28 April 2011

Bacalhau Fajitas

Fajitas are not Portuguese. Let's get that out there, right at the beginning.  Bacalhau Boy (the husband's new blog identity) had never eaten one before he met me.  And traditional fajita fillings?  Roasted red peppers, jalapenos, hot and spicy seared steak or chicken, guacamole, salsa, sour cream-- definitely delicious, but not in the least way Iberian.

But as much as I love those spicy flavors, my favorite part of fajitas is not their distinctive taste.  It is the genius of the soft tortilla as a food delivery system.  Think about it-- you pick and choose your fillings right at the table. You create a single serving, of-the-moment buffet in a soft floury shell.  And it is seriously fun to eat.   

So since it is a genius system that seems perfectly adaptable to other flavors, the only remaining question is:

If fajitas were Portuguese, what would they be filled with?

23 April 2011

Tipsy Easter Nest Cake

Easter in Portugal is a serious event.  All week, delivery men, checkout ladies, work colleagues, and random passersby have been wishing me a Boa Páscoa. People have had holidays from work since Thursday afternoon, and Lisbon is fairly emptied as dutiful kids return to their relatives in the hinterlands to celebrate this weekend. It feels like Christmas without the presents and with much nicer weather.

Yeah, yeah, yeah-- this is all very nice.  The problem is that it makes me miss Easter with my own family.  Kielbasa and rye bread, Paas-dyed eggs eaten all day long, homemade baskets of chocolate bunnies, ham and scalloped potatoes... sigh.  Unfortunately, these are things which are not available in Portugal.  My old traditions don't have much of a chance here.

In my mind, then, it was very important to mark this occasion with a cake which deserves to be a new tradition.  A cake which would make me forget my Mom's sweet bread and be outstanding enough to act as a centerpiece for a four-day weekend.  

THIS is that cake.

15 April 2011

Bacalhau à Brás

When I first got to Lisbon, I had a hard time getting on the bacalhau love train.  Honestly, I felt convinced that though I might tolerate it someday, I would never love it.

That was before I tasted Bacalhau à Brás.

12 April 2011

TV in Portugal (and Carrot Pataniscas)

In the past two years, I have managed to learn a bit of Portuguese.  This is helpful for lots of reasons.
1. I can go grocery shopping and know what I am looking for.
2. I can talk with Pedro's family.
3. I can understand what our "mulher a dias" (equal parts cleaning lady and grumpy grandma) says when she criticizes my messy dresser drawers.
4. I can eavesdrop on public transportation. (Hey, it's good practice!)

But the BEST reason I have for learning Portuguese is Portuguese television. If eyes are the windows to the soul, then television must be the eyes of a nation.  (Yeah, that's right, I was an English major, yo...)

Anyhow, since I can't offer plane tickets to Lisbon for all my family and friends, I had to at least share a few of my very favorite Portuguese shows with you.*

(And yes, there is a recipe at the end. So hang in there.)

*Note: I loved these shows long before I spoke Portuguese, TV being a visual thing and all.  So I hope even if you don't know your obrigada from your chouriço, you will give these gems a try.

1. Home Makeover Show: Querido, Mudei a Casa!

"Honey, I Changed the House" is similar to the TLC show While You Were Out. There is a two-day makeover which is kept secret from one member of a household while professionals transform one room.  Genius in any language!

There are certain hallmarks of this genre which are all here:
  • The Before/After Room Scan, complete with music which maximizes the chance you will oooo and ahhhh.
  • The BlahbittyBlah when the designer talks with the host about how awesome the room is while as a viewer you just want to get to...
  • The BIG REVEAL for the homeowner. 
BUT-- watch the clip below and tell me if you do not notice one very glaring difference at around 5'45".  Go ahead, I'll wait.

08 April 2011

Spicy Yogurt Chicken and Zucchini Gratin

I feel like I need to confess something.  Looking at the title of the blog and the recipes I've posted, one might imagine I am exploring Portuguese cooking with every meal we eat.  Errrr...

Yes, we are in Portugal. Yes, I have a Portuguese husband who likes to be fed, and yes, I try to make him things he finds comforting, familiar, and appetizing.  Sometimes.

But most of the time?  Bacalhau Boy survives on American cooking.

Luckily for him, that encompasses, oh, every type of cuisine the world has to offer. Spaghetti bolognese, and pierogies, and sushi, and burritos, and sesame noodles, and beef stroganoff, and falafel, and chicken vindaloo... and yes, some darn good burgers and fries, too. I'm not sure whether America is more of a "melting pot" or a "tossed salad", but either way, can it be coincidence that the metaphors for our multi-ethnicity are related to food??

So, to the (constant) surprise of Bacalhau Boy, we tend to eat from a grab bag of ethnic flavors.  Last weekend was one such meal: Greek-Thai Spicy Yogurt Chicken and French Zucchini Gratin.

07 April 2011

Bacalhau à Moliceiro

This is a dish in which bacalhau plays hide and seek.  A bit of masquerading, some clumsy sculpting, AND a story about a Portuguese sea town. This is 138% more fun than you expect from a piece of fish.

The story starts with the "à Moliceiro" part of this recipe.  A moliceiro is a kind of boat, iconic of the northern Portuguese town of Aveiro.  They have big colorful prows featuring humorous paintings of everyday scenes, and-- well, it's easier if you just have a look:

04 April 2011

Almond Torte

If you are gluten intolerant with a raging sweet tooth, I advise you to move to Portugal. Cake making without flour is an unusual adaptive feat most of the time, isn't it?  Kind of like making a Thanksgiving turkey out of tofu. Not that there is anything WRONG with that, but wouldn't it just be more delicious to make a meal out of actual veggies? 

Bolo de Amêndoa, or Almond Torte, is a seriously rich, seriously delicious piece of baked goodness that exists naturally in its best form without a bit of flour.  It also has the virtue of staying moist and delicious for a spookily long time-- even improving with age. AND it is equally tasty as a dessert, breakfast, or afternoon snack with coffee.