29 January 2012

Massa de Pimentão Pork Roast

Massa de pimentão, or red pepper paste, is a condiment I had tasted many times before I ever knew what it was. Or that it existed.

Why did the juice on Portuguese pork roasts have a red tinge? What was the spicy-but-not-spicy flavor that the pan drippings gave my potatoes? I tried putting some slices of chorizo in the roasting pan, doing a paprika-based spice rub-- not the same taste.

Then, I found a smiley little jar. (See above.) Bingo!

22 January 2012

Boeuf Alentejano

If you are looking for a quick weeknight meal, look away.

On the other hand, if you are snowed in for the day with a side of beef and feel like transforming yourself into a beloved wintertime kitchen god or goddess-- here you go.  Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon recipe, featuring a robust Portuguese wine and even more robust side of Portuguese beef.

18 January 2012

Bacalhau Fishcakes with Spanish Rice

This week's bacalhau dish is a riff on a Portuguese classic, Bacalhau Fritters and Tomato Rice (Pataniscas de Bacalhau com Arroz de Tomate).  It is a tasty dish, to be sure.  But deep frying?  I think we all learned our lesson on that one this week.  No one escapes the revenge of the deep fried cheesecake. 

So in case deep fried cod poses the same risks, here is a patanisca made a bit lighter.  Instead of tomato rice, here is a Spanish rice that packs in more veggies than the original.  Is it super healthy?  Errrr, not exactly.  But it is genuinely delicious and not as unhealthy as it could be.


14 January 2012

Spicy Rice with Black Beans

Hello, my name is Jen and I am a spicy food junkie.

Sad to say, I'm actually not interested in a 12-step program to cure my addiction.  The nasal-clearing rush you get from a big green pea of wasabi on a piece of sushi.  The tingling burning lips you get from too much hot-label salsa on a burrito.  The kick in the back of the sinuses you get from a cheese sandwich slathered with English mustard.  The combination of blistering hot sauce on wings that can only be tamed by a dip in some blue cheese sauce.  These are happy feelings.

Generally, I don't indulge this urge for spice very much these days.  As you can see from the recipes on this site, Portugal is a land where the flavors match the temperament of its people and its climate: mild, pleasing, and friendly.  On the rare occasions I have encountered "spicy" food, I find that my weathered American tastebuds barely register the kick, while Portuguese friends are gulping water and fanning their mouths.

Sometimes, though, a girl needs her heat.  And this Jamaican-inspired baked rice and bean dish really hits the spot.

13 January 2012

All Gold Bolo Rei

This Bolo Rei is missing its traditional jewels.  Candied fruits in neon colors are not bedecking the top, and piles of chopped dried fruit are not baked into the dough.

It is more like a simple gold crown for the king.  A lack of ostentation.  A Portuguese King Cake which has been subjected to austerity measures.

But this cake is not a socio-economic political statement.  It is merely a matter of taste-- MY taste.  In the past few years of tasting bolo rei in Portugal, I have found the visual impact of the fruit entirely cancelled out by its off-putting taste and slimy shiny texture.  Meh.

This year I decided to attempt a makeunder on this Lisbon holiday staple.  The result was a golden, crusty, simple, sweet treat that made for many a happy winter breakfast.

12 January 2012

Fish Chowder and Crusty Bread

The weather is not exactly frosty here in Portugal.  As I walked around town yesterday, I had on a long sleeve shirt and a sweater vest. All around me were people stubbornly making the most of their winter wardrobes-- full length wool jackets, fur collars, chunky knit scarves and knee high leather boots.  I couldn't help but smile, thinking of how the Vermonters I used to live and work with would be happy to run around in t-shirts on a 60-degree sunshiney afternoon.

Nonetheless, winter is here juuuuust enough, and as night falls I am cozied up in my favorite sweater and leggings and socks imagining what warming dinners I can make in the next few weeks before spring arrives. The first thing on my cold weather menu is hearty and healthy all in one, and slightly adapted from a meal my sister-in-law made us in DC this fall.

05 January 2012

My Portuguese Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is a big deal in Portugal.  It is the day when the presents are opened, it is the night of the traditional meal of bacalhau, and it is the day when the family gathers together for the holiday.  So I was not too surprised when we arrived at Bacalhau Boy's sister's home for the Ceia de Natal and we were greeted by this huge sideboard of goodies: