY BURGER, JAPANESE-STYLE

If you are a food blogger, you know how it goes. Even a great recipe is made once, perhaps twice, then left behind, living exclusively as a blog post that you read and say to yourself “I must make that again, it was so good!”  But then, some recipes somehow materialize as regular appearances. Usually they hit a magical trilogy: simple to prepare, great flavor, and all the people you cook for happen to love it too. From my reasonably recent blogging past, two dishes hit this jackpot and show up all the time: Eggplant Parmigiana (version from Jeff Mauro), and Turkey Portobello Burgers. The eggplant turned into a once-per-week deal, actually, and I have simplified the preparation even more. I should edit that post to reflect my changes. As to the turkey burgers I can probably make them with one hand tied behind my back. Today I share with you a new version that incorporates Japanese ingredients.  The ticket is a mixture of shiitake mushrooms and red miso. If you are new to miso, maybe you should start with the milder, white version, but if you are a seasoned miso-eater (apologies for lousy pun), go big and go red.


JAPANESE-STYLE TURKEY BURGER
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon red miso
5 ounces fresh shiitake mushroom caps
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon sansho pepper (or pepper of your choice)
1/4 tsp salt
fresh cilantro leaves to taste

Place the mushrooms, miso, olive oil, sansho pepper, salt and cilantro leaves in a food processor and process until it all forms a paste.

To prepare the burgers, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Knead the meat until it becomes sticky and binds together; divide the mixture into 4 equal parts, forming a burger patty with each fourth of the mixture. Place in the fridge to set for about 30 minutes (or longer, but then cover lightly with plastic wrap.

Grill to your liking, about 5 minutes per side.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I have a thing for grill marks. In my mind, without them, grilled food won’t taste good. It is obvious I eat with my eyes first. For that reason, I am always adding a touch of honey or maple syrup to all my marinades, and often add some in a turkey burger mixture. In this recipe, miso does the job nicely, look at the beauty of those grill marks!

The other interesting bit of this recipe is that, contrary to ground beef, you don’t need to use a light hand forming the patties. The type of muscle fiber and fat content of turkey meat makes it behave in a totally different way. In fact, if you massage it well, and get the meat to be more fully compacted, the texture will be better. This tip was mentioned in America’s Test Kitchen during a show on turkey meatballs, and in a great book called The Japanese Grill (I told you I am in a Japanese-obsessive mood, didn’t I?). I proved it to myself with these burgers – massaged the living bejesus out of the meat. It ended up with perfect texture.

We rarely have bread with our burgers, and in fact, according to The Japanese Grill cookbook, a turkey burger must be served only with a little sauce, as if it’s a steak. Bread is considered a big no-no. Of course, if they see I added Velveeta on top of mine, they would prevent my entry into the country. I really want to go some day, so let that be our dirty secret…

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AIR-FRIED MEXICAN MEATLOAF

Don’t run away, you can make this tasty recipe in any oven, but let me tell you that the air-fryer shines on this preparation.  My friend Dorothy blogged about it not too long ago and urged me to give it a try. I made it three times in consecutive weeks. Yes, that’s how much we loved it. Simple to put together, and ready in 20 minutes thanks to the air-fryer environment, a blast of very intense heat concentrated in that small chamber. Pure awesomeness. It gets a nice crust, the meat inside is moist, with just the right amount of spicy heat. We inhaled them. Leftovers are wonderful too, by the way.

MEXICAN TURKEY MEATLOAF
(adapted from Shockingly Delicious)

1 egg
1 pound ground turkey
1 onion, chopped (I omitted)
1/3 cup almond flour
1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated Mexican blend cheese
1/4 cup green salsa (I used La Victoria)
1 cup finely sliced spinach leaves
2-4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
A few grinds of black pepper

Spray the basket of the air fryer with nonstick spray. If you have a perforated parchment sheet protector, lay it on the screen.

In a large mixing bowl, crack the egg and use a fork to beat it lightly. Add the turkey, onion (if using), almond flour, cheese, salsa, spinach, cilantro, and all spices. Gently mix with your hands.

Shape the turkey mixture into 4 loaves.  Place them in the air fryer, turn the heat to 390F degrees, and set the timer for 20 minutes.

Remove basket from oven, and place each meat loaf on a dinner plate. Top with additional salsa — either green or red salsa,  if you so desire.

You may also shape this into a single loaf and bake it in the oven for about 45 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The first time I made this recipe, I completely forgot to spray the basket of the air-fryer with some oil. I had the most epic mess to deal with later, as bits and pieces of crusty cheese bonded happily with the screen. I tell you, it was not fun. Having learned a painful lesson, I made it again and not only greased the basket, but I also protected it with a special perforated parchment liner that works like a charm both for bamboo steamers and air-fryers.  I highly recommend those, although you could improvise with parchment paper and scissors. I am not very gifted with this type of DIY stuff, so I rather amazon-it.

My main modification of Dorothy’s version was to use almond flour instead of bread crumbs, which reduces the carbo-load a bit, and gives a slight nutty flavor which I love. You can definitely go for the traditional bread crumb option, in this case you should add about 1/2 cup.

Dorothy, thanks for the inspiration! Glad you are having fun with your air-fryer, I hope we’ll go on inspiring each other!

Note added after publication: it was brought to my attention a nice review on different brands of air-fryers. If any of my readers is considering such purchase, take a look here before you decide which one to get.

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TURKEY STIR-FRY WITH ALMOND BUTTER

I was not going to blog on this recipe, since it was one of those improvised things, quickly assembled for lunch on a weekday. But I tasted a spoonful straight from the saute pan, and the “Must-Blog-This” alarm went off, loud and persistent. I quickly transferred some to a serving bowl  to be immortalized on camera. The almond butter takes this simple stir-fry to a higher level of deliciousness. Amounts for the recipe are pretty flexible, I was just using stuff that I had in the fridge so you can go with the flow and add a bit more of this, a bit less of that.  If you care about this type of info, this concoction would be low-carb and also Paleo-friendly. But what I really care about is that it is mighty tasty.

 

gary

TURKEY STIR-FRY WITH ALMOND BUTTER
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 pound ground turkey (preferably not super lean)
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons almond butter (a must!)
5 ounces baby spinach, coarsely chopped
fresh lemon juice

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the mushrooms, season with a little salt and pepper, saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the ground meat, Aleppo pepper, a little more salt and regular pepper, cook moving it around every once in a while, until the meat is golden brown.  Add the almond butter, incorporate well, keeping the pan in medium-heat.

Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Right before serving, squirt some lemon juice all over the meat. Adjust seasoning if needed.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

served
Comments: I’ve mentioned many times I was a picky eater as a child. Very. One of my favorite things to eat was ground beef and rice, which Mom called “picadinho.” Ground beef and rice. I know, so exciting, right? One summer we were all in my Grandma’s home in São Sebastião, a beach town between São Paulo and Rio, and my Aunt Sônia was getting ready to feed her three very spoiled Siamese cats.  She cooked a big batch of ground beef and rice for them, and I was fascinated! Those cats were very lucky to get my favorite food on a daily basis.  From then on, whenever Mom would make me “picadinho“, both me and my Dad would call it “comida de gato” (Portuguese for cat’s food). I was actually complimenting her cooking, I suppose Dad was more in his usual teasing mode. Good times. Decades passed by, but ground meat (chicken, pork, beef) is still something I resort to often for my lunch, although usually with additions that would make my younger self leave the table screaming in horror. When I make some, I always ask Phil  “would you like some comida de gato?”  It is blatantly clear that I am a lovely wife…

Wanna say it like a native? Click

Turkey Stir-fry with Almond Butter, from Bewitching Kitchen

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TURKEY PORTOBELLO BURGER

This will be a bit embarrassing. I’ve made this recipe four times since December, a pretty strong endorsement as I tend to follow the “cook and move on” mode.  Last week I wanted to make it again, so I did a quick search on the blog but came up empty-handed. Puzzled, I went to the index page, and it wasn’t there either.  I concluded I failed to add it to the index page and also did not tag it with the appropriate search words. But then a troubling thought hit me: what if… what if… I simply forgot to blog about it?  Could it be possible?  Only one way to find out. I went to my computer and almost fell off my chair: the pictures were all there, but straight from the camera, never optimized for publication!  Yours truly is officially losing it, but she’s not alone: John from The Bartolini Kitchens  recently had the exact same thing happen to him. We are now virtual siblings, and that makes me happy. So, before I forget everything about ground turkey, mushrooms, and burgers, allow me to share a great recipe that is now part of our regular rotation.

Turkey Portobello Burger

TURKEY PORTOBELLO BURGER
(slightly modified from FoodTV Network)

1 large Portobello mushroom cap
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped shallot
3 tablespoons lightly packed fresh parsley
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
zest and juice of 1/2 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
cheese slices (optional)

Use a spoon to scrape out the gills from the underside of the mushroom cap. Cut the cap into 1-inch pieces and transfer to a food processor. Add the shallot and parsley and pulse until chopped.

Transfer the mushroom mixture to a large bowl. Add the turkey, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, lime zest, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; gently mix with your hands until just combined. Squeeze lime juice all over and mix very gently. Divide into 4 balls, then lightly press into 1-inch-thick patties. Put on a large plate, cover and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Heat a grill to medium. Brush the grates with olive oil. Grill the patties, undisturbed, until marked on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes. Give the patties a quarter turn and cook until marked again, 4 to 5 more minutes. Flip the patties and grill until cooked through, 6 to 7 more minutes; and if you’d like top each with 2 slices cheese during the last 3 minutes of cooking.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

patties

Comments: As everybody knows, the problem with turkey burgers is that they can be too bland and dry. Who wants that, right? You can deal with the issue in many ways, in fact I have several recipes in the blog with a juicy outcome. But it’s hard to resist a recipe with the title “Perfect Turkey Burger” although I’m usually skeptical of this type of hype. What I love about this recipe is the depth of flavor given by the Portobello mushroom.  My only modification was to add some zest and lime juice because the citric flavor goes well with the burger. Plus, it gives the meat just a little more moisture.  I have made it without resting the patties in the fridge – they are a tad fragile, but if you are gentle, it works.  I imagine you could make them early in the morning and leave in the fridge the whole day, if that suits your schedule.

Turkey burgers are on our menu at least twice a month, and although I am always looking for different takes on it, it’s been hard to move away from this recipe. I say why change a winning team?

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ZUCCHISAGNA: A TWIST ON A CLASSIC

I don’t think there is such a thing as a person who doesn’t like lasagna. I may have already mentioned that the technician of the lab where I did my PhD in Brazil did not like chocolate nor french fries. Outrageous! She still loved lasagna, proving the point I just made. I hope you’ll let this stretch in Logic 101 slide… 😉 Anyway, I am a lover of this Italian classic, but it’s one of those dishes that can make you feel super full at the end of the meal, even if you exercise severe portion control. Layers of pasta with bechamel, meat sauce, usually a pound of cheese per square inch…. I never order it in restaurants, and confess to making it at home only once in a blue moon. Using thin slices of veggies to play the role of the pasta lightens things up quite a bit. You can use eggplant, butternut squash (Anne Burrell has a great take on this version, BTW), and of course, zucchini as I did here.  A couple of details are important to keep in mind, though. You must pre-cook the zucchini slices or you’ll run the risk of having a watery, unappetizing concoction in your hands. And use a light hand on the cheese.  The delicious meat sauce should be the center of  your attention. Vegetarians? This dish is not for you, sorry. Primal-afficionados? Grab your forks, and dig in!

Zucchisagna1ZUCCHINI RIBBON LASAGNA
(adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled plum tomatoes, with juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
12 ounces ground turkey, preferably dark meat
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
5 medium zucchini, trimmed
olive oil and lemon juice for brushing zucchini
1 + 1/2  cups full-fat ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Make the sauce: Pulse tomatoes with juice in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook shallot and red-pepper flakes, seasoned lightly with salt, stirring occasionally, until shallot is tender. Add turkey; cook, breaking up any large pieces, until browned. Add tomatoes, bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until thick, about 20 minutes. Stir in oregano and 1 teaspoon of salt. Let cool.

Make the lasagna: heat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the ricotta with the egg, season with salt and pepper. Reserve. Slice zucchini lengthwise into thin strips (about 1/8 inch thick) using a mandoline or a sharp knife. Brush each slice with a 1:1 mixture of olive oil and lemon juice, and cook on a griddle or grill pan for a few minutes on each side until the slices get some color. Blot on kitchen paper and let them cool to room temperature. Place 5 or 6 zucchini slices, overlapping slightly, in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 1 cup sauce. Dot with ricotta. Repeat twice with zucchini, remaining sauce, and ricotta, alternating direction of zucchini at each layer. Finish with a final layer of zucchini, cover the dish with ricotta, sprinkle the Parmigiano on top.

Bake uncovered until lasagna bubbles and top is nicely brown, about 50 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

composite1

Comments: As I read the recipe from Martha Stewart’s site, a few things bothered me. First, the use of raw zucchini to assemble the lasagna.  In my opinion, that is asking for trouble. Second, the ingredient lists TWO medium zucchini for the full recipe. Unless their zucchini was treated with massive doses of auxins, two won’t be enough.  I used 4 medium zucchini, 50% more ricotta than called for, and my ingredients were enough to assemble a 7-inch square dish instead of an 8-inch.  Of course, some variation is expected, but overall I think the recipe as published in her site had some issues. My version worked great, this was a delicious meal, satisfying without that feeling of “I am going to explode if I don’t go for a walk” often associated with the real lasagna.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but… when you want something lighter, try this version. It won’t disappoint you at all…

served1

Dinner is served: Zucchisagna with Baby Greens in Lemony Dressing

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FETA-STUFFED TURKEY MEATLOAF

Let me set the record straight right now. This recipe is not going to win a beauty contest.  It is definitely not the best looking dish in the world, but sometimes beauty is in the eye of the fork-holder. Once again – in fact two posts in a row – I am joining spinach and feta to bring a humble ingredient (first cauliflower, now ground turkey) into the spotlight.  This meatloaf turned out moist, and quite flavorful with the salty bite of feta cheese in the middle.  I think this recipe could work very nicely made in muffin tins, with feta cheese in the center. Individual servings are always a lot of fun.  Note to self: try that next time.

TurkeySpinachMeatloaf

FETA-STUFFED TURKEY MEATLOAF
(adapted from All Day I Dream about Food)

1 large shallot, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 lbs ground turkey
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and heat your oven to 325 F.
.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in shallots, salt and pepper and saute until shallots are translucent but do not allow them to brown.  Add in spinach and stir until heated through. Allow it to cool before proceeding with the recipe.
.
In a large mixing bowl, combine sautéed shallots, ground turkey, coconut flour, chicken stock, egg and Worcestershire sauce. Mix until very well combined.  Place half of the turkey mixture on prepared baking sheet and shape into a flat rectangle, about 1 inch thick. Cover with feta cheese, pressing on feta to adhere to meatloaf. Place remaining turkey mixture over top of feta and shape the whole thing into a rough loaf.
.
Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until
internal temperature reaches 160 F on an instant read thermometer.

Cut into slices and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

thatsauce(image from Google database)

Did you know that there are some words in English that I am a bit afraid of?  Worcestershire is one of them.  I refer to it as “that sauce”, so that my dignity is preserved. In Brazil we call it “molho inglês” (English sauce), a clever move if you ask me.  Speaking of tricky words, I also avoid saying “beach” and “sheet” because apparently I tend to lead both words into the wrong direction.  But, I digress. That sauce is very important in this recipe, it adds the umami component so fashionable right now. Or maybe it was so fashionable a couple of years ago, and I’m slow to catch up.  Still, add it. If you can pronounce it correctly, even better!  😉

This topic of tricky words for foreigners made me think of the name of a city in the state where I was born, São Paulo.  Please try to say it before you listen to the correct pronunciation in the file below it. Ready?

The name of the city is… ITAQUAQUECETUBA

and now see how you did, by listening to yours truly…


.
In closing, a little language trivia for you: the name Itaquaquecetuba comes from tupi-guarani, meaning “a place of abundant bamboo sharp as knives”.  

 

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