Monday, November 28, 2011

I found peanut butter!

A hah! I found it! Peanut butter. Actual real peanut butter. Not the sickening sweet whipped purée sugar/peanut/soy oil mixture readily available and made for kids. Actual peanut butter. (OK, maybe a bit too whipped and light, but nearly the real deal.)

“Tia Mona Pasta de Amendoim” – crocante to boot!
Just R$6 for a whopping 160 grams (that’s about a cup). Ah Brazil…
Glad to have found it – but I think I’ll keep making my own in the food processor.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Observations on Thanksgiving in Brazil

I have survived another faux Thanksgiving in Brazil. Barely.
Here corn bread is a sweet cake you prepare wrapped in the husks of the corn and is served for dessert. (Wonderful!) Back in the US we just spread some butter on the savory, but a bit sweet, bread and enjoy it during the meal.
Here turkey is BBQed (like everything else) bit by bit – OK, maybe occasionally oven roasted, but when I brined the turkey for 8 hours and then slowly baked it to a delicious and juicy result I took a lot of flack along the way from non-understanding back seat cooks.
Here green beans are chopped and sliced into tiny bits, and served with an egg cooked on top of the lot. (Which is delicious, btw.) My long cut beans with a simple butter sauce cooked al dente did not go over well (“they are raw!”).
Here squash is to be paired with dried meat. (Also delicious, btw.) But my roasted squash stuffed with an apple, walnut, cheese dressing was seen, cautiously, as curious – although enjoyed. Everything needs an explanation/justification.
Pies, overall, are not really a dessert item in Brazil. It’s more of a cake culture here. But anything sweet and delicious goes over well.
Who am I kidding? I am a foreigner – remember? Don’t forget. People here are not like people from where I come from. Duh. I must stop thinking that all things translate – even when those things are cherished traditions/foods/delicious.
Someday I will adapt. And I always appreciate my husband for his bridge building abilities.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Clay pots in Brazil

Luiz and his tourism class went to Guarapari in Espirito Santo last weekend. That’s several hours north of Rio along the coast, just short of Victoria, the capital of Espirito Santo.

This region is famous for a lot of things, but for us old-school guys, it’s the clay pots that catch our attention. The pots are made from black clay and mangrove tree sap washed and molded. After dried in the open air and put through a bonfire, sap is applied a few additional times to blacken the clay and to make it water resistant.

I love this kind of cooking. Thirteen years ago Luiz won my heart when he cooked a seafood moqueca for me, in a clay pot, on one of our first dates. SOLD!
On this trip he brought back two pots: one highly decorated and large enough for a good moqueca, and the other just the right size for rice or a delicious pirão. Complete with their wire serving bases.
To me – food is best when cooked in clay or stone. Plus it goes from the stove/oven to the table in the same pot, keeping it hot.
One more reason to love Brazil.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Brazil's tribes compete in Indigenous Games

A Pataxo Indian attends the Indigenous Games

This article and all the photos originally appeared here.

A Rikbaktsa Indian couple attend the Indigenous Games

PORTO NACIONAL, Brazil (AP) - More than 1,000 Indians are celebrating Brazil's indigenous cultures with a weeklong sports competition in the northern city of Porto Nacional.

Tembe Indians attend the Indigenous Games

A Tapirape Indian aims a spear as he competes in the Indigenous Games

Brazil's federal Indian agency that cosponsors the games says they are one of the biggest indigenous sporting events in the Americas.

A young Rikbaktsa Indian woman attends the Indigenous Games

Thirty-eight ethnic groups from across the vast country are competing in 10 events that include archery, football, swimming, spear throwing and canoeing.

Bariri, left, and Xerente Indians compete in a canoe race on the Tocantins River during the Indigenous Games

Xerente and Gaviao Indians race carrying tree trunks during the Indigenous Games

Many of the competitors are using their traditional dress and markings.

A Paresin Indian youth holds a soccer ball during the Indigenous Games

A Nhambikwara Indian competes in the archery event at the Indigenous Games

For MANY more photos, visit the original posting at

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cultural extravaganza

November, this year, brings with it a huge cultural festival in Niterói. Food, music, dance, theater, expositions in museums – LOTS of stuff.  And it is all free.

It is the “Niterói encountering South America” festival.

This morning we went to see the Bolivian folklore dance presentation in the park – Campo São Bento.
Great fun.

From here – throughout the month, there are a myriad of events (all free) that will bring South American cultures to life in our back yard.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Eating shark for lunch

photo credit noted in the image - thank you
I’m gearing up for a lunch of young shark and vegetables. Locals would add black beans and rice to the plate, but I don’t generally eat beans and rice EVERY day. And now that I have a surgically-created tiny stomach I have a good excuse to beg off the typical belly-filling (and nutritious) ever present feijão e arroz.
Learning the various local fish varieties and how to cook them has been an adventure. Growing up in Michigan I had little exposure to fresh fish, outside of perch and trout – with the occasional farmed salmon. In most cases the dishes we ate were breaded and frozen, and they filled the house with a putrid fishy smell as they cooked in a hot oven. My dad was not a fan. (Mom tried to make it work, especially on Fridays.)
Then I moved to the west coast: San Francisco. The fish was abundant and fresh. It was there that I learned some of the secrets to incredible seafood cooking. Yum! My favorite restaurants were always seafood restaurants.
Now I find myself not on the Pacific coast, but on the Atlantic coast, and not in cold waters, but in more temperate waters. It’s a whole new world: different fish, different approaches to preparation, and different tastes among people as to what is delicious.
It’s been an adventure. I love to visit the municipal fish market and try something new. The guys animating their stands are always happy to share tips on how best to prepare the fish (they mostly say just fry it up) – I think they should bring their wives or mothers to work once a month so folks like me could get REAL cooking advice.
Today I am cooking cação (so-called “smooth hound” – or just, young shark). This is a delicious white meat fish, not too firm and not too bland, no bones.  I’m cooking a steak, as opposed to a fillet.
After checking in with a few of my mother/grandmother English students about how they would prepare it, I’m going to make a simple onion, garlic, peppers mix, then add coconut milk. I’ll put the cação steak in a small baking dish, cover it with my veg/milk sauce, and bake it, covered, in a hot oven for 30 minutes.
I think I’m going to add ¼ teaspoon of dendê oil, just for fun and flavor.
The hill I really want to climb is octopus. Some say the secret to a tender octopus is a good bit of time in the pressure cooker.  Others say if you freeze the octopus, then cook it, it will come out tender. Stay tuned.

I posted the recipe over on the Cooking in Brazil Blog - check it out here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Spin Rocinha fundraising, final report

Thank you to everyone who participated in our efforts to support the new Spin Rocinha DJ school serving at-risk youth in the Rocinha favela community in Rio. Our efforts really paid off. We raised US$535.00! That’s R$910,00! Whoo hoo!
The funds we raised for the Rocinha Media School’s Spin Rocinha program will go a long way toward strengthening their ability to take their program out into the community to expose more youth to the empowering nature of music and music production. Thanks again!
Special thanks to fellow bloggers who cross posted about the fundraising campaign and those who posted about it on their Facebook page. It really made a difference. You can be really proud of yourselves for lending a hand.
If you had the intention of making a donation but needed to wait for your next paycheck, or it just slipped your mind, you can still follow through.  The Rocinha Media School has a donations page where you can make your contribution. Just follow this link to make it happen.
It means a lot to me when my friends step up and participate in my community activities (they are used to my asking for money – believe me!  haha) – thank you!
I’ll be on the prowl for next year’s campaign recipient. If you have any specific suggestions (in Rio or Niterói), send me an email.
If you have any questions about the Spin Rocinha fundraising campaign, let me know.
Abraços e mil beijos.