Bobó de Camarão (Shrimp in yucca cream)

 

 

IMG_0978By the time I tasted my first bobó de camarão I was an adult; seafood was virtually absent from my family’s menu. The sea had not graced my state with its grandeur, and that long ago, no one believed in freezing anything. I was acquainted with the Bahian culinary trinity: dendê oil, malagueta pepper and coconut milk. But adding the shrimp to that concoction elevated the trinity to a divine level… Well, I was seventeen going on thirty, and my friend Arnaldo who was thirty, introduced me to bobó in a restaurant in Belo Horizonte.

IMG_1008The entire Afro-Brazilian cuisine has a well-defined character that can be tasted through its scent and appetizing appearance. The bobó and so many other African dishes arrived in Brazil by the way of Bahia, the state with the largest number of African descendents. The Bahians added their je-ne-sais-qua to the exotic dishes giving them the brazilianess they deserved. Today, the shrimp in yucca cream is enjoyed across the world.

IMG_1011Having experienced the bobó, Arnaldo and I went back to our small town armed with the restaurant’s recipe and the ingredients we had brought at Mercado Central. That weekend, our principle reason for visiting the capital became second place – Nelson Rodrigues’ play had been memorable as always, but second place nonetheless.   Since then I have experimented with a variety of recipes and have concluded that my first recipe was the best by far. I’ve encountered recipes that replaces the yucca for inhame (a root that I love and will share some recipes later), which is not persuasive enough to play with the Bahian culinary trinity.IMG_1020

 

 

 

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and devein,  tail removed
  • 2 Salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 3 the juice of 1 and 1/2 limes divided
  • 1 pound yucca (cassava), peeled
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large white or yellow onion, sliced
  •  1/2 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 large yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes no skin or seeds, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup scallions or cilantro, chopped and divided
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup dendê  (red palm oil) available online
  • 1/2 Tbsp minced Malagueta pepper or Jalapeno

Directions:

1- In a medium bowl, season the shrimp with salt and ground pepper.  Drizzle with the juice of 1 lime; place in the refrigerator.

2- In a large pot, pour enough water to cover the peeled yucca, and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp salt.    Boil uncovered for about 30 minutes or until tender.  Drain.

3- In a large pan over medium-high heat, saute the onion and bell peppers in oil for about 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the garlic and 1/4 cup  scallions or cilantro.

4- Place the saute vegetables, coconut milk and the boiled yucca in a blender and process until smooth.  Pour it back in the pot and cook over medium heat for about 7 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon, so it won’t stick to the bottom of the pot.  Add the shrimp, peppers, and dendê . Cook for approximately 4 minutes over medium-high heat. Adjust the salt and add the remaining lime juice and cilantro or scallions. Gently stir. Serve over white rice. Serves 4.

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Biscoito Quebra-quebra (Dainty Tea biscuit

 

img_1092Brazilian patisserie is one of the finest in the world. And biscoito quebra-quebra is one of the finest pastries in Brazil. It is light and delicate, almost dainty.  Its name means “effortlessly breakable”; and its crushed morsels will inevitably end up on your lap, if you are not mindful while you eat it.

In my mother’s house, the biscoito quebra-quebra appeared even smaller than its usual small mode. I think that it was to accommodate my father’s abhor for the dismantled biscoito all over the table – my father ate the exquisite, elegant, scrumptious petite pastry in one single bite.img_1100

The biscoito quebra-quebra melts in your mouth. The white, smooth and sweet cookie has an almost ghostly presence that seems to disappear before you have a chance to swallow it. I never really acquired the taste for the little pastries until I was all grown up; the tiny cookies allude to exquisite delights still imperceptible to adolescents in search of gleeful gastronomic amusement.

The biscoito quebra-quebra recipe was passed on to me, handwritten by someone whom I never met. The first line on the list of directions read: Follow the recipe unhurriedly, and roll each cookie as if was an angel’s halo. I thought about eliminating the line when I passed the recipe along, but I soon realized that the first line is indeed the most important direction on the list.img_1098

Enjoy the biscoito quebra-quebra and don’t let the shattered pieces on your lap bother you too much.

 

 

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Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 41/2 cups corn starch, divided
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder

Directions

  1. Follow the recipe unhurriedly, and roll each cookie as if it was an angel’s halo.
  2. Mix eggs, butter and sugar until well blended and the sugar has melted.
  3. Blend in the condensed milk and vanilla extract.
  4. Slowly add 2 cups of corn starch and mix well
  5. Add the baking powder and blend well
  6. Mix in 2 cups of corn starch and mix to form a soft dough.
  7. Sprinkle the last 1/2 cup of corn starch over the dough slowly, and knead it softly on a smooth surface.
  8. Roll the cookies and bake in lightly greased pan for 20/30 min in a 250 degrees preheated oven.
  9. The cookies will not brown – don’t bake it for too long.

Pão de Queijo (Cheese-Bread)

 

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Like a siren, the pão de queijo’s scent announces its presence loudly throughout the house. Louder than a doorbell, a phone ringing or an alarm clock, the pão de queijo’s warnings cannot be ignored. All tasks, like ironing, dusting, placing the last piece of a puzzle and even reading the final paragraph of a novel would be put aside to attend to the pão de queijo’s calling. It permeates the house; and on breezy days it announces to the neighbors a cheery gathering in the kitchen.

 

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The family gatherings were assembled even before the pão de queijo left the oven, giving the baker an opportunity to brag about the new polvilho (yucca flour) she had found at the farmers’ market or how great a quality of the cheese she had used. Once the pão de queijo was served, any other dissertation was irrelevant.

The pão de queijo accompanies the celebrated Brazilian black coffee, hot chocolate and fruit juices, as well as beers and aperitifs. The scrumptious little bread is welcomed at any time and by everyone, young and old. Some say that the cheese-bread was created before wheat was cultivated in Brazil – the imported flour was expensive and its quality was compromised by the time it arrived in the country. The combination of the abundant yucca flour and grated cheese replaced the flour and surpassed its merits.img_1946

The state of Minas Gerais claims to be its place of origin. The mineiros replaces the picture of the heart in the slogan “I heart Minas Gerais” by a picture of the famous pão de queijo. Internationally known, the cheese-bread is served in a variety of ways: stuffed with tropical fruit pastes, with chicken pate or as my favorite,  pulled-pork sandwich.
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In the US we use the industrialized yucca flour, that works very well for the pão de queijo. (if  you find the artisanal variety, grab it)  There are two kinds of yucca flour: doce and azedo. You can use either one for pão de queijo recipes. You can also combine equal parts of both. (I always do that). The choice of cheese is very important – it should be medium-hard and freshly grated. If you choose a salty cheese, please reduce the salt in the recipe. Experiment with different cheeses and find your perfect pão de queijo in your own kitchen. It is fast and easy. Enjoy.

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups yucca flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups grated cheese

Directions

  1. Place the yucca flour in a medium bowl. Set aside
  2. In a small pot, boil the water, salt and oil. Pour it over the yucca flour and mix with a spoon. Once the mixture is cool enough, use your hands to blend it into a coarse flour.
  3. Add the eggs and continue to mix with your hands.
  4. Add milk and cheese. Mix it until the dough is very sticky. If the dough is not sticky add some extra milk. It should be just firm enough to be shaped into two inch balls by hands greased with canola oil.
  5. Place on the baking pan, lined with parchment paper. Bake  for about 30 min. in a 350 degree preheated oven, or until golden. Makes about 40.

Feijão Tropeiro (Tropeiro’s Bean Dish)

 

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Feijão tropeiro is quintessentially Brazilian, quintessentially mineiro. I loved meeting the feijão tropeiro in New York City, in one of those chic churrascarias at Central Park West. I looked at the unpretentious dish on the buffet table, not dressed up in some mango chutney or ornate  with cilantro and cayenne guacamole foam. It mingled comfortably among the parade of skewered meats, plainly beautiful as it was born among the hills of Minas Gerais during the gold rush era.


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The name tropeiro comes from trooper, but it relates to a private group of gentlemen transporting goods for sale on horseback through a vast region. It is said that “trooperism” was initiated in Brazil by the Portuguese Crown, to transport the gold extracted in Minas Gerais to the ports in Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian tropeiro transported more than goods for sale; he transported cultures and the practice of “coming and going” through the passageways and roads they created.

The rustic troopers’ bean dish has been a staple in Brazilian cuisine since colonial times. The mixture of sausage, bacon, and onions with cooked beans and yucca flour was easily prepared on the sides of roads, by those pioneers, circa 1695. The feijão tropeiro still endured its same characteristics as it sat there, in a sophisticated restaurant on the island of Manhattan – demanding a price of the gold nuggets of its time.  I wanted to high-five my fellow citizen, but searched, instead, for my compatriot credentials.

IMG_1889I experienced the tropeiros’ bean dish all through my life; although with less frequency on this side of the Atlantic, I have managed to keep its presence alive in my kitchen. The comfort and safety inspired by its steadiness bears  the family allegiance. From a childhood with siblings, through doubtful adolescence, to the conventional rites of passages into adulthood, this food is a safe port through my journey. Today, I will post a traditional feijão tropeiro recipe, but in the photos posted here I have replaced the yucca flour with cornbread flour. Some people in my family might consider the replacement as sacrilegious, but it is Labor Day Weekend and I’ve promised feijão tropeiro to few friends gathering for a barbecue. I first manipulated the dish’s characteristics when I lived in Sullivan County,  New York, informally known as the Jewish Alps, with not a single chance to get my hands on yucca flour, alien to the region. Every time I do so, I am careful enough to introduce it as a tropeiro-style bean dish. Serve your feijão tropeiro as a side dish with barbecued beef or roasted pork.IMG_1900

The tropeiro bean dish may be the proudest expat dish among my cronies. Without the Brazilian forofa’s versatility, that dresses up or down according to the event, the feijão tropeiro does not take adorns. It is as Brazilian as Carmen Miranda, though too abstemious to adopt the fruity hat.

 

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb red beans
  • 10 medium collard greens leaves, cut very thin
  • 1/2 lb bacon, chopped and fried
  • 1/2 lb your favorite sausage, cooked and sliced thin ( what kind of saysage)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 fried eggs, cut up
  • Chopped parsley and scallion to taste
  • 2 cups yucca flour
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

 

 

Directions

 

  1. Wash and cook the beans until soft, but not breaking apart, about 30 min. Drain it and set aside
  2. In a medium skillet sauté the collard greens for about 5 min. Set aside
  3.  In a large heavy bottom pot, heat the bacon and sausage; add onion and garlic. Saute until onion is soft.
  4. Add the reserved beans and collards – add salt and pepper
  5. Add cut up fried eggs, parsley and scallion
  6. Mix in the yucca flour slowly, making sure the mixture is evenly coated (you can use more or less yucca flour depending on how moist you prefer your feijão tropeiro).
  7. Sprinkle the hard boiled eggs and olive oil on top before serving  – serves 6-8

 

 

Chicken Filling

IMG_0677 (2)Mini Pie Chicken Filling

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 small green pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked chicken breast, finely shredded.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • salt to taste
  • 1 whole pitted green olive in each mini pie

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