cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Return

I'm back. I mean, I'm back in the US. Is my slump over?

What happened? We decided to make a leap. Where are we? Rochester, NY. After five years in Brazil, husband (H) accepted an inter company transfer offer for a position in the US, and we decided to take it. So here we are. I seem to restart my life over every five years. It's deathly frightening and liberating all at the same time. That's that.

So how is it? Getting used. We're rounding into three full months in our new home so we're starting to get a handle on the place. Moving from the tropics of South America to the tundra of Lake Ontario is an extreme shift, one extreme to another. The weather has been unusually cruel. It's the end of March and we're still dipping below zero at night. We expected cold, we expected snow, but we didn't expect this much. We haven't explored nearly enough, but so far what Rochester has going for it, for me, are the parks and the food. There are more parks around this city than imaginable. I have yet to repeat a park on my trail runs. The choices are never ending, and the views, foliage and wild life are breathtaking. One point for Rochester. The second great advantage to being here is the ability to buy and eat locally. Let's just say that's been a dream... We're smack in the heart of upstate New York farm land, a feature that i intend to exploit with fervor.

Do i miss Sao Paulo? Yes. Five years is more than enough to build a home and to build a place to fit in. I found my place in Sao Paulo, I was thriving. So why did we leave? I refuse to have regrets based on missed opportunities. I would never have moved to Brazil if i hadn't taken a huge gamble that my husband calls brave yet others might call naive. I don't know what it was. All i know is that i would regret it for the rest of my life if i hadn't tried. What if is nothing i ever want connected to my memories. Five years later our decision to move to Rochester was rooted in the same thought. So we wander. Brazil is not gone. I will always be part Brazilian. There is nothing I can do about that now.

I don't know why i stopped posting recipes when i moved to Brazil. Why I wanted Salty Cod to die, or to sleep. To fade to the bottom at the exact moment that the world of food blogging boomed. But it did. And he was left behind. I also don't know why i am now inspired to resuscitate him. To feed him. To post, for you, recipes.

So to start off with a bang, I will post my recipe for Moqueca Baiana, a Brazilian fish stew from the northern state of Bahia. This recipe was made here in Rochester using ingredients that can be found inside the United States. So Gemma, no excuses.

Moqueca Baiana
Serving: 4

Two cans coconut milk
Four quarts stock (or water)
One pound large shrimp (if you can find with heads and skin, better)
One large red onion
One large red bell pepper
1 tsp red chili flakes or 1 fresh hot red chili
4 cloves garlic
Dende oil (known in the US as Red Palm Oil)*
1.5 cup farofa (or panko)*
Shredded unsweetened coconut
Fresh cilantro
Salt, pepper
Prepared rice (brown or white) for serving

*Red palm oil can be found in most grocery store (Trader Joe's has). It usually can be found solid in a jar (similar to coconut oil) and runs anywhere from five to fifteen dollars a jar.
*Farofa is made from a roughly ground tapioca flour. It is possible to find at international import stores, but if it's not available in your area regular panko works just as well.

1) Prepare the shrimp. If you can find whole shrimp with their heads still attached, get them. They will add an extra flavor dimension to your moqueca. If you can't find, no sweat, but you will need to make sure you use a stock such as fish stock or chicken stock. If using shrimp heads, remove all heads, legs and shells from the shrimp meat and dump into a pot. Add four quarts water (or stock) and bring to a boil. Strain the liquid into a Medium stock pot and discard the heads and shells. Set shrimp bodies aside.

2) In a saute pan, heat 2 tbsp dende oil (red palm oil) and add sliced onions, bell pepper, garlic and chili pepper. Heat until fully sweated. Add to the stock. Over medium heat, stir the coconut milk into the stock/onion/pepper mixture. Set aside.

3) Prepare your rice.

4) Prepare your fried coconut. Heat 1 tbsp dende oil in a small frying pan. Once hot, add the shredded coconut. Stir until the coconut absorbs all the oil and begins to crisp (turn a darker orange color). Let fried coconut dry on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt.

5) Prepare the farofa. Heat 1 tbsp dende oil (see the pattern here?) in a sate pan. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add pank and stir until completely absorbed and the panko begins to crisp. Sprinkle with salt and take off heat.

6) Cook shrimp. In (another) saute pan, heat 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Saute shrimp for about two minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add cooked shrimp to Stock pot and stir.

To assemble: Start with rice, add a heaping scoop of moqueca (as much shrimp as you can scoop), sprinkle with farofa and fried coconut, garnish with fresh cilantro and for good measure drizzle a fresh squeeze of lime over the top.


And that's that.
Thanks for having me back, America!