Feijoada is often considered the national dish of Brazil. The main part of it starts with boiling a variety of meats – usually various cuts of pork and/or beef – I used thick cut bacon and boneless pork spare ribs this year and added some onion, garlic, and a bouquet garni. It simmers for about an hour before you put in the black beans. I probably could’ve gotten away with only a pound of beans instead of the two-pound bag. Black beans are really good for you; studies have shown that they are really good towards the lower digestive tract and colon health and may even prove lower rates of colon cancer. After I put in the beans, I let it simmer for another hour and then pretty much served it right away.
|Feijoada -- black beans and meat, simmering|
The beans are served on top of steamed white rice. I had found a recipe which I modified a little by adding a little bit of minced green onion (I used just the white part; I put the green part in with the beans) and salt in with the rice and stirred before making it as normal. It added a little bit of flavor and aroma to the rice. After the beans are served on the rice, it’s usually topped with manioc flour. I couldn’t find it, so I mixed some bread crumbs that I found at a Latino grocery store, mixed a little onion powder, garlic powder, and parsley flakes in it. It worked for me.
|Who doesn't like greens? Seriously.|
Feijoada isn’t just rice and beans alone: it’s always served with a side of couve de mineira (collard greens). I found a better recipe this year, and I used fresh greens. I started with sautéing minced garlic and kosher salt in olive oil. (It called for 5-6 cloves, but I only used four, and to be honest it would’ve been better with three.) I learned how to roll up the leaves and slice it to create strips, then put these strips in the sauté skillet as well. And at the end, everything is served with a side of a few orange slices.
|Feijoada completa. A picture of happiness.|
Brazil is also famous for a drink called caipirinha. Based off of a word for “countryside,” it’s a drink that starts with lime wedges and sugar smashed together in the bottom of a glass (I used a wooden spoon in lieu of a pestle), then a shot (or two) of cachaça poured on top. I cut mine with some water – I want to try it with coconut water next time – and a couple ice cubes. Cachaça is a type sugarcane rum that can be found at larger liquor stores. There are also a variety of ways to make the drink, from using different fruits to using different liquors.
|There's never a wrong time for a caipirinha. Too bad my work has a different idea.|
I saved the bread for today; the recipe was easy to choose: pão de queijo. After boiling milk, salt, and butter, I mixed in tapioca flour and parmesan cheese and two eggs. I had to add a little more milk because it was too dry to mix together. I put a little of the mixture in mini baking cups before baking. The outside was hard and the inside was gooey, and tasted pretty much like I remember, but the kids didn’t like the texture. I guess that means there is more for me. I was told it’s best to try it with black coffee. I’m seeing this as my breakfast tomorrow.
|My breakfast, lunch, and dinner.|
And finally, I made brigadeiros (I’ve sometimes seen it called negrinhos). I had made these before for Partners of the Americas (www.partners.net) and for work pitch-ins. It starts out with sweetened condensed milk, butter, and egg yolk and cocoa powder boiled on low heat until it loosens from the bottom. I do it until I can scrape the bottom with my spoon, and it doesn’t immediately fill back in. At that point, I put it in a greased pan and let it cool completely (usually about an hour or so in the refrigerator). Then I roll it into little balls and roll it in chocolate sprinkles and put it in mini muffin cups.
|So beautiful. (Wipes a tear away.)|
As I was making these different dishes, I kept thinking of all the other Brazilian foods that I miss and should probably be mentioned. First of all, there are churrascarias, which are also found here in the US. Churrascarias are restaurants where they serve different meats off of a skewer to your table in a rodízio style, that is, where you pay a fixed price, and they serve you until you burst. Many restaurants give each customer a card – red on one side and green on the other – and will only serve you if the green side is up.
Another drink that bears mentioning – and having went to Rio Grande do Sul, I don’t think they would let me forget – is chimarrão. It’s an infused tea of yerba mate (similar to the mate tea from Argentina) that is packed into a gourd and cool water is poured in. Once the cool water is absorbed, hot water is poured in and then drank using a metal straw. It’s a communal drink, drank in social settings, and passed around the group. It’s brought out especially when there was a reason to celebrate or when guests come, or simply just celebrating life. Some people add sugar or honey, but I was told that the “real” way to serve it is bitter.
|One day, I will learn how to make/serve chimarrao. It's on my bucket list. But I can drink it pretty well.|
Tropical fruits, such as maracujá (passion fruit), açai, pineapple, oranges, mango, papaya, guava, are really popular in many dishes and desserts. I had wanted to try to find caju, the fruit that cashew nuts come from, but unfortunately, it was out of season for where I was and when I was there. And of course, there’s always a snack I associate with Partners meetings which is Romeu e Julieta, slices of white cheese served with goiabada (like a gel made from the guava, the consistency of canned cranberry salad). All of these things reminded me of Brazil, and it was really good to look through my pictures, learn a few things, especially some of the history of how things got to be that way, and relive one of the best trips I have ever taken. Now, I think I’m going to go study up on my Portuguese again. But not before one more brigadeiro. Boa noite!
Up next: Brunei Darussalam