Introduction to Brazilian Cooking
Along with music and dancing, food is one of the simple pleasures of life in Brazil. The people enjoy eating and each meal is a social occasion. Brazilians love to sample many different foods at a meal – making bite-sized appetizers and small plates popular. Robust stews & casseroles infused with coconut milk and cowboy-style grilled meats called churrasco are national treasures. Brazilians also have a sweet tooth. Recipes for sweet breads and puddings are plentiful and ripe, juicy tropical fruits grace many dishes.
Since the 16th century, Brazil has been a melting pot of cultures and the recipes reflect Native Indian, Portuguese and African heritages. Brazil’s fertile land offered Native Indians many foods, including limes, avocados, corn, sweet potatoes, tropical fruits peanuts and beans. The European influences of the Portuguese brought rice, sugar, olives, cilantro and the pig to the Brazilian dinner table. And Africans brought with them a starchy vegetable called cassava, coconut milk, chilies and hearts of palm. A combination of these ingredients is used to create memorable meals that are uniquely Brazilian.
Brazil is the largest country in South America and the climate ranges from arid deserts to mountain ranges to steamy rain forests. As you can imagine foods vary by region. The Northern areas of the country use local fish from the Amazon
River and wild game from the dense forests. In the Southern region of the country, you will find corn, beans, pork and chicken. Both regions cook with beans, tropical fruits and fresh vegetables. Most recipes are very healthy and simple to prepare. Here are some ingredients you will find in the Brazilian pantry:
- Beans – Brazilians grow and eat more beans than any other country in the world! This healthy, affordable legume is a staple in the Brazilian pantry.
- Cassava – Cassava is a starchy-root vegetable that is used much like potato. Sweet cassava can be eaten raw, but bitter cassava must be cooked. White potatoes and sweet potatoes make good substitutes for cassava in recipes.
- Cassava Meal – You can find cassava meal online or at a local Latin market, or you can use tapioca flour as a substitute. Cassava meal when toasted is called, farofa, and is sprinkled like a condiment on many dishes.
- Cilantro – Cilantro is the most popular herb in Brazil.
- Coconut Milk – The creamy liquid extracted from the flesh of coconuts is one of the most important ingredients in Brazilian cooking.
- Hearts of Palm – This canned vegetable is harvested from the soft core of a palm tree. Hearts of palm are often marinated or tossed with salad dressing and served in salads for meals.
- Kale – Kale is the super green food of Brazil. It is usually served shredded and stir -fried.
- Lime – Did you know there are no lemons in Brazil? The limao, as it is called, is an essential part of many Brazilian dishes.
- Tropical Fruits -Papaya, mango, pineapple, passion fruit, guava, and bananas are all popular served fresh, used in cooking or juiced.
Guide to Legumes: An Affordable & Healthy Super Food
Brazil is the World’s largest grower and consumer of beans. Beans are part of the legume family of foods which along with beans include peas, lentils, peanuts and soybeans. Legumes are a low cost, super healthy addition to meals. Considered super foods because of the nutrition benefits, legumes provide both protein and iron making them an excellent substitute for meat. The also contain high amounts of fiber, folate, manganese, magnesium, copper and potassium.
Legumes are a vegetable-based protein and should be served with a whole grain, such as rice, to create a complete protein. Legumes help lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. They are also very hearty and give you a feeling of fullness, so you are less likely to overeat.
A plant that grows in an edible pod is a “Legume”. Legumes are readily available in bulk packaging and cans at grocery stores year-round. Dry packaged legumes are the least expensive way to go, but require more time to prepare. If you are on a tight schedule, cooked and canned varieties save time in the kitchen. To remove excess salt drain canned legumes and rinse in water for at least one minute.
Popular legumes include:
- Black Beans– Sometimes called turtle beans; black beans have a mild, earthy flavor and soft texture. Black beans are commonly used in Latin and Southwestern soups, casseroles, stews, dips and sauces.
- Kidney & Red Beans – Kidney and red beans have a robust, full-bodied flavor and soft texture. They are often used in chili and salads, and can be paired with rice to make a complete meal.
- White Beans– White beans have a mild, delicate flavor and tend to absorb the flavors of other foods in recipes. White beans are great in casseroles, chili and baked beans.
- Garbanzo – Also known as chickpeas, garbanzo beans have a nutty taste and buttery texture. They are the main ingredient in hummus and are popular in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes.
- Lentils – Lentils have an earthy flavor and are used in soups and stews.
- Peas – The versatile pea has a sweet taste and many uses including soups, pot pies, salads and casseroles. Peas also make a fun finger food for little ones.
- Soybeans – Soybeans are used in everything from oil to milk. Their mild flavor is easily enhanced by adding seasonings. Edamame, which is a whole soybean that is steamed in the pod, is a tasty side dish or snack. Soybeans are also the main ingredient in tofu and soy milk.
- Lima Beans – Lima beans have a smooth and creamy texture and a sweet taste. Combine them with red peppers and corn to make succotash, or add them to soups and casseroles.
- Peanuts – In addition to the infamous peanut butter and jelly sandwich, raw peanuts taste good on their own and in Asian recipes.
Para Bebê- White Bean, Sweet Potato and Banana Puree
Beans are eaten by everyone in Brazil, including babies! This is a deliciously smooth and delightfully sweet baby food puree. Combine it with mashed brown rice and it’s a complete meal – vegetable, fruit, protein and grain all-in-one dish!
- 1 medium sweet potato
- 1 medium banana
- 1 can (15 oz.) white beans (white kidney or cannellini)
Pour white beans into a colander and rinse with water for one minute. Place beans into food processor or blender.
Wash, peel and slice the sweet potato into large chunks. Place sweet potato chunks and 2 Tablespoons of water in a microwave -proof dish. Cover and cook in microwave for 5-6 minutes until they mash easily with a fork. Place cooked sweet potatoes into the blender or food processor with beans.
Cut banana into chunks and place into the blender or food processor along with the beans and sweet potatoes. Add ½ cup water and process to a smooth texture.
Spoon the mixture into So Easy Storage Trays, Cover and Freeze.
To serve: defrost cubes and warm slightly.
Toddler Treats: Peanut Butter Cheese Toast & Coconut Cornbread
Peanut Butter Cheese Toasts
Peanuts are harvested in Northwestern Brazil. Here they are matched with cheese for great toddler lunch or snack.
- 3 slices Whole wheat bread
- 2 Tbsp. Peanut butter
- ¼ cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded
- 1/8 tsp. Paprika
- 2 tsp clilantro, chopped
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Lightly toast the bread slices.
- Cut bread slices in half or quarters and spread with peanut butter.
- Preheat oven (or toaster oven) broiler.
- In a small bowl, combine the cheese, paprika, cilantro and a seasoning of salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle cheese mixture over top of the peanut butter.
- Arrange toast pieces on a foil-lined cookie sheet and place under broiler for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.
- Allow to cool slightly before serving.
Brazilians enjoy breakfast breads made from corn. This flavor of this cornbread is enhanced with coconut. Serve this bread with fresh, tropical fruits and jellies.
- 1 ¼ cup All-purpose flour
- ¾ cup Cornmeal
- ¼ cup Sugar
- 2 tsp. Baking powder
- ½ tsp. Pumpkin pie spice
- ½ tsp Salt
- ½ cup Milk
- ½ cup Coconut milk
- ¼ cup Vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup Sweetened coconut
Preheat oven to 400 and grease 8 or 9-inch baking pan. Combine the dry ingredients. Stir in milk, coconut milk, oil, egg and coconut mixing until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into the baking pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Brazilian BBQ Family Meal
Churrasco with Fresh Salsa
Coconut Cilantro Rice
Churrasco with Fresh Salsa
Churrasco is a traditional Brazilian recipe made by the Gauchos (Brazilian cowboys). A variety of grilled meats are prepared on skewers and cooked over a charcoal fire. The secret to the wonderful flavor and crisp crust is a salt-water baste that keeps the meat moist while it cooks without adding too much salt.
- 2 pounds Meat (such beef: sirloin or flat iron steak, pork tenderloin, boneless chicken thighs, or sausages all work well)
- 2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
- 2-3 Cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup Hot water
- Wooden or metal skewers
Soak wooden skewers in water and Preheat a BBQ grill. Dissolve the salt in the hot water and add the garlic. Cut the meat into 2X3 inch pieces about 1 inch thick. Run a skewer through the meats placing about 3 pieces of meat on skewer. Place meat skewers on the grill and brown each side. When the meat is browned on the outside baste with the salt garlic water. Keep basting until the meat is done.
- 2-3 Roma Tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 2 Tbsp. Red Onion, diced
- 1 Tbsp. Cilantro, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
Gently mix all ingredients in a bowl. Serve with Churrasco.
- 1 Head Kale
- 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- Sea Salt (less than ¼ tsp)
Preheat oven to 300. Rinse and dry kale. Remove the center ribs and stems from each leaf. Tear the leaves into 3-to-4-inch pieces. In a large bowl toss kale with olive oil. Spread kale in single layer on 2 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Lightly sprinkle the kale with salt. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
Coconut Cilantro Rice
- 1 cup Jasmine rice
- 1 cup Coconut milk
- 1 ½ cup Chicken stock
- ¼ cup Cilantro, chopped
Pour the coconut milk and chicken stock in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add the rice, cover, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro before serving.