give me flour

Got a lot of Easter leftovers on the fridge? Well, me too! And it just brought me up an issue I’ve thinking about since I watched this movie: Food Waste.

I know, it’s about a faraway land called Australia and doesn’t have anything to do with us right? Well, actually it does.

I grew up hearing my mom saying the same thing your mom probably used to say to you: “You have to eat!! It’s a sin to waste food, do you have any idea on how many people in the world would give everything for a plate of food like that?? Don’t waste!”

So, leftovers on the plate are not the case, we were pretty much overwhelmed by our mom’s voices and kind of learned or should have learned to not have eyes bigger than the stomach.

But the problem is still next to us, haunting our kitchen garbage, present on the food we didn’t like, on the ingredient that had expired, the spice we bought for a special recipe and forgot on the bottom of the cabinet.

According to Jonathan Bloom, blogger and author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), Americans waste an average of almost 200 pounds of food a year. But it’s not an exclusive “luxury” of the United States. Brazil throws away about 30% of the food produced to consume and we even can’t “afford” it.

I know these numbers are pretty scary and refer to a much bigger system that includes planting, harvest, logistic, storage and so. But our acts as consumers affect directly the way producers and grocery stores expose, sell or discard their products. It’s a big snow ball and we do have a big influence on it, specially now, in a era where more and more people embrace culinary arts and get a deeper interest on food.

We don’t have to buy the freshest vegetables on the counter just because a personality chef advised you about that. The dish you are going to cook can determine the quality of the ingredient you need. What’s the matter with a not so firm mushroom if you are going to use it to prepare a cream? And why should we discard the green part of a leek just because the book says that?
Think before buying, ask your recipes some questions, and don’t be afraid, it’s all part of the cooking learning. I truly believe a conscientious consumption is the key to avoid a lot of waste and a huge contribution to lower down the numbers.

Start planning your meal, thinking about sizes and portions. This recipe, for example, can happily feed a family like mine, two adults, two kids and no leftovers. Which doesn’t stop you to measure the size of your hunger, conscientiously, of course.

Prepare the chicken: buy a whole chicken breast with strips (tender, tenderloin or whatever you prefer) in. You want to have a nice and kind of rectangular piece of meat that is easy to stuff. So, grab a good and sharp knife and, starting from the center, cut the meat just to open the strips but without disconnecting them. Season the chicken and set it aside. If you prefer, you can do that on the night before.

For the couscous, boil stock and orange juice and stir into it, cover and let it absorve the liquids for 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and reserve.

Slice the mushrooms and leek. I love leeks and often use the green part. It’s a bit stronger then the white side and if you don’t like, just save it for a soup or stock, don’t throw it away.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and quickly sauté sliced mushrooms and leeks. Add couscous, mix, season with salt, pepper and add orange zests.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Open the chicken breast skin down, pour 4 to 5 tablespoons of couscous, roll it up and tie with a string.

Rub the chicken with extra olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 400°F and roast until skin is golden in color and internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes, slice and serve with remaining couscous. I bet you won’t leave a tiny piece behind!

It’s holiday again! I love to use it as an excuse to make something new and special. But that’s one of those posts where I get half-hearted. After all, we are talking about Easter, a synonymous of chocolate eggs for Brazilians. You gotta have one, it’s a statement!

That’s the chocolate season out there. Grocery stores get packed, or better saying, covered with eggs made from all kinds of chocolates. They are set up on the aisles, just above your head and if you take too long to decide which one to buy, you can get a bad stiff neck. And it’s almost like toys on Christmas time, you have to hurry, otherwise you are going to end with a fumbled and broken one, and will get the brand you wished for only if you’re lucky.

And let’s not forget fancy chocolateries, bakeries and a bunch of chocolate artisans that come with new creations, gourmet chocolates, exquisite and exotic flavors to help spreading the Easter “spirit”. My problem is, being so far way, I didn’t get the “holy spirit” this year.  I do miss the feast but, yeah, chocolates just didn’t please me this time.

Instead, I looked for some dessert that could be special here. I have to confess, I got really confused among so many options. It appears to me there’s no such a thing as a traditional Easter dessert. Popular, yes, but not traditional.

So, I chose this cake! I’ve being looking for the right opportunity to try it since I bought Bon Appetit Dessert. My only regret now is I’d eat too much, and it’s not even Easter yet!

Before starting, just a few considerations about the original recipe. First, it calls for a 13×9 cake pan but I used here two 6inch diameter cake pan. The cake was pretty tall so, if you want you can use two 8inch diameter cake pan and make thinner layers.

Second, I used jumbo eggs instead of large ones to make a lighter batch; I aways do that with cakes.

Finally, I’m very superstitious when it comes to adding liquid ingredients after flour has already being incorporated. So, I added pineapple before adding flour, not together with carrots, coconut and nuts as the book asks.

Pre heat oven to 350˚F. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper and follow this steps:

Bake for 30min. Tent loosely w/ foil. Continue to bake until tester inserted comes out clean, another 15min. Remove from oven and wait for 10 minutes.

Cut around pan sides to loosen cake, turn them out onto racks and peel parchment paper.

Meanwhile, prepare glaze, which is nothing more than a caramel. It adds a lot to the cake but, sincerely, I didn’t get the buttermilk flavor. So, feel free to use heavy cream instead.

Bring sugar, buttermilk, butter, corn syrup and baking soda to boil in large saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. The mixture will raise, pay attention. Boil until glaze is deep amber, whisking often. Remove from heat, add vanilla and use immediately.

Cut each cake in half and spoon hot glaze evenly over each layer. Let it cool completely. The cake will absorb the glaze, adding moistness and extra flavor.

Frosting (and filling) is an old friend, no secrets here.

Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon; beat until blended.

Let it chill for at least an hour before using, it’ll help the spreading process.

Spread the frosting/filling over three cake layers, place one on top of each other and finish with the last layer without filling.

If you feel the cake is too wiggly, cover with plastic and wait until the filling becomes firm.

Finally, spread the remaining frosting on top and sides of the cake using a proper spatula. Take out of the fridge an hour before serving.

You can make up to 10 guests happy with this recipe!

Do you know those days where nothing can satisfy you? You feel you want to eat something different from your everyday meals but you don’t have a clue about what to prepare? Yeah, it happens with me more often than you think. Eating has a lot to do with my mood and even though I have a plentyful repertory to play with, I always catch myself spying other people’s kitchen to diversify. That was how I found this place, Taste of Home, a blog about Asian food maintained by a Malaysian.

Coincidence or destiny, I don’t know. All I know is that first this picture won me and gave me an enormous hunger; second, I had some drumsticks in my fridge waiting to be cooked.

The problem is Asian food always requires ingredients I never have in hand. So, to avoid going after them, I kept looking at “Jen’s recipe notebook” and chose this other sauce, gorgeous!

I ended mixing both recipes, gave my Brazilian touch and from all that mess another sweet and sour chicken was born, perfect for moments of indecision.

As you can see, I used here a particular kind of pepper, a Brazilian one that isn’t hot but has a distinguishable aroma. In case you have a Brazilian store next to you and want to give it a try, ask for “pimenta de cheiro” (sorry, no translation here).

If not, don’t worry, just use red chilli peppers as the the original recipe asks for and have in mind what Jen says: “in Chinese home cooking, a lot of times, most ingredients are only given in approximates”. So, you are very welcome to adapt them to your taste.

Season chicken with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Let it rest overnight or at least for 2h.

Heat oven at 350˚F.  Arrange drumsticks in a bake sheet with garlic cloves and pieces of lemon. Bake for 15 minutes, turn and bake for extra 15 minutes, until chicken is golden in color and juices come clear.

Meanwhile prepare sauce. Heat oil in a small sauce pan and sauté garlic, pepper and ginger for 2-3 minutes. In another bowl, mix together ketchup, soy sauce, sugar and vinegar. Add sautéed ingredients and stir.

Pour on top of chicken and mix well until drumsticks are evenly coated. Serve hot and be ready for a delightful mess!

Yeah, It’s bread again. But now it’s time for sandwich.  Tartine bread project is doing well and yesterday I got my first polenta loaf. And what could be better with polenta than oxtail??

Yes, I eat oxtail! I’m a girl that bakes bread and eats oxtail!! I have to thank my mom again; she taught me how to bake bread and to eat delicacies like that. Actually, it’s both my mom and dad’s fault because she makes the best oxtail stew ever and the way my dad eats it just makes you remember one of those moments in your childhood when you just got a lollipop and wanna show it to everybody but won’t share it under any circumstances.

For me it’s just the most flavorful piece of meat, so unfairly discriminated. People are scared to eat oxtail but it’s actually the end of the backbone and doesn’t have anything to do with intestines or entrails. And it’s not as fat as it seems. The creaminess of its stock is given in part by the high amount of bones.

Now, think with me, when we need to make a rich demi glace, what is the first thing that comes to our mind? Bones for sure. So, here they have the same task, to give us a rich and thick sauce to complement the taste of the meat. Gorgeousness in its best definition!

That’s one of the sandwiches you wanna eat before you die!

Again, choose a good bread. If you can’t find polenta bread, opt for a rich but not sour country bread.

And don’t forget watercress is in season now. Its peppery and tangy flavor pairs magnificently with oxtail. Besides that, we are speaking about a classic and popular combination in Brazil and I wanted to share it with you.

Plan in advance. One day before, wash the oxtail and season with salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic and chopped bell pepper and keep on the fridge. On the next day, heat the oil in a pressure cooker or in a Dutch oven, brown the meat for about 3 minutes each side, cover with water, add chopped tomatoes, cover and cook until tender.

I really prefer my pressure cooker; it takes from 25 to 45 minutes to cook an oxtail, it’s faster and gives you a very juicy meet.  After 25 minutes, turn off the heat and wait until all the pressure is gone. Open the lid and check, add more water and cook for more 10 to 20 minutes.

But if you don’t like or don’t have one, a Dutch oven works as well, just be prepared to wait. After covering the pan, place into the oven and slow braise it until the meat gets out of the bone easily. Check it each half hour and add more water if necessary.

Reserve liquids. Pull the meat out of the bone and shred it when it’s still hot. Reserve.

Tip to degreese liquids: place the bowl with broth inside of a cold water bath and let it chill. Fat will start to solidify and you can easily remove it with a spoon. And remember once again, not all of the sauce is fat. Part of the stock will be thick due to the collagen.

Pour degreased stock into a saucepan and reduce until thick and rich. Time and quantity depends on the amount of water you used to cook the oxtail. Add meat and mix well.

Portion into two slices of bread, add watercress, cover with other slices of bread, cut in half and serve with extra watercress aside.

As an option, you can give your sandwich an extra crunch by grilling it!

The really first thing I remember making on the kitchen was bread. Two basic recipes my mom used to make, onion bread and “homemade” bread that in Brazil usually means a very soft crumb resembling brioche or sandwich bread, very cakey. It comes as a movie in my head:  blending liquids, measuring flour, mixing, kneading, proofing, baking, eating.

Big loafs should rise under the sun. Aside, a glass of water holding a small piece of dough waiting to float, the first sign we should get it into the oven.  No scales, no thermometers, no bulk fermentation and no questions.

But I was a rebellious person, I had questions, I asked too much and I ended here, with the “Tartine Bread Project”.

Tartine is a bakery and café  in San Francisco and its name is everywhere, at least on the food world. Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, it’s owners, were nominated three times for the James Beard Foundation Awards,  “the Oscar of Food”, and won as the best pastry chefs in America in 2008.  They are also authors of Tartine, more focused in pastry (by the way, the book also has the best brownie recipe I’d ever found!).

It’s hard to not be impressed with all the amazing pictures of Elizabeth, Chad and their team folding, glazing, filling, covering, baking, smiling.

Last year, after an intensive effort to adapt their recipe bread to home bakers, Chad launched his second book, Tartine Bread.

The first recipe, their legendary Tartine Country Bread is a result of a “search for a certain loaf with an old soul” as he says on the book. And a lot of people, including me, are very happy for Chad’s obsession for the perfect bread.

As soon as I started reading the book, I wanted to get my hands dirty with flour and started what I called “Tartine Bread Project”. But this bread is complex!!! It’s made by using just three basic ingredients, flour, water and salt thought a process involving long rising, natural fermentation and artisanal shaping. Its recipe fills 37 pages with words and step-by-step pictures, its starter needs at least two weeks to get ready and you gotta be prepared to fail.

Surprisingly I found a bunch of other people involved on the same craziness. Food bloggers I better not mention (so I don’t forget any), tutorials, successful and disastrous experiences and even a Facebook Tartine Bread Community with people’s attempts, pics and a lot of good advices!

Now you have been asking why somebody would spend so much time in a bread, a thing you could easily buy at the grocery store?

I could say it’s anxiety fault; anxiety for better flavor, better crumb and better taste. But there’s something bigger behind this desire.

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A few days ago my second daughter spent all morning cutting, folding, taping and came with a real size paper bag. An ordinary thing she could easily have if had asked me. But the process of creating is something inexplicable, isn’t it?

So, bread is my paper bag!

Calm down, I don’t want, at least for now, to push you into this adventure. First, let’s just consider the importance of bread in our meals and how good it can make a simple dish be!

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This salad is a perfect exemple. It calls for a country bread but you can use a mild sourdough too. A little of sourness will pair well with the sour vinaigrette. Here comes the ingredients for two servings:

Prepare:

Heat the oven to 350˚F. Place bread already cut in irregular pieces in a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes. Take the bread off, toss it with the other ingredients and toast for extra 10 minutes or until sesame seeds are golden in color. Set aside.

Meanwhile prepare vinaigrette:

Hit oil in a small saucepan and add onion; sauté for two minutes until translucent in color. Add mustard, vinegar and reduce to 1/3. Turn off the heat and don’t let it boil again, otherwise olive oil can lose its qualities.

Place spinach in a medium bowl, add toasted bread and pour vinaigrette on top. Mix well, add “chips” of parmesan and serve. As an option, you could use kale leaves or romaine lettuce too!



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