Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Not Easy Being Green...

...or so sang Kermit the Frog. It's also not easy if you are a breakfast juice.

So....there we were in the mountains of the Ibitipoca Nature Reserve...having just spent a day of hiking, drinking wine, and watching the most beautiful sunset. Nato brings us to a beautiful Pousada (Bed & Breakfast) that he knows of there for a great breakfast....

....and on the table was this interesting pitcher of juice. And, as you see, it was rather green.

A sane person would have asked what it was before trying it...but this is me we we're talking about. It was pretty tasty and refreshing! I wasn't really sure what it was, however. Interestingly enough, it was a juice made from pineapple, ginger....and collard greens.

This is why I love to many things you get to experience, as I don't think Snapple will be coming out with this one any time soon.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Healthy Eating in Brazil

The first thing I learned in Brazil was that you could find good food anywhere...just don't let your bad grasp of Portuguese indicate you'll find a crappy luncheonette just next store to a primo one.

I giggled while taking this picture....until the owner came over, and badgered me as to why, if I really was a tourist,  I would take pictures of a commercial property instead of something beautiful...he insisted I was casing the joint. the United States, we focus and fret about our waistlines, and arteries, and just how many grams of fat and how many calories we eat....and yet, studies tell us that we are still growing heavier. I don't need a study to tell me that, a day at the beach is confirmation enough...and while I appreciate having a good sense of self-esteem, I will offer that at 300 lbs, it's time to trade that bikini in for a one-piece.....but as usual, I digress. My point is that I noticed the Brazilian people are all relatively thin, and live to old they must eat lettuce all day, right?

Wrong. In fact, besides all the beer being consumed all day long, their diet consists of a lot of meat and cheese. And I'm not talking lean meat...I'm talking organs, fat, skin and everything else along with it. My observation is that they all walk more than we do, and are more active, and watch very little television...which appears to offset all the good eating.

This place, for example, is so popular that they had to expand to double their size to a half a city block in the last 2 years. It was packed when I was there, and people were chatting and enjoying the food and drink. Which consisted of only 2 items. Pork Rinds, and Beer. That's all they sell. The beer, as I have mentioned, is ice cold in coolers that monitor temperature.

The rinds come 3 styles that you never see in the USA...all with varying levels of meat attached, all crispy, and all incredibly tasty...Diane, who would never eat a pork rind here, couldn't get enough of them.

Another day, we dined at the restaurant of a friend of the family's. The nice part of travelling with well-connected friends? You don't eat with the get to eat in the owners private balcony table, upstairs off his office.

Traditional Brazilian food excites me, and other foodies...but would frighten a vegetarian. On this plate, clockwise starting at the bottom, is steak, okra, chicken hearts, another of those pork rinds covering some other meat, a type of tabbouleh, chicken gizzards, roast pork, and finally feijoada.

Feijoada is the Brazilian national dish, and is prepared with black turtle beans, with a variety of salted pork and beef products, such as salted pork trimmings (ears, tail, feet), bacon, smoked pork ribs, at least two types of smoked sausage and jerked beef (loin and tongue). This stew is prepared over slow fire in a thick clay pot. The final dish has the beans and meat pieces barely covered by a dark purplish-brown broth. The taste is strong, moderately salty but not spicy, dominated by the flavors of black bean and meat stew. On the left, you'll see another rendition at our host's farm, where the bulk of the meat has been removed from the stew and arranged on a plate.

Brazil offers many other culinary delights besides the meat orgy.....but I'll share them another day. At the moment, believe it or not, I'm craving chicken hearts and gizzards. Yes....they were that good....simmered long and slow with spices, and so tender they would melt in your mouth. If you are reading this and saying 'ewwww"......than you're just not a real foodie!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rice and Shrimp with Octopus (Brasil...Day 5)

From my last post, you likely saw that we had an incredible 2nd day in Rio. I intentionally neglected to elaborate on USAir's bumbling of our flight, beginning with departing Philly 5 hours late, with the bon voyage being "you'll likely miss your connecting flight, and if so, we can connect you to Rio in 4 days. But there's no guarantee. If we cannot, you are entitled to a refund." Makes you just want to fly. Luckily, we actually made our connection because 50 other people missed their connection....but, we had no clothes the first 2 days in Rio as the luggage was 'missing'....

...oh yeah. I neglected because there was no FOOD in that story.

 Anyhow...after 3 great days to Ana (Carmen's sister) & Zehzeh's beach house in Buzios, made famous by Brigette Bardot, for 4 more days of beach, beer, meals & naps. My biggest thrill? Cooking on my third continent and second hemisphere.

Although only approaching Spring in August and a cold snap in the 70's, the beach was still filled with hot babes, and we left our mark upon it.

Here in Buzios, we took advantage of Ana & Zehzeh's kitchen to prepare a few meals. Carmen's mother, Dona Leda, made this simple yet utterly savory dish of Arroz de Polvo com CamarĂ£o...or, Rice and Shrimp with Octopus.

Arroz com CamarĂ£o

2lbs shrimp
2 cups rice (brown, wild, or white if you must)
2 lbs broccoli (or broccoli heads)

- Remove heads/shells from shrimp, make a stock.
- Prepare rice as normal, incorporate stock into rice
- Saute broc, add shrimp at END to keep from overcooking
- Combine


1 freaking big Octopus, purchased from the local dock
3 Red Peppers
2 Large onions
- Dice and sautee the onions and peppers in oil until brown and velvety
- Add to a pressure cooker with cut-up octopus, some water, and boil for 5 minutes
- Turn off, let sit for 2 hours

Unbelievably too good to describe! I told Dona Leda that I wished to cook for them the next day, and did so, making my Thai Garlic Seafood Stew...recipe when I next make it again.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Return of the Foodie...Tales of Brasil

Okay, so once upon a time I wrote a food blog. Then, as usual, summer hit, and the beach, kayak, and cycle beckoned.But tomorrow is the beginning of fall, and that means back to my old pursuits. Like writing about food. Luckily, I have a few things I could write about, as the summer didn't mean an end to the extra 10 lbs I'm carrying can certainly attest to.

The source of most of that weight comes from nearly 3 weeks in Brasil, where we traveled with our friends Dan & Carmen. Carmen is Brasilian, and her family is all still there, so the trip was a much more realistic experience than a tourist would get. I learned things that I might have missed otherwise...such as the the national pastime is apparently eating & drinking beer. Beer at near 32 degrees of chilly pleasure. Caipirinha's made fresh all the time. With naps thrown in for good measure. Seriously....I want to retire there. Any country that serves soup with a shot of cachaca as a chaser is my kind of country (more on this sugarcane version of white-lightning later).

So...the second day we are in Brasil, we meet Carmen's brother Renato's good friend Keike, who take us on a walking tour of a street market in Rio. A walking tour appears to require a stop ever 2 blocks for refreshing bitter cold beer...I have NEVER been a beer drinker, but I have to tell you, I drank more beer on this trip than my entire life. It was just that good.

So...keeping in mind we already had 2 big meals that day, Keike invites us for a "small gathering" to "snack" with a chef friend of his at a local restaurant where another chef was serving a version of one of this chefs dishes. Unknown to me at the time, his chef friend turns out to be none other than Claude Troisgros, a rather famous personality in Brazil from a VERY famous family, with TV credits as well as 3 restaurants. So....the 20 of us end up at a very long table, and the "snacks" begin. Starting with beer, and punctuated by beer. Many types of beer. All at nearly 32 degrees.

The first snack was dishes of some type of roasted veggie that looked like a green eggplant...but was slightly bitter, and served with peppercorns and balls of fresh soft goat cheese. Apparently, you took a piece of crusty bread (there was NO bad bread in the entire country), put on the veggie and cheese, and consumed. I wasn't familiar with this, so I had about 10 pieces to make sure I was eating it correctly. Indescribable.

 Then we had some more beer.

The next snack to appear was crispy feijoada balls, made with black beans, collards, and spices. They were gone in a jiffy. This was followed by bacalhau balls. These salt codfish balls were unbelievably succulent, savory, and covered in some truffle-oil. There were big plates of them, which also disappeared quickly....but this time I managed to grab this shot of one before I consumed the last of it....

 Did I mention beer?

Next came the dishes of fried cheese. It was a semi-dry farmers cheese...fried golden brown. getting a bit full, I only had about a half-pound of these. I was beginning to fear how many course of snacks were coming. So I had a beer.

Then came this big pumpkin serving bowls, along with bowls of rice and a type of corn meal. I began to realize at this point that I was in over my head...and wondered what was in the pumpkin bowls. Well...they weren't bowls, they were actual pumpkins...filled with shrimp, cream, cheese, cilantro, and would scoop out the ingredients along with the soft pumpkin, and serve it with the rice and corn meal. It was so good, I had thirds. I thought I was safe, as surely this was the main and last snack.

Of course, wrong again. Before it was even off the table, out came ribs in some awesome sauce, with another fried vegetable. And beer.

Mercifully, the food stopped coming, the beer finally ended, and strong Brazilian coffee was served. With dessert. A nice light dessert...of fried cheese sticks, with a fruit compote topping. I was too stuffed to eat another I only had 5 or 6 of these.

I waddled out the door at 6pm and said my goodbye to my new friends...we needed to go back and nap. So we could eat and drink again.

Did I mention I love this Country? It almost ties with Italy...!