brazil

This dish is summer in a bowl, equal parts comforting and exotic.

Bobó de Camarão (sometimes called Shrimp Bobó) is a shrimp chowder dish from coastal Brazil, thickened with mashed cassava (mandioca). This stew was likely inspired by a similar, traditional West African dish made with yams, which was brought to Brazil by West African slaves during the transatlantic slave trade from the 16th to 19th centuries. Other signature flavors from this dish include buttery red palm oil (dendê) and creamy coconut milk (leite de côco).

Red palm oil, originally from West Africa, is a controversial ingredient: the majority of palm oil is produced in Southeast Asia, where deforestation of palm oil trees has negatively impacted orangutan populations. For this reason, I prefer sustainably-harvested palm oil, like this one from Nutiva; their oil is part of the “Palm Done Right” international campaign, grown and harvested in Ecuador without contributing to deforestation or habitat destruction.

Given that red palm oil requires such careful consideration, you may be wondering why bother with it in the first place. Red palm oil is high in antioxidants and vitamins A and E, and has a health-promoting fatty acid profile (about 42% each saturated and monounsaturated fats)–in truth, it has one of the best nutrient profiles among cooking fats. And from a culinary perspective, the oil imparts a rich flavor, velvety texture, and has a high smoking point (about 350F). Over the past few years, I’ve come to prefer making popcorn in red palm oil, which adds a pleasing yellow color to the final product. If you don’t have access to sustainably-harvested red palm oil, never fear: this dish is also delicious when made with coconut oil or olive oil.

This dish is relatively simple overall, but does require a few phases: first, you’ll make a seafood stock using the shrimp shells, then boil the cassava and make a flavor base using tomatoes, onions, and peppers; next, you’ll blend the flavor base with coconut milk, pan-fry the shrimp, and put it all together. To save time, you can use peeled shrimp and pre-made seafood stock. But even then, this isn’t a dish I’d recommend you first tackle on a busy weeknight–it really benefits from an unhurried cooking environment, when you can play some relaxing music and envelop yourself in these tropical aromas. It’s worth the extra bit of effort and planning.

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Moqueca is a fitting representation of Brazil’s diverse culinary background. There are several variations of this dish today, but Moqueca Baiana, from the Northeast state of Bahia, is one of the most interesting reflection of the traditions embedded in Brazilian cuisine.

Originally a seafood stew prepared by the native people of Brazil, Moqueca has taken on a new form over the past few hundred years. Some signature flavors of today’s Moqueca Baiana recipe include coconut milk, first introduced by Portuguese colonists who planted coconut trees as they removed other trees for wood, and palm oil, brought over by African slaves as part of the sugarcane trade.

Although palm oil contains some health benefits, there are ecological concerns with its production. I prefer to use Nutiva palm oil, which is certified organic and fair trade, and they ensure that no deforestation or habitat destruction results from the growing and harvesting processes. We also pop our popcorn in this oil, which gives it a rich, buttery flavor.

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Hey folks! Tonight at 7pm ET (4pm PT) I’ll be one of three home chefs participating in a live Google+ Hangout “Cookalong” with MasterChef Top 4 contestant Jessie Lysiak; be sure to tune in via the MasterChef Google+ page or FOX’s YouTube Channel to watch me in action! Thanks for the support!

Most of the time, I really appreciate a well-marinated chunk of meat. Or something that’s been swimming in a fragrant sauce for a while. But every once in I while I like to bring dishes back to their basics – and this week’s recipe fits the bill nicely. Picanha (pronounced “Pee-cone-ya”) is about as simple as it can get: skewered rump cap roasted over an open fire, flavored with only sea salt. It’s a staple dish of Brazilian barbecue (churrasco) and one of the more prominent dishes from the region.

A rump cap is hard to find in many American butcher shops, as it’s often incorporated into the cut we call rump roast. If you’re lucky enough to find it in North America, the rump cap is usually identified by a thick layer of fat on one side which flavors the meat as it grills. As an alternative, we used a couple top sirloins from US Wellness Meats, which had a nice layer of fat on one side, mimicking the rump cap perfectly.

This week’s recipe, like last week’s Couve a Mineira, is part of a team-up recipe with my friend Alex Boake. Be sure to check out her illustrated version of this recipe!

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Although the common consensus is that collard greens originated in the Mediterranean, they gained their most widespread popularity in Africa (see my Sukuma Wiki recipe). It is assumed that collards made it to most of the Americas via African slaves. In Brazil, it’s a different story, as collard greens were likely introduced via Portugal, where it has been a staple veggie for hundreds of years (as evidenced by my Caldo Verde recipe). Today, collards are served often in Brazil, usually as an accompaniment to fish or beef.

Today’s recipe is a collaboration with my friend Alex Boake, who stayed at our house for a few days before heading off to Ancestral Health Symposium with us. She’s going to post an illustrated version of this recipe on her blog later this week, so bookmark her site! We’ll be knocking out a couple other illustrated recipes in the near future as well, so this is just the tip of the illustrated Paleo recipe iceberg. Update: Here is Alex’s post!

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NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Pão de Queijo is a traditional cheese bun popular in South America, most especially in Brazil. The dish has been around since the 17th century, and was made with just tapioca starch and water before the widespread domestication of cattle in Brazil in the 1800s. Today, it’s a popular breakfast food and can be found in most bakeries in Brazil.

Cheese buns are some of our favorite non-bread breads to make. They’re dead simple – mostly tapioca starch and hard cheese – and are a great complement to many meals (not just breakfast). We first discovered them in our pre-Paleo days at a Fogo de Chao Brazilian steakhouse. Later we started making them using pre-packaged Chebe brand dry mixes, until we found out that the Jaminets over at Perfect Health Diet had posted a recipe of their own. My recipe is very close to theirs, the only main difference being that I use a combination of cream and water instead of milk (there’s nothing wrong with making it with milk, but I have an easier time digesting cream than milk). I’ve also adjusted the portion sizes so that our recipe only makes 15-20 cheese balls – otherwise, that’s all we would be eating at every meal!

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