Tag Archives: fish

Fish, dendê and coconut milk = Moqueca

8 Oct

When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil in the year 1500 they encountered a rich and varied indigenous culture divided in inumerous tribes, like the tamoios, tupiniquins, potiguaras, tabajaras, etc. Most of the Atlantic coast was dominated by the tupinambás. The culinary culture of these indians included the utilization of the “moquém”, a kind of grill made out of sticks and leaves, covered with ashes, and placed over the fire for cooking or grilling. The first known document describing the “moquém” is a letter of the Portuguese priest Luis de Grã, dated of 1554, where he states that when they wanted to eat human flesh the indians would grill them over the flames in a “moquém”. In 1584, another priest, Fernão de Cardim, comments that not only human flesh, but also fish and potatoes were used by the tupinambás in the preparation of their “moquecas” (something made in the “moquém”)

Tupinambás preparing human flesh with a "moquem" - Drawing by Theodore de Bry around 1540.  Notice the white man in the background: He's Hans Staden, who lived among the tupinambás after his ship sinked along the coast of São Paulo

Tupinambás preparing human flesh over a "moquém" - Drawing by Theodore de Bry (1540). Notice the white man in the background: He's Hans Staden, who lived among the tupinambás after his ship sank near the coast of São Paulo

During the first half of the XVI century, specially due to the lack of labor force required for the production sugarcane, the Portuguese started to introduce slaves from Africa, mainly in the northeastern part of Brasil. With them came several culinary ingredients and practices, among which the use of dendê oil. Dendê comes from a palm tree ( Elaeais guineensis) from the African coast, particularly from the Guinea region. The coconut (Cocos nucifera), on the other hand, also a palm tree from the areas bathed by the Indian Ocean, was taken to Europe by Portuguese travellers and later (around 1530) introduced in Brazil.

Coconut milk and dendê oil

Coconut milk and dendê oil

Mix all these ingredients, along with some extra onions (originally from Europe), tomatoes and bell peppers (both from Latin America) and local sea products, as well as such amazing and diverse culinary cultures (European, African and native Brazilian), and you have a real borderless dish, the “moqueca“.

The present day “moqueca”, which obviously is no longer prepared with human flesh, consists of layers of vegetables (diced or sliced onions, tomatoes and bell peppers) and of fish and/or shellfish (prawns, octopuses, squids, etc), in a clay pot sprinkled with dendê oil and coconut milk.

Moqueca - first layer (diced onions, tomatoes and bell peppers with some coriander)

Moqueca - first layer (diced onions, tomatoes and bell peppers with some coriander)

Moqueca - second layer, fish and/or shellfish (shark in this case)

Moqueca - second layer, fish and/or shellfish (shark in this case)

Moqueca - third layer (more vegetables with the added dendê oil and coconut milk)

Moqueca - third layer (more vegetables with the added dendê oil and coconut milk)

I prepared this shark “moqueca” a few days ago for a couple of friends. It’s not only easy to mount, but it gets ready in around 30-40 min over medium-low fire (a bit longer if the pot is too large). You can mount it ahead and take it to the fire (don’t forget the lid) after your friends arrive, while you are having a cold beer or a glass of white wine (we had a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, León the Tarapacá).

Moqueca on Foodista
Dende Oil on Foodista
Coconut Milk on Foodista

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Fresh oysters

10 Sep

I’ve already said (see A paradise in Southern Brazil) that Florianópolis is one of my favorite places in the world, not only because I was born there, but simply because this island is, in fact, a place not to be missed.  If you happen to come to Brazil follow my advice and spend a couple of days visiting Santa Catarina Island (where the city of Florianópolis is located).  I’m quite sure you won’t regret it.

Once in Florianópolis go to the “Mercado”, the city market, situated in the heart of the city.  Take a seat in one of the existing bars, grab a beer and try some of the local specialities.  I personally recommend Box 32, owned by chef Beto Barreiros (we went to highschool together), a place also recommended by internationally recognized French chefs like Claude Troigros and Laurent Suadeau.

External view of the "mercado" (city market) in downtown Florianópolis/Southern Brazil

External view of the "mercado" (city market) in downtown Florianópolis/Southern Brazil

Inside the city market in Florianópolis/Southern Brazil

Inside the city market in Florianópolis/Southern Brazil

The market is rich in seafood, offering a variety of crustaceans, molluscs and fish.

Blue crabs, prawns, fish, mussels....The price? R$ 11.00 = US$ 6.00 (price per 1.0 kg = 2.2 pounds)

Blue crabs, prawns, fish, mussels....The price? R$ 11.00 = US$ 6.00 (price per 1.0 kg = 2.2 pounds)

This time my eyes were caught by the fresh live oysters, which were costing only R$ 4.00 a dozen (around US$ 2.2).

Live oysters at the city market in Florianópolis/Southern Brazil

Live oysters at the city market in Florianópolis/Southern Brazil

For dinner?  Oysters, of course.  Although I also like them raw, as it’s when you can really evaluate the freshness and have a taste of the sea filling your mouth,  my sister-in-law (Manuela) prepared them gratiné with some very mild cream cheese sprinkled with a generous amount of parmesan. Each oyster was followed by a drink of a cold sparkling wine (we had the Spanish cava Freixenet).  The perfect end for a perfect day in my hometown (or a perfect beginning, for this was only the first dinner of a long weekend).

Ready for the oven, with some cream chesse and parmesan

Ready for the oven, with some cream cheese and parmesan

Oysters on Foodista

Tuna leftovers

26 Aug

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary “leftover” is a noun originated in 1891 referring to “something that remains unused or unconsumed”, especially “leftover food served at a later meal”.  Remember the tuna fish I received as a present and prepared on the grill a few weeks ago? If not, take a look here.  If you do, then let me add that we had quite a few leftovers, which obviously found their way into the freezer.

The Wikipedia affirms that “new dishes made from leftovers are quite common in world cuisine” and, let me assure you, they are more than correct.  Well, those tuna leftovers were found by my wife yesterday, and hence a new dish was offered for us at lunchtime.

First, she boiled some sliced potatoes (an egg was also boiled during the process).  Second, onions and yellow bell peppers were sauté in olive oil, to which the tuna leftovers were added.  The potatoes were then disposed at the bottom of a ceramic platter and the tuna, onions and bell peppers layered at the top.  An extra shot of olive oil was added and the dish placed in the oven for a couple of minutes.  Right before serving the egg was sliced and put at the top of the plate.

Tuna left overs over boiled potatoes with onions, yellow bell pepper and boiled eggs.

Tuna leftovers with boiled potatoes, onions, yellow bell peppers and boiled eggs (don't forget the olive oil).

The result was rather simple, but quite tasty.  And she proved once again she cares about my money. Thanks hun.

Sushi

17 Jul

Last Wednesday I was walking around a shopping mall (Brasilia Shopping, Asa Norte) in Brasilia (the capital of Brazil, around 2,500 km from home) and saw “Fuji Sushi“, a sushi bar.

Although usually associated to Japan, sushi has a Chinese origin, where it developed basically as a fish fermentation and preservation method.  Around 2,000 year ago the method arrived in Japan and besides rice vinegar and probably sugar, sake was added to the recipe.

Presentations was not bad, but the taste was disappointing.  Believe it or not almost every sushi had cream cheese in it (I don’t have the slightest idea why they spoil fresh tuna and salmon with that).  The only thing that was not bad (although it looked so) was a caramelized ginger.  It was relatively cheap (around US$ 0,50/piece) but I’m not willing to repeat the experience.

Smoked fish "Nigiri" sushi tied with pieces of nori (a type of algae)

Smoked fish "Nigiri sushi" tied with pieces of "nori" (a type of dried algae)

Salmon "Nigiri" sushi.  On the back a tuna "Uramaki" plenty of cream cheese (Urghh!!!)

Salmon "Nigiri sushi". On the back a tuna "Uramaki" plenty of cream cheese (Urghh!!!)

Homemade Sushi on Foodista
Sushi Rice on Foodista
Nigiri-Sushi on Foodista

Not big, but tasty

14 Jul

Fishing is one of my favorites activities, specially surf fishing on Cassino Beach, the largest beach in the world with a length of over 200 km, what means that I’ve no difficulty in finding a good fishing spot.

Cassino Beach (photo from Pedro Kok)

Cassino Beach (photo from Pedro Kok)

The main species I usually get is “papa-terra” (kingcroaker), a member of the Sciaenidae family of the genus Menticirrhus (in Brazil usually Menticirrhus littoralis).  They are not big, usually reaching around 40-50 cm (around 20 inches), but highly prized for a very white and mild flesh.

My wife seasoned them with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  The abdominal cavity was filled with diced onions and tomatoes. The fish were baked in the oven for around 15-20 min and served over a fresh lettuce salad with some pieces of Parmesan cheese and fried garlic.

These are not big catches, but are simple to prepare and constitute a healthy, light and tasty meal. It was a taste of summer in the middle of the winter.

Kingcroacker filled with onions and tomatoes on a lettuce bed

Kingcroacker filled with onions and tomatoes on a lettuce bed

Scaling Fish on Foodista

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