Butternut squash stew with mushrooms and coconut milk

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A very easy, simple dish to make, yet exceptionally delicious.  The recipe of reference purports a twist on the Brazilian quibebe, and adds
chicken as well.
Chickenless, protein approximation was subsumed by shrooms and the substitution of the rough-chopped portobellos for the chicken added a very complimentary musky, earthy flavour which matched perfectly to the squash and slight sweetness of the coconut milk.
This was so good it even elicited praise from dad, who kept going after more despite the best attempt to hoard the rest for later.  He won  – those old army guys are tough!  Very little was left of this delicious dish’s riches.

Black beans and shrimp

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A bit of a twist on the feijoada thing, tossing in shrimp with the beans.  Though Jen thought it needed more, the strong flavors of the dish largely overwhelmed the shrimp to the point they were barely a factor.  They would probably be better off just sauteed up in a little garlic butter and wine, and served on the side…

Irrespective, the dish was quite nice, a nice take on the dish and quite familiar to the stew of yore, with citrus additions of orange and lime, and lots of garlic.  Sweet potato being a banished substance, it was replaced with butternut squash that contrasted very nicely with the other flavors, the rich, earthy sweetness a nice — and subtle — contrast with the beans, salt and citrus.

Note that the slivered squash was pan roasted as opposed to oven, as the latter was imagined prone to scorching and overly effortful for such a small portion.

Very similar flavors to the veggie times variety — though that, of course, wouldn’t be true if the v.t. version wasn’t tweaked…

Moqueca de camarao

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The delightful and light moqueca capixaba is quite nice but left lingering thoughts of dende, coconut milk and spice.  The first time we tried this, the recipe called for ground cashews — so that’s what we do!  Otherwise, straightforward and simple:  Onion, garlic, poblano, tomatoes, cayenne, lemon, broth and seasoning to taste, with a little cilantro mixed in at the end and then sprinkled on top.  So simple but just an outstanding assortment of flavors.  Rich and marvelous, it would be a shame to dilute it over rice — mopping up best left to family favorite, pao de quejo.

The slightly indulgent meal is fully justified by the tremendous degree of exertion over the 4th, exploding colorful bombs in wag-tongued frenzy above our house.  Being the fourth, the meal was followed by an all-American strawberry/rhubarb pie.  We were fortunate to all have a slice before much of it was devoured by that darn dog.

 

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Empadao de frango — sem frango…

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An ostensibly Brazilian variation on the chicken pot pie, though poulty-less, subbing fervido cerebros and the remains of tempeh.

The crust is absurdly rich and should probably have been rolled to half the thickness that it was.  The twist to this, is that tomato paste is added to the gravy, and the filling included hearts of palm and black olives — a tiny tamper, yet notable departure from just another pot pie.

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The origin

Coxinha

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The story of the origin of coxinha, as relayed by the Flavors of Brazil site:

One upon a time (actually toward the end of the 19th Century) in the small city of Limeira, Brazil, lived a princess named Isabel. She was normally called simply Princess Isabel, though her real name was Princess Imperial Isabel Cristina Leopoldina Augusta Micaela Gabriela Rafaela Gonzaga. She was their heir to the Brazilian throne, and was married to a European count,Gaston d’Orléans, Count of Eu. The couple lived on an estate called Morro Azul (Blue Hill) in this small town.

The count and the princess had four sons. One of the boys was kept out of public view, as he suffered from mental illness. This young prince refused to eat anything other than chicken thighs (coxa is the Portuguese word for thigh, andcoxinha means “little thigh.”) , Because he was a prince, the boy’s strange dietary habits were indulged and the cook of the estate prepared chicken thighs daily for him.

One fine day, the cook found that she didn’t have any chicken thighs for the boy, though there was plenty of chicken meat left over from the previous day’s feast. In desperation, she shredded some left-over chicken meat, wrapped it in a ball of dough and then shaped the dough into the form of a chicken thigh. She breaded the concoction and fried it, then presented it to the young prince. She told him that it was a special little thigh (coxinha) fit only for a prince. He so loved the treat that from that day forward his diet changed from real chicken thighs to his cook’s coxinha. He would eat nothing else.

Soon, other family members began to demand these coxinhas, and word spread throughout Limeira about the cook’s marvelous invention. The fame of the coxinha grew and grew, and eventually its fame and its recipe traveled all throughout the country. And everyone lived happily every after (while snacking on coxinhas, of course).

 

Moqueca capixaba

IMG_0276Surely a clay pot — no?  No coconut milk, either, in this enlightened, Espirito Santa inspired stew — dende oil, too, eschewed:  That’s close to egregious!

An extremely simple, yet succulent stew, of layered tomato, pepper, onion, garlic plantain and seafood — topped with a little coriander and parsley.  Brought to a boil, simmered for 15 and voila — dinner.  A great option when entertaining a few dinner guests:  Both simple, and ready on the fly.

Feijoada

ucffeijoada ~ tempeh bacon

The first hint, slight aroma that wafted upward to the bedrooms, brought dread and million different suppositions as to what, beside, might feign such hint of that familiar loathsome smell.  As intensity of odor grew it brewed eventual resignation; descent two floors below, espying in the kitchen, the big, red Betty Crocker stew pot on the stove.  Then question posed, “Mom – what’s for dinner?”  As if we didn’t know – she’d answer, with a smile on her face, “Those wonderful, Brazilian black beans.”

Nothing else in recollection brought such guttural offense – the prospect nigh as bad as the actual induction:  Rice piled high on plates, ladled beans added generously.  Edges picked, rice slid out beneath until barely plausible claim to satiation could be made.  Always – arguments ensued:  Hardly touched plate/so much that was ate…  A few more pickings would usually fulfill the obligation.

Back then there was no choice for mac-n-cheese, or bagel pizzas, or micro’d quesadilla:  Back then, what was seen was what there was and what was eaten.  Those days, weekend forays to the Eastern Market weren’t for kitschy, or raw, or eclectic fare – nor matter of claiming Detroiter cred:  They were necessity, as much as sorting for least dented cans at Al’s Salvage, just north of Central Market.

So despite myopia of youth and self-absorption, no dissenting word was ever spoke, for the one meal that, once recalled as horrible, when every other was so marvelous.  There was great appreciation, especially after forced return to work, yet still – mom brought ridiculously delicious feasts to the table every night:  Not just one dish, but salad, too, and vegetable, and bread – and always some dessert.  When she made a pie, she would bake it as we ate, and it held all rapt, anxiously at the table until cooked, until cooled – no sampled pie has ever tasted near as good.  Frequently, she made her famous cookies – oatmeal, chocolate chip: She still swears it’s the recipe on the back of the Quaker Oats box – it’s not. And the granola, hot from the oven, the bread…

Many of those staples were revisited during early years of semi-autonomy, for both frugality and nostalgia – many from Diet For A Small Planet, which had been bestowed.  It was then, in a rare excursion into unfamiliar, musty halls of the nightmarish and barely lit Arms, that an aroma wafted from a room and keyed the interest to re-try feijoada.  Withered, years previous, by out-state trials of error, those years bore witness to murder’s visit in the alley across Forest, and found a woman’s body (?) in the vestibule on return from early morning sprints.  Still another run’s return provided the indelible image still blazoned onto neural circuits of the little, cross-eyed Yugoslav greeting cheerfully with smile – as blood, in rivers, streamed across his head from shattered skull.   Nothing there was more discomfiting, however, than fighting past pathetic cowardice to simply call complaint against the neighbor loudly serenading battered bones across the wall to chorused whimpers of his victim.  It is very likely that the slightest hint of what, was once – on nervous scamper down, then up a flight of newly chanced-upon back stairs – pushed off back-further-yet-in-youth’s avowal of disdain.

As well, most likely, the body’s starved cry out for some protein, as what, back then, was not gratefully contributed by justifiably worried parents, came via food co-op, i.e., eye-sown potatoes, just slightly molded grapefruits, charmingly slimy cukes:  Cucumber soup, spoken of in the past – sliced cukes, left behind onion skins:  Declared the best ‘twas ever had!  But little in the way of nutrients, nor were 68 different ways to eat potatoes:  When the oleo ran out, too expensive to replace, a new favorite was discovered – simply, a little vinegar and pepper on the tater.

The version of feijoada as described in Diet for a Small Planet, filled the apartment with the most comforting aroma.  The meal is simple, and inexpensive – and it was not very good…  Perhaps, too citrus-y, or, perhaps the call for wine didn’t mean Wild Irish Rose – kidding:  It was blackberry.

Discarding a huge pot of stew meant walking to spend more pennies on more groceries, so it was resuscitated with more beans, more broth, more garlic, hot pepper and salt.  The resultant changes made it pretty good.  That is still not a favorite version:  Many call for no fruit, some call of orange juice and molasses…  This version from the Veggie Times gets it just about perfect, though it doesn’t call for citrus.  To make it more true to Mom’s stew, two slices each of orange and lemon were added.  The Times is sourced for Tempeh bacon, too.

The first hint, slight aroma that wafted through the dining room, brought cheer and million different memories surrounding what, once despised, now deigns to carry encompassing rememberings of the family all together, of happy days and food.  As intensity of odor grew it brewed more rumination on the times where it was tried; the points in life to which it’s tied, while eyeing wistfully, the big, stainless steel stew pot on the stove and finding difficulty reconciling that the aromatic memories were not emanating out of one well-worn in memory, and red.