Sunday, October 27, 2013

Baião de dois - flavorful rice and beans dancing on your palate

More than twenty years ago, when I was living in Campinas, a city of Sao Paulo state, I used to sing in a Chorus called COCA - Coral Campinas - with my dear friend Ana Paula Gomes. It was my preferred activity of the week! One of the songs of our repertoire was this Baião de ninar, by Gerson:

“Este baião, eu inventei pra ninar
o meu amor num berço feito de raio de luar
baião, oi, de ninar, baião, oi, de ninar”
(Here’s a version by another Brazilian chorus:

Baião is both the name of a traditional Brazilian dance and the music that is played to rock the dancing couples, that hold each other very closely and move to the 2-bars beat all night long.
The name of this dish is an allusion to this engaging dance, but here, instead of a loving couple, the two quintessential ingredients of the Brazilian diet - rice and beans, cooked together and enhanced with a few or several delicious  ingredients, such as bacon, cheese, sausage, scrambled eggs and fresh cilantro (there are many variations throughout Brazil). But beware - very, very hard to stop eating!

The beans of choice for this recipe are the black eyed beans / peas. I found them fresh in my local supermarket, but you can also use canned, or cook your own at home. The difference is that when you use the beans cooking liquid to prepare the rice, the flavor of the finished dish is superior (and that gooey thing surrounding canned beans won’t do it. By the way, rinse them very well before adding to the pan.)

Baião de dois
(Dish of rice and beans cooked together)

1 lb (500 g) carne de sol / charque (Brazilian jerked beef)
12 oz (340 g / 2 cups) fresh (quick cooking) black eyed peas
3.5 oz (100 g / 3/4 cup) diced slab bacon
1 Tbsp (3 cloves) garlic, minced
7 oz (200 g / 1 cup) diced onion
2 cups white rice, uncooked
1/2 cup freshly chopped herbs (flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, chives)
1/2 cup diced queijo de coalho (or Finish-style baked cheese)
chili oil, to taste


1. Rinse the carne seca, cut into 0.5 in. cubes and soak in cold water for about 4 hours, changing the water every one hour. Cook in cold water, in a pressure cooker for about 30 minutes, or in a regular pan until tender (about 2 hours). Remove from the pan, reserving the liquid. Set aside.
2. Cook the beans in cold water for about 20 minutes, until tender, but firm to the bite. Drain, saving the cooking liquid, and set aside.
3. Heat a large saucepan and add the bacon. Cook until golden brown. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan. Set aside.
4. Saute the onion in the hot bacon fat until light golden brown. Add the garlic and sauté until golden brown. Add the cooked carne seca and the beans to the pan. Stir in the rice and approximately 3 1/2 cups of cooking liquid, starting with the beans liquid and complementing with the meat liquid. Stir well to combine and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, partially cover the pan and cook until the rice is al dente, adding more liquid as needed. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let rest for at least 5 mintues.
5. Fluff the rice with a fork, add chili oil to taste and stir in the chopped herbs and the diced cheese, being careful to not over stir it. Serve with sauteed collard greens, farinha de mandioca torrada (toasted manioc flour) and more hot pepper on the side.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bife rolê (Brazilian-Style Beef Rolls)

This week, my dear friend KJ Mohr, her twins, and parents stopped to visit us and I cooked bife rolê for them. When I opened the bubbling pot on the table, Kristin said: “Rouladen is my mom’s specialty!”. I did not know Germans had their version of beef rolls - with mustard, bacon and sometimes pickles, “but no tomato sauce”, as KJ’s mom explained to me. Fortunately, they all seemed to like the Brazilian version, especially the twins!

My mom used to make bife rolê for us very often, and I remember well untying them at the table and picking up every last bit of meat attached to the twine. Although they can be a little time consuming, it’s an easy way of transforming an inexpensive cut of meat in a delightful meal. I hope you also enjoy this Brazilian version of rouladen, that has also been published in Portuguese, in 2011, at the wonderful Mapa da Cachaça website.

Bife rolê 
(Brazilian-Style Beef Rolls)

1 lb thinly sliced (1/4 in) beef round cutlets
3 slices bacon
2 medium carrots
2 green onions

1 tsp salt
ground black pepper, to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp red or white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
toothpicks or kitchen twine to secure the rolls

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp tomato paste
1-2 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1 cup beef stock

1 tbsp chopped flat parsley, to garnish

1. Pound the cutlets with a beef mallet, being carefully not to tear the meat. Cut into strips approximately 4 in wide. Cut the carrots and spring onions into sticks about 4 in long. Cut each bacon slice into 3 segments.
2. Rub the garlic, salt, and black pepper together to form a paste. Mix in the vinegar and the 1 tsp oil. Season the cutlets with this paste.
3. To roll each cutlet, place a piece of bacon, a stick of carrot and a piece of green onion at one end of the strip. Roll up tightly and secure the end with one or two toothpicks, or use a piece of kitchen twine to tie it.
4. Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Brown the beef rolls on all sides. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until wilted. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another minute, being careful not to let it burn. Add the chopped tomato and cook until it starts to form a sauce.
5. Add the stock, stir well and cover the pan. Lower the heat and cook, stirring every now and then, until the rolls are tender and the sauce has thickened and reduced (30 minute to 1 hour, depending on the tenderness of the meat).
6. Adjust the seasoning, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve, with rice or mashed potato.

- If you are in a hurry, cook in a pressure cooker, for 15 minutes. If you have plenty of time, use a slow cooker, after browning the meat. In either case, use less stock. Reduce the sauce in the stove before serving, if necessary.
- You can make these rolls with pork, turkey and chicken cutlets, and using other stuffing ingredients, for example: sliced ham, zucchini sticks, dried plums or apricots, leaf vegetables such as collard greens and spinach, sausage, etc.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Empada, or  empadinha (the diminutive of the word), is another traditional Brazilian salgadinho – the same category of savory bite-size treats that also includes the Coxinha. They look like tiny little two-crust pies, but they are savory. The empadinha’s dough can be mealy and somewhat dry (“empada de massa podre”), or thin and elastic (“empada de massa fina”, picture below), but the latter is a less common. Empadão, which is the augmentative of the word, are large savory pies sold in padarias and lanchonetes that Brazilians eat by the slice for a fast meal, usually sided by a small salad, and seasoned with some hot pepper sauce.

The most traditional empada fillings are chicken (same as the one used for Coxinha!), hearts of palm and shrimp, and all of them can include Catupiry® or requeijão (Brazilian creamy cheeses). But there are several other fillings. In large urban areas, such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, there are even places dedicated only to selling empadas, where they offer dozens of varieties.

The secret to a good empadinha is to have a moist filling and just the right amount of dough. Prepare the filling in advance, as it should be at room temperature or cold before it can be placed inside the dough shells. Baked empadas can be frozen and then reheated in the oven before serving. I hope you’ll end up enjoying these savory, tiny treats as much as I do.

Empadinha de massa podre
(mealy dough empadinha)

Hearts of palm filling
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup small dice onion
2 skinless, seedless, fresh tomatoes, finely chopped

400g (2x14oz cans) hearts of palm, diced (Roland® is a good brand)
1/2 cup frozen peas
7 small green olives, finely chopped
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
salt, pepper and finely chopped Italian parsley to taste

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and sauté the onion over high heat until golden brown.
2. Add the tomato and cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes.
3. Add the hearts of palm, season with salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat to medium and let cook, partially covered, for 5 minutes. Add a little water, if too dry.
4. Add the peas and the olives to the pan and stir to combine.
5. Dissolve the cornstarch in 1tbsp of the milk, then add this mixture to the remaining milk and stir well to combine. Pour the milk into the pan, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened.
6. Turn off the heat. Add the parsley, adjust the seasoning and let cool before using.

Mealy Dough for Empada
450g (1 lb) all-purpose flour + 50g (2 oz) to dust
150g (5 oz) vegetable shortening
75g (2.5 oz) unsalted butter
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk for brushing
1 tsp salt
25ml (1 fl oz) cold water

1. Cut the butter and shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Add eggs, salt and water and knead to combine. Let rest for 30 minutes.


1. To make empadinha, take small portions of the dough (roughly 1 tbsp) and use it to line the bottom and sides of an empadinha mold (or mini cupcake mold), using the tips of your thumbs.
2. Add the filling, being careful not to let it touch the rim.
3. Roll out a smaller circle of dough and cover the filling, pressing against the sides to seal and to trim the excess dough.

4. Preheat the oven to 350oF / 180oC. Brush the tops with egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp water and bake until golden brown. Serve warm or cold.