I really am—I don’t want to hit the key sites in the big cities, because I won’t feel like I *know* a place until I live it. That doesn’t mean in a hotel, surrounded by foreigners, consuming the marketable versions of a country or city’s crown jewels… for me, it’s when I spend time with locals, do mundane, every-day things, and try the things that are their staples that I start to feel like I’m getting to know my destination. And this post is what that’s about—foodie style!
Now, my control group in this is made up of two people, which is bad for statistics, I know. So I won’t claim that this is average, but it’s average for Jessica and Mark, and it’s new to me!
I was a vegetarian for 12 years, so my knowledge of cuts of meat is poor—therefore, I had to turn to Wikipedia to help me with this one. Picanha is a Brazilian favorite, apparently, which you might know better as “top sirloin”.
In truth, I never eat sirloin in restaurants. For no good reason, I have always thought it was a cheap cut of meat, and if I’m going to pay $30+ for my steak, I want a filet mignon, you know?
I’m sure I’ve had it before, and yet, I really had never had it until I had it in São Paulo.
This was one of our purchases on Saturday from the central market; at home, Mark salted it liberally with rock salt, and tossed it on the barbecue till it looked like this:
It wasn’t at all done, just seared (or something—bad vocab when it comes to meat prep), so he then sliced it into steaks and returned it to the barbecue (well, 2/3 of it was frozen for future bliss). My Lonely Planet concurs that the most usual way of cooking meat in Brazil is just to salt it, and cook it up, and so this was, as well. And you know what?
It was *incredible*.
When Mark first pulled the steaks off the barbecue and brought them in, Jessica took a piece and pronounced it “perfect”. I took one look at how red it was, and said “oh, no.” But then I tried some—and I’m not typically a fan of rare meat—but Jessica was exactly right.
I have never eaten such tasty, fantastically-textured beef before, in terms of a DIY steak.
Even rare, it’s buttery soft and so tender that you hardly need a steak knife to cut it. The only garnish it needed was “nose peppers“: Jessica heated some butter in a frying pan and then just swished the sliced peppers around in it to coat them and heat them up, releasing their scent…
We accompanied it with a side salad:
and drank the lovely rosé that Jessica had brought back from France:
and ended one of the most amazing, simple meals ever with fruit for dessert. That brings me to:
Pinha or Fruta-do-conde—a “Sugar Apple”
This is the ugliest fruit that I love. Bless the samplers in the market, because without them I might never have been brave enough to give this a try:
I look at it and think, “like an armoured artichoke, isn’t it?” 😀
From the outside, I wonder how anyone ever thought they should *eat* this thing… but inside it’s the most amazing bright white flesh and black-black seeds…
You can sort of see the seed lurking in the bigger piece up there. This is such a sweet fruit, it’s like candy—and well-named as the “sugar apple”, though I don’t see where the “apple” reference comes in. The flesh is like white fish in its consistency—in a good way—and it’s addictive!
We had a few cold days this week. Yesterday, for example, my notoriously incorrect Yahoo weather was telling me it was 3°C overnight. My nose was cold, my toes were cold, and I couldn’t sleep for it, so it certainly *was* chilly. As a result, Jessica said: “there’s only one thing to do. Mandioca soup.”
So we peeled it, sliced it and boiled it:
And then heated some butter to sauté bacon, onion and garlic:
(and please: peek-a-boo the sink in back of Jessica… see how it, too, has ONLY ONE HANDLE? No hot water for dishes. WEIRD. Jessica says “we don’t need it”… I say, there’s nothing quite as stubborn as congealed fat in cold water…) (!!!)
As I was saying, though, with some broth added and a little blender-treatment, lo, our soup was born:
Jessica said, “it needs salt.”
I said, “forget that—how can you cook without pepper?!?” (When in Brazil…) 😉
So with parmesan (and red, quasi-pepper, in my case), we had a lovely and filling soup. When I reheated it the second day, you could definitely see the tapioca-starchy properties of the manioc—I had to add water to turn it back into soup and away from a semi-congealed mass. It was quite rich in flavour, and I was a bit tired of it by the end of the bowl you see here… but still—a winner! If only I could get my hands on *real* black pepper…
And, as a “dessert” segment here, let me just tell you that *everything* comes down to milk in some form—here’s a little gallery to prove it:
1) Doce de Leite, eaten straight, by spoon:
(Oopsie! Didn’t get the inside but it looks—and tastes—like caramel).
2) Jessica won’t eat fruit straight. Yesterday, it was strawberries with condensed milk…
3) And today, bananas with powdered milk.
Behold, the mashing:
Followed by the addition of powdered milk:
Carefully measured with a tape measure…
(see my bed in the background? At 2 metres from the kitchen, this is why I dream in food)
and then questioned—”are you sure this milk is still good?”
I confess—I was not a fan of the strawberries and condensed milk to I gave the bananas and powdered milk a miss, though Jessica swears by it (even when the milk in question seems suspect).
Since I was not before and continue *not* to be a fan of milk, I’m finding Brazilian desserts easy to eschew. Luckily, there’s still the fruit. 😀