Saturday, April 20, 2013

We Go (coco)Nuts!


What if you have more coconuts than you can drink their water?



Yes! We primarily plant coconuts for the water it stores in a young green fruit.
And...what if the coconuts are becoming riper and the water inside is drying out, while its pulp is getting thicker?




The only solution is to use ripe pulp to make sweets and baked goods.

This one is called "queijadinha" - cheese cake, but it is actually made with grated coconut and just a little bit of cheese.



RECIPE:

4 eggs
1 cup sugar or sweetened condensed milk
2 TBSP butter
4 TBSP grated cheese (we use "meia cura", mild parmesan-like cheese)
200 grams fresh grated coconut (or hydrated dry coconut flakes)
1 cup coconut milk (or milk)
3 TBSP white flour
1 tsp baking powder

Beat the above ingredients item by item, until all incorporated. Bake at 375 F.
Now, the country cooking will throw all ingredients, and perhaps omitting the liquid, and leaving out flour and baking powder, for they prime the real taste of coconut.

Green Papaya Compote


What should we do when we have soo many green papayas in a tree?




Green Papaya Compote, of course!




We don´t have real winters in most of Brazil, so no need to preserve seasonal fruits or vegetables - we have them all year round. When we do, it is because we want to eat it for our afternoon snack (we call it "afternoon coffee" - cafĂ© da tarde). Green papaya compote is one of the most popular, as papaya trees can grow anywhere taking up little space.

RECIPE: get a fully grown green papaya (not baby one, but before it starts to ripen) from the tree. Let it stand one night to draw out milky sap. Next day, peel it, cut it into pieces. Thicker pieces make creamier ones. Let the pieces soak overnight in water with one teaspoon of baking soda (for crispy outside and creamy inside). Add sugar (less than a kilo of sugar for a kilo of green papaya) and about 2 cups of water to make syrup. Cook all the ingredients together with cinnamon stick and cloves. Optional: add 2 fig leaves for aroma. This is a homemade recipe. You can have syrup in various degrees of thickness, color or sweetness.

Green Fig Compote

I have a young purple fig tree with lots of green fruits...





So I had a good idea!





Made into green fig compote and served with Gorgonzola cheese...



Today I sliced the figs, placed over crackers and sprinkled with Gorgonzola cheese for our afternoon tea at the church. It was rather an exotic plate for the type of cheese. Brazilians usually like to combine homemade preserves with fresh farmer´s cheese.

RECIPE: A bit laborious but well worth it. Pick green figs with gloves (or the milky sap may cause allergy), wash them, and put into boiling water for 10 minutes. Put them into the freezer until rock hard. Under the running water, peel each fruit (unless you don´t mind the skin). Drop peeled figs, some whole, some cut into half (your choice), cover with water and add coarse sugar (granulated sugar is fine) to your taste. Usually 1 kilo of fruit calls for 500 grams to 1 kilo of sugar. I used something in between. I allowed the fruits to cook and added little more water to keep the syrup level at fruit level (that is, plenty of syrup). To make the compote taste and smell like figs, I added 3 leaves while cooking. Very often, we make green papaya compote (same process) but add fig leaves for the aroma. We like to add cinnamon stick and cloves.

Turmeric Time


That´s how most of us know store bought turmeric - as a yellow powder






But it actually comes from a gingerlike root - Curcuma Longa





It starts from a plant like these - the leaves should be dry (mine are not quite yet)





Dig the small roots out to your joy!





Such a delight to see these wonderful "gold from earth" - as it is known in certain parts of Brazil - sunbathing




For culinary use, I can just smash it, cut it or grate it into the cooking rice or stews. But if I want to store it in a powder form, I heard, I need to boil, dry and grate. Some people just sun dry it before grating. In either case, you will be rewarded with bright yellow tainted palms just like Moroccan women.



Monday, April 15, 2013

Morning Run

I can´t believe I have been running 3 miles most mornings for months now. I just haven´t had time to post it here - of course, too busy running. Well, it actually takes only 40 minutes every morning. I started slowly walking at a city park, until I lost some weight (diet oriented by a dietician - two spoons of rice, palm size piece of meat, and lots of salad, and things like that. No sugar or fatty meat for 6 weeks. It worked. I shed 10 pounds and even though I went back eating like a plowman, I am still able to keep my optimal weight. Sometimes I think that I could curb more of my apetite for novelty foods and lead a zen like lifestyle. My pursue of simplicity hasn´t gotten to my stomach yet.
I started on this road in November - Summer in the South Hemisphere. Gentle rolling hills, no many cars, but lots of dogs (four check points done by mutts), including mine that insist in following me. One of these days, one of them got killed by a car. All I said to the driver was "please, haul it from here". I used to run on a dirt road, but my dogs used to harass passersby, specially dangerous for motorcycles or bicycles. I was so distraugt that I gave up the whole activity for months, until I found the city park, and later, the paved country road near my farm. So I leave the farm by car and park by the road. But my dogs are smart. They discovered my little secret and sometimes they get to the starting point even before me.
My region doesn´t have much natural beauty. But I really enjoy my morning run. I can see (besides the dogs) birds (toucans too), a reservoir, some trees, and at the end of the paved road, a small Catholic church, a bar, and three houses (five people live here). On the back of the church has the most magnificent building of all: four giant wood fired oven! All roasted chicken, lamb, and pork are done in this facility for many churches annual fairs.





Okra

Okra plant. Pods clinging too long...they may get woody. Not all Brazilians like okra - slime is to blame - nonetheless, the rest of us is absolutely crazy about it. To avoid getting it slimmy, I heard you can add vinegar or lemon while cooking or washing, I am not sure. I do none of them. My strategy is to fry in hot oil, without stirring too much. Cutting into bigger pieces and patting washed okra dry also help. Okra goes well in a tempura, deep fried coated with corn meal, fried as potato chips, smothered with tomatoes, and combined with shrimp or chicken. We, country people, hundreds of miles away from the beach, eat smothered chicken with okra which is previously fried and added at the end (to avoid slime). Yeah, we can pickle okra too. I also eat it raw, sliced in diagonal, with soy sauce and drops of lemon. It can´t get any simpler.

Smothered Chicken in Fresh Turmeric, Mustard Leaves and Okra

My neighbor Rosa gave me a freshly butchered chicken that minutes before used to freely run around her house. It is a pay back for something that I don´t remember what. We trade goodies so often that it became part of our routine.
Free roamming chicken was never part of my diet as growing up. The first time that I saw it on a pot, I thought it was strange: skinny long legs, specked yellow skin, though and very little meat to eat. I have noticed lately that farm raised chicken has been smelling strong, with soft slimy flesh, with fat marbling the breast fillet. So when my neighbor told me she would give me one from her stock, I watched as many videos possible on how best cook it. While I used a crockpot to make the stock, I marinated the rest of the meat in garlic, onions, salt and pepper overnight. (Brazilian cuisine is not much more than garlic-onion based seasoning.) In a large casserole, I fried the pieces until golden brown. I stepped out of the kitchen and plucked the roots of turmeric. I had never gotten turmeric roots before, so I was not sure I would find any. What a nice surprise to collect small, yet dark yellow roots that smelled earthy. I added small amounts of hot stock and ran again to my veggie garden to pick up some mustard leaves, cilantro, parsley, and green onions. Some more hot stock to pick up fresh corn, which was badly attacked by a bird from the parrot family. In the small patch of okra bushes, I have more pods than I can pick or eat. In an hour, lunch was late, but ready. Such a delicious, substantial meal that I need nap now.