Brazil comes to the table with bright flavors, new pairings
Their book appeared on my desk recently, shortly before the World Cup began. And I haven't stopped thinking about what I should cook next.
Most of the ingredients are familiar, but how they come together is not. Broccoli finds its way into rice, avocado into ice cream, shrimp and pineapple into hearts of palm salad with honey-cinnamon dressing. And the limes! They are everywhere, including coconut and lime sorbet. Then there's the shrimp soup, the salmon ceviche, sweet potato crabcakes. Need I say more? Makes me hungry just to think about it.
In anticipation of the World Cup games on TV, I tried two appetizers that are mainstay bar snacks in Brazil. Toasted Giant Corn starts out as big kernels of hominy, more often used in the U.S. as a Southern and Southwest staple for grits or stews. In this recipe it's toasted and sprinkled with smoked paprika and salt for a bet-you-can't-eat-just-one corn nibble.
Bolinhos, deep-fried balls of rice, packed with Parmesan and parsley, offer a more substantial snack that's light and cheesy.
Traditional Brazilian food has its roots in home cooking, say the authors, with eclectic flavors brought to the table by its indigenous people, Africans, Portuguese, Japanese, Italian, Lebanese and Germans who have made the country their home. Many dishes incorporate black beans, rice, shrimp, pork, cashews and fruit in all its variety. As the book title suggests, grilling and barbecue are a big part of the nation's culinary identity.
With great photos, fascinating historical commentary and some cultural discussion (samba lessons, Brazilian music for your party), this book is a winner, no matter which World Cup team you are rooting for.
Note: These are a mainstay of Brazil's bar scene. They're little balls of rice that are lightly fried for a golden crunch, which gives way to a soft, almost creamy interior. Either leftover or freshly made rice can be used. If the rice is too dry, add an extra egg to help it stick together. From “Brazilian Barbecue & Beyond,” by David Ponté, Jamie Barber and Lizzy Barber.
3/4 cup long-grain uncooked rice
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/4 cup flour, plus more if needed
Small bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped
Vegetable or peanut oil, for deep frying
Lime wedges, to serve, optional
To cook the rice: Put it in a pan with 1 ¾ cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partly covered, for about 10 minutes, until most of the water has been absorbed. Remove, cover and let steam for another view minutes. It will be slightly overcooked and sticky, and you should be able to shape it easily. Set aside to cool completely.
To make the bolinhos: To the rice, add the egg, green onions, Parmesan, salt, baking powder, 1/4 cup flour and most of the chopped parsley (all but 1 tablespoon). Mix well and check the consistency: It should be stiff enough to shape into balls. If it's too sticky, gradually add more flour until you get the right consistency. With well-floured hands, roll into walnut-size balls.
Heat oil in a deep fryer to 350 degrees (it should sizzle when a little rice mixture is added to it). Fry in batches for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown all over, then drain on paper towels. Keep warm while you fry the remaining batches. (No deep fryer? Use a sturdy pot and cover bottom with about ½ inch oil and fry the rice balls, turning them around to brown them.) To serve, transfer to warmed bowls and serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan and the remaining parsley, with lime wedges alongside.
Makes 20 to 25.
Toasted giant corn
Serve with drinks as an alternative to nuts and olives. From “Brazilian Barbecue & Beyond,” by David Ponté, Jamie Barber and Lizzy Barber.
11 ounces dried giant white corn (hominy) or use canned hominy
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
For dried corn: Soak corn in a bowl of cold water for at least 12 hours or overnight.
For canned hominy: Rinse hominy.
For either: Drain and spread out to dry on a tray lined with a clean dish towel for at least 1 hour.
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the corn kernels and toss until evenly coated with oil. Cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until the kernels are evenly golden and some of them have popped.
If the kernels are still a bit chewy, toast them in an oven preheated to 300 degrees for 10 to 20 minutes, stirring a few times. (Tester's note: This step will keep the kernels more snacklike and easier to handle.) Remove and toss with salt and paprika. Let cool and store in an airtight container, if not serving immediately.
Serves 6 to 8 as a snack.
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