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Brazilian Recipes

by Reuel J. Smith

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The recipes have been selected to illustrate typical foods from throughout Brazil that will appeal to North Americans. All can be easily recreated in home kitchens from ingredients available in any supermarket. One or two special ingredients might be found in Latin or oriental markets.

It does not include the foods that have been frequently described in the press and cookbooks -- dishes such as feijoada (the Brazilian national dish of black beans and meats), vatapa (a spicy, Bahian seafood dish), Couve a Mineira (sauteed kale from Minas Gerais), Bolinhos de Arroz (fried rice balls), Brigadeiros (a candy), or desserts like torta de banana.


Sopa de Palmito (Cream of Palm Heart Soup)
Serves 4

1 can Hearts of Palm
4 tablespoons Butter
4 tablespoons Flour
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup Milk
1 cup Heavy cream
White pepper, to taste

Drain and rinse the palm hearts. Place in a food processor and puree.

Melt butter in a saute pan. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, into a blonde roux.

Slowly add warm chicken stock, stirring with a wire whip so it is lump free. Blend in the palm hearts. Add the milk and cream just before serving. Bring to serving temperature, but do not allow to boil. Add a little pepper to accent the taste.

Pasteis Fritos (Fried Turnovers)

Pastry shops frequently use the same fillings (chicken, beef, seafood, vegetables, or cheeses) to make small tartlettes (empadas) which also are served as appetizers. Makes two or more dozen depending on diameter.

Pasteis generally are filled with mixtures of meat, chicken or cheese. They are best served warm immediately after frying.

Pasteis dough:

2/3 cup Butter (or part vegetable shortening)
2 cups Flour, all purpose
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Egg yolk, beaten
3/4 cup Water, cold

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and most of the water. Mix well with the finger tips, adding a few more drops of water if the dough sees dry. Cover with plastic film and let rest an hour.

In the same family are Risoles, a turnover shaped appetizer made with a cooked dough that is egg or water washed then coated with manioc meal before frying. Risoles are usually filled with cheese, shrimp or hearts of palm mixtures. One advantage is they can be held warm for a longer time than a Pasteis.

Risoles dough:
2 tablespoons Butter
2 cups Milk
1 teaspoon Salt
2 cups Flour, all purpose

Combine the butter, milk, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and add the flour. Stir until well combined. Cool completely then knead until smooth. Cover with plastic film and let rest an hour.

Recheio de Carne (meat filling)

1/2 pound Ground beef
1 tablespoon Olive oil
1/2 cup onion, minced
2 tablespoons Fresh parsley, chopped fine
2 tablespoons Tomato sauce
to taste Salt, pepper, pepper sauce
1 egg, hard cooked, chopped
12 Olives, pitted

Cook and cool the meat filling. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough until very thin. Cut 4-inch circles, remove scrap (which may be combined with fresh dough for re-rolling). Brush the circles lightly with water. Place about 1-1/2 teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Fold in half and pinch to seal.

Pre-heat oil to 365 degrees Farenheit in a deep fryer or high sided pan. Fry until golden, about two minutes. Drain on absorbent paper and serve warm. They will hold in a 250 degrees Farenheit oven for up to 30 minutes.

Bolinhos de Bacalhau (Codfish balls)

A wonderfully tasty appetizer (salgado). Great with a cocktail or glass of cold beer.

1 pound Dried codfish
1 tablespoon Butter
2 teaspoon Chives, chopped
2 teaspoons Parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Onion, diced fine
1 cup Milk
2 cups Potatoes, cooked and mashed
3 tablespoons Flour
1/2 teaspoon Paprika
3 large Eggs, slightly beaten

Soak codfish overnight. Drain, cover with fresh water and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove bones and skin then chop fine.

Heat butter in a saute pan. Add chives, parsley, onion, and fish. When the onion is translucent remove from the heat and add remaining ingredients. Combine well. Check seasonings. Let the mixture cool and firm up for about 10 minutes.

Shape into small balls or cakes. Drop into hot oil, frying until golden. Drain on absorbent paper and serve warm.

Pao de Queijo (Cheese bread)

A famous bread from the state of Minas Gerais served at most steak houses in southern Brazil. Unusual in that the recipe calls for manioc starch (available in some Latin groceries) rather than wheat flour. Leavening is from steam during baking, similar to the way eclairs are leavened. These rolls do not hold well and are best consumed while warm, directly from the oven. In Brazil these rolls would be made with Queijo de Minas, a mild, white cheese similar to Muenster in texture - but quite different in taste. They are addictive.

16 ounces Manioc starch (polvilho)
1/2 cup Sunflower seed oil
3/4 cup lowfat milk
3 eggs, large
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1-3/4 cups Mild cheddar, grated

Bring milk and oil to a boil in a small saucepan. Add to the manioc. Mix and allow to cool a little. Incorporate the eggs, one at a time. Add the cheese and blend well.

Divide into pieces the size of a walnut or small plum. Place a little oil on the hands and round dough into balls. Arrange on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees Farenheit until done, about 10 to 12 minutes. Serve warm.

Main Dishes

Caruru do Par (Shrimp and Okra entree)
Serves 6

From the northern state of Para, a dish with African origins made with dried shrimp, okra, and dende oil. Other versions from the states of Bahia and Maranh o are prepared with a combination of fresh and dried shrimp and sometimes peanuts.

2-1/4 pound Dried Shrimp, skin on
1 pound Fresh, small okra, cut in 1-inch slices
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 large Onion, diced
3 medium Tomatoes, de-seeded and cut in medium dice
6 sprigs Parsley
6 leaves Cilantro
2 cloves Garlic
2 tablespoons Manioc (farinha de mandioca fina), lightly toasted

Soak shrimp overnight in cold water. Drain and discard the soaking water. Peel the shrimp and place in a sauce pan. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Strain the shrimp water into another sauce pan. Reserve the shrimp. Cook the okra in the shrimp water until tender, but still crisp.

Heat olive oil in a saute pan. Saute shrimp with the onion, tomato, parsley, cilantro and garlic. Add these ingredients to the shrimp water and okra.

Dissolve the manioc meal in 1/2 cup of water. Add and cook over low heat until the manioc swells up. Add the dende oil. Serve at once accompanied by white rice and farofa.

Moqueca de Camarao (Shrimp Stew, Bahian style)
Serves 6

These savory stews are made with a variety of proteins including shrimp, dried shrimp, or, when economy is important, fish. They always include two of the three ingredients referred to as the "Holy Trinity of Bahian cuisine" -- coconut milk, dende oil. The third, malagueta pepper, is placed on the table for adding as desired.

30 Shrimp, 21-25 count headless
3 tablespoons Fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3/4 cup Thin coconut milk (see recipe)
1/3 cup Olive oil
2 large Onions, halved and thin sliced
1 large Garlic clove, crushed and minced
1 medium Green pepper, seeded and sliced
3 medium Tomatoes, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoon Tomato paste
3 stalks Green onion, sliced thin up to the green
1-1/2 teaspoon Fresh parsley, minced
1/3 cup Dende oil

Peel and devein the shrimp. Place in a small bowl and sprinkle with lime juice and salt. Marinate while preparing the other ingredients.

Heat olive oil in a saute pan. Add onion, garlic and peppers. Saute until the onions are almost translucent then add tomatoes, tomato paste, scallions, and parsley. Cook until soft then add the shrimp and lime juice. Continue cooking until the shrimp are done (2 to 3 minutes).

Add the coconut milk and dende oil. Return to almost a boil for a minute. Adjust seasonings. Serve over white rice or rice cooked in coconut milk.

Frigideira (Seafood fritatta)

A savory dish traditionally baked in an earthenware platter. The top layer of a Frigideira is always a layer of beaten eggs. In southern Brazil these dishes are called fritada.

3/4 cup Coconut milk (see recipe)
1 pound Seafood - crabmeat, shrimp, fish or a combination
2 tablespoon Lime juice
1 teaspoon Salt
1 large Onion, chopped
2 Tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 sprigs Fresh coriander, minced
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs, well beaten

Prepare the coconut milk. Season seafood with lime juice and salt. Marinate briefly before gently sauteing until cooked. Chop about half the seafood in a food processor. Reserve the remaining.

Heat oil in a saute pan. Add onion, tomato, coriander, garlic, and chopped seafood. Saute until the onions are translucent. Add coconut milk and adjust seasonings. Cover, continue cooking on low heat for 10 minutes.

Beat the eggs. Combine about 2/3 of the egg with the cooked mixture and reserved seafood. Pour into an oven proof baking dish (glass pie pans work well if a Frigideira casserole is not available). Top with the remaining beaten egg.

Place into a 375 degree oven and bake about 15 minutes, until set.

Serve hot accompanied with farofa.

Strogonoff de Camarao (Shrimp Stroganoff)
Serves 4

A favorite in fine restaurants around Sao Paulo. Also appears on menus with chicken or beef although shrimp is much more elegant.

1 pound Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Lime
1/2 large Onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Vegetable or olive oil
1/2 cup Catsup
2 cups Heavy cream
1/4 cup Cognac
1 can Hearts of Palm, drained & cut in 1/2-inch slices

Squeeze lime juice over the shrimp and marinate while preparing other ingredients.

Heat oil in a saute pan. Add shrimp and rapidly cook. Remove and reserve. Add onion and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Reduce by about one-quarter to thicken slightly. Add the catsup and cognac.

Return the shrimp to the pan. Add hearts of palm and bring to serving temperature. Adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper. Serve, accompanied by Brazilian white rice (arroz simples).

Lombo com Farofa (Roast Loin of Pork accompanied by toasted manioc)
Serves 8

6 pounds Boneless pork loin
2 Limes
Salt to taste
1 large onion, cut in thin slices
1/4 cup Soybean oil
2 tablespoons Parsley
2 tablespoons Green onions or scallions, sliced
2 tablespoons Margarine
1 quart milk, warm

2 cups Manioc flour
1 tablespoon Margarine
1 tablespoon Soybean oil
1 medium Onion, grated
2 Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons Parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons Green onions, chopped
1 Hard boiled egg, chopped
1/4 cup Raisins
1/4 cup Dried prunes, chopped
1/4 cup Walnuts

The day before roasting, cut some shallow slashes in the top of the loin and season with salt and lime juice. Top meat with onion, oil, and scallions. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate.

The next day, rub the margarine on the loin and brown-off on all sides in a hot pan. Add warm milk, cover and continue cooking until soft. Transfer the meat to a roast pan. Strain juices from the overnight marination and pour over the loin. Place in a pre-heated 325 degree oven to roast until done.

To prepare farofa, place manioc flour in a bowl, add a little water and stir until evenly moistened. In a saute pan, heat the margarine and oil. Add onion and tomato, sauteing until the onion is translucent. Add manioc and combine well. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.

Slice the pork, reassemble and arrange on a platter with the farofa alongside the meat.

Bife a Parmigiana (Beef steak Parmigiana)
Serves 6

My wife, Marcia, prepares and fries steaks in the same manner and then serves it without the toppings or sauce. When prepared in this simpler, and even more popular style, is called Bife a Milanesa.

6 pieces Round steak or sirloin, 1/4" thick slices
to taste Salt & pepper
1 small Onion, cut in thin slices
2 large Eggs
Olive oil
6 slices Mozzarella cheese
6 slices Boiled ham
1-1/2 cups Crushed tomato
1/2 cup Beef stock
to taste Fresh oregano

Flatten the steaks slightly, season with salt, pepper and onion. Set aside to allow seasonings to penetrate a little. Beat the eggs, add a little salt. Dip the beef in flour then egg then again in flour.

Heat about an inch of oil to 365 degree in a large saute pan. Fry steaks until evenly browned and crisp on both sides. Remove from the pan and arrange in an oven proof serving dish. Top each steak with a slice of ham then cheese.

In a small saucepan bring the tomato to a boil, add beef stock and oregano then simmer for a few minutes. Pour over steaks, place the pan in the oven and heat for about 8 minutes, until hot and the cheese is melted. Serve with thin cut french fries.

Frango ao Vinho (Breast of chicken in red wine sauce)
Serves 6

3 slices Bacon
6 pieces Chicken breast, skinless and boneless
to taste Salt & pepper
1 cup Flour
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1-1/2 cups Small pearl onions, peeled
1 cup Dry red wine
1/2 cup Chicken stock
to taste Thyme, dry

Fry bacon until crisp, drain on absorbent paper, break into pieces and reserve.

Season breasts with salt and pepper. Dip in flour. Heat olive oil in the saute pan. Add breasts and brown well on both sides. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

In the same pan add onions, wine, stock and thyme. Cook until the onion is soft and the sauce thickens. Adjust seasonings. Return the meat to the pan and continue cooking until done.

At service, place some sauce on the plate under the breast. Garnish the onions and bacon.


Farofa (accompaniment to many meat and seafood dishes)

For an elegant variation see the Lombo com farofa recipe.

2 cups Manioc flour
2 tablespoons Butter
pinch Salt

Melt butter in a heavy saute pan. Add the manioc and slowly cook over low heat until a light golden brown. It will resemble buttered bread crumbs. Add a pinch of salt. Serve as an accompaniment from a ceramic bowl (farinheira).

Farofa is frequently prepared with one or more added ingredients such as raisins, onion, olives, sausage (linguica), hard cooked egg, parsley, etc.

In Bahia, the manioc is sauteed in dende oil giving it a yellow color, hence the name farofa amarela.

Aipim frita (Yuca or manioc fries)
Serves 6

1 pound Fresh manioc (aipim, mandioca doce, or macaxeira)
salt, to taste

Slice fresh manioc into 3-inch pieces. Peel and place in a saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer until tender (20 to 30 minutes). Drain well, cool and cut into 3/4-inch wedges. Discard the woody center core.

Heat oil in a deep fat fryer to 360 degrees. Fry the wedges until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper and salt to taste.

Coconut Milk (an ingredient in many other recipes)

One coconut yields about 1 pound of fresh meat, enough to make about 3/4 cup of thick milk plus about 3 cups of thin milk.

To make milk, pierce the three small eyes in the end of the shell, drain and reserve the water. Crack the shell, peel off the outer rind and grate the white meat. Place it in a double boiler and warm gently. When hot add 1/2 cup of warm water. Press this thick milk thru a fine sieve or cheesecloth.

To make thin milk combine the grated residue, drained coconut water, and enough additional warm water to make about three cups. Extract the thin milk as above.


Creme de Abacate (Avocado Cream)
Serves 4

Brazil is possibly the only cuisine that sweetens avocado and serves it as a dessert, rather than salted as in guacamole or salads.

2 medium Avocados
2 tablespoon Lime juice
4 tablespoon Granulated sugar
1/4 cup Ice water

Peel and slice the avocado, discarding the seed. Place fruit, lime juice and sugar in a food processor or blender.
Puree at high speed until completely smooth. Add a little water if the puree is very stiff (some prefer white wine). It should be absolutely smooth and creamy. If lumpy, force through a wire strainer. Serve in a clear glass.

Merengue de Morango (Strawberry meringue)

In Brazil tortes are generally not iced with butter cream, but more traditionally with fresh whipped cream, glazes, meringue and marshmallow. In Sao Paulo, at the leading upscale shopping centers, the company Amor aos Pedacos prepares a delightful fresh strawberry creation that is typical of Brazilian style pastry.

Deceptively simple to make, it almost must be assembled at the last minute to minimize the migration of moisture into the crisp meringue layers. These 10-inch diameter, about 3/4-inch high, layers can be baked ahead using any standard meringue recipe. Just be sure to keep the meringue from browning and to bake very, very dry -- in other words, keep the heat down to dry then out rather than "bake" them.

The torte is assembled by layering the meringue rounds with fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream.
Brazilian whipped cream is flavored with vanilla, but has much less sugar than normal. This allows the wonderful flavor of the cream to come through.

Some of the strawberries are cut into pieces and combined with a little sugar to make a slightly sweetened fresh filling. The top is garnished with halves of fresh, vine ripened berries.

By leaving the sides exposed and allowing the whipped cream filling and meringue layers to show, the torte presents a genuine home-made appearance.

Biscoitos de Maizena (Cornstarch cookies)
Yield: about 3 dozen

A light, airy cookie made with cornstarch rather than flour. Sold in cellophane bags in nearly every supermarket and pastry shop in the country.

2 cups Cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Granulated sugar
1 large Egg
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla
3/4 cup Butter

Combine the cornstarch, salt and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Blend completely. Add the butter and mix well.
Let rest 15 minutes then form into 1-inch balls. Place on a greased or paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes.

more on Brazilian Cuisine...
introduction  |  ingredients  |  recipes  |  cookbooks

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