Saturday, May 31, 2008

Clams in a Cataplana (Ameijoas na Cataplana)

Never cooked with a cataplana, or chatted over tea with friends about its role in the Portuguese Inquisition? You may end up doing both after reading this recipe from Cherie:

As we consider the cuisine of Portugal today, there are many ingredients that have come from the age of exploration. Cinnamon and curry spices were brought to Portugal by Vasco da Gama and became a staple for many of the egg sweets. Onions and garlic were brought to Portugal by the Romans, who established colonies there. They also brought wheat, olives, and grapes. The Moors who occupied Portugal for 500 years were responsible for planting almond, fig, apricot, lemon, and orange trees. They invented the cataplana, a clam-shaped pan for cooking.

A famous dish that resulted from the Moorish influence was Ameijoas na Cataplana (clams tossed with sausages and pork). The dish was created during the Inquisition to test adherence to Christianity, since the consumption of pork and shellfish was forbidden by Orthodox Judaism and Islam. The Moors are also credited for the egg desserts so popular in Portugal and throughout the Portuguese-speaking world. The nuns in convents were responsible for making these sweets and are credited for taking them to Brazil in the sixteenth century.

This recipe comes from the Ribatejo region of Portugal which is the area northeast of Lisbon along the Tagus River.

Serves 4 to 6.

1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. salt
½ c. white wine
6 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf

2 pounds pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons bacon fat or lard
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 pounds littleneck clams
4 tablespoons cornmeal
½ cup olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon flour
1 cup minced fresh parsley

For the Clams: Wash the clams well and scrub with a brush. Place the clams in a pot with water to cover. Add the cornmeal and salt. Refrigerate for 10 hours. This will whiten the shells and give the clams a sweeter taste.

For the Marinade: With a mortar and pestle, purée the garlic and salt. Add the wine, lemon juice, vinegar, paprika, pepper, and bay leaf. Cut the pork into 1-inch cubes, rub well with the mixture and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

The following-day Clams: In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion slices and garlic. Sauté over medium heat until the garlic is lightly browned. Remove the garlic. Add the tomatoes, flour, and pepper and continue cooking over medium-low heat until the vegetables are tender. Set aside.

For the Pork: Heat the olive oil and bacon fat in a large, heavy skillet over high heat until almost smoking. Drain the pork from the marinade, set the marinade aside, and in the skillet brown the pork quickly in small batches. Transfer the browned pork to a dish and keep warm. In the same oil sauté the onion and garlic until limp and golden, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste, reserved marinade, pork cubes and any juice that has accumulated. Mix well, cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Add the clams and the tomato mixture to the pork mixture and simmer until the clams open, about 15-20 minutes. The Portuguese usually serve this dish with French fried potatoes and white rice.

Note: If you have a cataplana, add all the ingredients to it at the point before you cook them for 30 minutes. Then add the clams and tomato mixture to cook and meld for the last 15 to 20 minutes. Some cooks use red wine instead of the white for the marinade.

Those Bandeirantes sure got around! Taste the best recipes from all the cuisines they left behind with Cherie's book.

Photos courtesy of Tom Wallace and Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rice Pudding (Arroz Doce)

Another recipe from Cherie Hamilton:

This dessert is almost obligatory at wedding receptions. In certain regions of Portugal and the Madeira Islands, rice pudding was used as a way of announcing an impending wedding and of introducing the groom to the bride’s relatives and friends. The local girls, with the bride’s mother and the groom, would visit families that they knew and offer a dish of rice pudding in a shallow basket covered with a hand embroidered cloth. Custom also calls for the party to return a week later to collect the basket and dish and for the bride to receive a wedding gift. This pudding is also enjoyed on holidays and special occasions throughout the Portuguese-speaking world.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

1¼ cups short grain rice
4 cups milk
1 lemon peel
1 ¼ cups sugar

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Place the rice in a large pot, add the milk, and bring to a simmer. Add the lemon peel and the sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked, about 25 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat and let cool for 30 minutes.

Add the egg yolks to the rice one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Return the rice mixture to the stove and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Pour into a serving dish, cool, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Sprinkle the pudding with cinnamon before serving, using a doily over the rice to create a pattern. Some cooks sprinkle the cinnamon in the shape of letters, hearts or other designs.

If your mate speaks Portuguese, you may want to give this recipe a look before heading here.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Golden Cupcakes (Quindims)

Guest blogging for Hippocrene Cooks this week is Cherie Hamilton, Hippocrene's globe-trotting specialist on the food cultures and cuisines of Portuguese-speaking countries around the world. Cherie's much-praised cookbook, Cuisines of Portuguese Encounters, was recently reprinted in an expanded edition (with over 70 new recipes) and truly crosses borders as it examines the distinct cuisines Portuguese explorers, colonists and missionaries left behind them as they crossed the world's oceans.

Cherie's first recipe this week comes from Brazil:

This recipe from Brazil is one that I usually recommend for an easy dessert because it has only five ingredients. Legend has it that Portuguese nuns, who were well-known for their tasty egg custards, brought this recipe with them to Brazil. Coconut, which is not native to Portugal, was added later by African slaves. Quindim is a very sweet dessert that was popular during slavery times in the masters’ houses of the sugar plantations in the north of Brazil. These dessert cakes were served at family dinners and elaborate parties. Baked in small individual pastry tins, or muffin tins, they are then inverted and served in little silver paper cups for a festive touch. As the quindim cooks, the coconut rises to the top and forms a light brown crust. When inverted, the coconut is on the bottom and the yolks form a golden dome on top. This recipe can be doubled and baked in an angel food cake mold or a Bundt pan. It is then called a quindão, which means “big cake.”

Quindims should be prepared the day before serving to allow them to chill overnight (or for at least 4 hours).

Makes one dozen.

1 cup extra-fine sugar
¼ cup (½ stick) butter or margarine, softened
9 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 cup freshly grated coconut (or fresh unsweetened coconut)
Melted butter or margarine for tins
Sugar for dusting tins

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Place the sugar and butter in a medium bowl. Beat the mixture until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and the whole egg, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Fold in the coconut and mix well without beating.

Brush 12 muffin tins, or 24 mini muffin tins, with the melted butter and dust with the sugar. Fill the tins almost to the top with the custard. Place the muffin tin in a baking pan. Pour hot water into the pan to a depth of 1 inch making a bain-marie. Bake the quindims for about 35 minutes, or until they are firm and slightly golden.

Cool for 10 minutes on a rack. Remove the cakes from the tins and place the coconut side down in silver paper cups or on a serving dish and chill overnight, or for at least 4 hours.

Photos courtesy of Tom Wallace.

Questions? Leave a comment!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Low in Fat, High in Flavor - Creamy Light Chimichurri (Herb Sauce)

Our last guest posting from Patricia looks into new, unique ways to use chimichurri--a South American herb sauce commonly served with carne asada.

Here's a tip: next time you make chimichurri (there's a recipe for it in my book, Secrets of Colombian Cooking), change the oil for plain, non-far yogurt to create a creamy light chimichurri.

Surprised? You will love this recipe. Use it to dip carrot and celery sticks, add it to salad dressings and season meats with it.

Take a boned turkey breast or a whole chicken and place ½ cup of this mixture into the cavities and between the skin. Refrigerate overnight. Salt and pepper the outer skin of the bird and bake in a preheated oven at 325ºF (for turkey) or 425ºF (for chicken) for 1½ hours. Serve the rest of the sauce at room temperature on the side with the cooked turkey/chicken.

Enjoy! Please write to tell me about your experiences with this recipe!

You can also find a place on my website,, where you can find a new recipe from the book posted every month. Click on the picture of the book and find a selection of recipes from
Secrets of Colombian Cooking, laid out in step-by-step format.

Turkey Chimichurri, Before and After

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vitamin Jewels - Jugo de Maracuyá (Passion Fruit Juice)

Today Patricia continues guest blogging on Colombian cuisine, with an introduction to healthy, all-natural fruit juices, right in time for the summer!

Take a look at some of the wonderful fruit you can find nowadays in specialty and Latino markets. I recently found feijoas, which are a kind of guava, along with gooseberries and passion fruit.

feijoa, gooseberries, and passion fruit

Here's a tip on making passion fruit pulp: cut the fruit in two, scoop out the pulp with seeds, place it in a vase and mix for 10 seconds with an immersion blender. Pass it through a sieve and then freeze in ice cube trays. One ice cube will be enough for an 8-ounce glass of juice. When frozen, place the passion fruit pulp, water, crushed ice and sweetener back into the vase and mix with the immersion blender. Then, enjoy the most wonderful frapped passion fruit juice this summer. Add some mint and freeze into pops for the afternoon heat. Buy exotic fruit and freeze the pulp as ice cubes to keep at hand all summer long.

For more tips on preparing other wonderful tropical fruits as juices that are full of vitamins, check out the juice chapter in Secrets of Colombian Cooking. If you have doubts about any certain type of fruit, go to and check out the page on Colombian fruit and vegetables, where many of them are photographed for you to see.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sexy Dishes? Cazuela de Mariscos al Coco (Crustacean Chowder)

This week Hippocrene Cooks shines light on the flavors of Colombia, with guest postings from Patricia McCausland-Gallo. Patricia, who formerly worked as a journalist in Colombia, is a veritable wealth of information on the country's cooking techniques, which you can scroll down and see in action for yourself!

The recipe I enjoy most in Secrets of Colombian Cooking is Cazuela de Mariscos al Coco or Crustacean Chowder. An original of the Colombian Pacific, it is usually prepared with clams from the ocean called piangua (or cockles), squid, shrimp and conch.

Conch is usually very hard to cook, and you will see fisherman hitting the shellfish meat with wooden hammers to break the tight muscles and soften up the meat. Squid, on the other hand, could be cooked for just 50 seconds and it would be enough, but here it cooks long enough for it to re-soften and leave a delicious flavor and texture in the final dish. The coconut milk in the recipes keeps the seafood at its peak even after 45 minutes of cooking time.

This is an ideal one-dish meal, along with a green salad, and can be a great Valentine’s day dinner, or a perfect meet-your-in-laws dish. You will have them on your side forever after they eat this marvelous soup! For those of you who would like to make it lower in calories, all you have to do is change 2 cups of coconut milk for 2 cups of 2% milk. It is a lighter version, yet delicious too.

You can also use the seafood that you have locally, or buy a mixture. In the picture of the recipe on the left, I added mussels just minutes before serving. Bring the Pacific flavor into your home and enjoy a wonderful meal. Serve it in coconut halves after a day at the beach in the summer, when the children need a hot soup to warm up their bodies.

Just try it once and you'll be hooked on it for life.
4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion

1 cup grated red bell pepper (grated on the large holes)
2 pounds raw shrimp, cleaned and deveined
½ pound raw squid rings, cleaned
½ pound piangua or clams, cleaned
½ pound raw conch pieces or oysters
1½ fish bouillon cubes
2 tablespoons garlic paste
1 teaspoon color or Sazón Goya with Saffron
1¼ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon pepper
4 cups coconut milk

2 cups milk
4 tablespoons flour
¼ cup white wine
1½ tablespoons minced cilantro
1 tablespoon minced parsley

NOTE: You can use a 2½ to 3-pound bag of mixed seafood in place of all the individual ones.

1) In a large, heavy pot or caldero over medium-low heat, place the oil, onion, red pepper, seafood, bouillon cubes, garlic, color or saffron, salt, and pepper. Cook for 12 minutes.

2) Mix the coconut milk, milk and flour together to a smooth consistency. Add them to the pot; simmer over low heat for 15 minutes more.

3) Next, add the wine and simmer for 15 minutes.

4) Sprinkle with cilantro and parsley and serve.

Need advice on substitute ingredients, or want to share your experiences with this recipe? Leave a comment for Patricia!

If you have trouble viewing the video, please click here.
Video and photos courtesy of Patricia McCausland-Gallo.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Seasoned Chickpeas with Tomatoes (Channa Masala)

Here's another recipe from Priti Chitnis Gress:

This recipe is one I often suggest for people who are trying Indian cooking for the first time. It has only a few ingredients and all of them are found at local grocery stores these days. Chickpeas are so nutritious with their protein and fiber content and more and more people are looking for easy vegetarian alternatives now. There are so many ways to serve this recipe: over hot basmati rice, with chappatis, stuffed into pita bread, and even pureed in a blender and used as sort of spicy hummus dip. I’ve even served this to my daughter with rice when she was a toddler. It is an easy-to-prepare, filling, and most importantly tasty meal!

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 teaspoons oil

1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 large tomato, chopped
2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon garlic-ginger paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in medium-size pot over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper, and sauté until softened. Add the chopped tomato and continue to sauté until the tomatoes break down, forming a sauce. Reduce the heat slightly, and add the chickpeas and tomato paste, stirring to combine the ingredients. Add 1/4 cup of water.

Add the salt, cayenne pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, and garlic-ginger paste. Stir until the ingredients are well combined, adding more water if the mixture gets too dry.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Top with fresh cilantro before serving.

Questions about this recipe--or about Indian cooking in general? Leave a comment and Priti will respond!

You can use this map to locate authentic Gujarati cuisine, or you can just pick up a copy of Priti's cookbook.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sixth Day Mixed Vegetables (Chaati nu shaak)

Priti Chitnis Gress, author of Flavorful India: Treasured Recipes from a Gujarati Family, has written a special introduction for this week's recipe. Priti's presentation is a special one, commemorating not only the recent reprinting of her book, a Hippocrene favorite, in paperback but also the birth of her second child, Jay Surya, in February. Here's what Priti has to say:

One of my favorite recipes in the book is a dish prepared especially for new mothers, “Sixth Day Mixed Vegetables” or Chaati nu shaak, in Gujarati. Roughly translated it is “vegetables for the sixth” and refers to the sixth day after a baby is born. According to Hindu belief, six days after birth God comes to bless the child and write his/her future. This is typically the time a baby is named. In the old days, a mother’s diet was somewhat simple and limited until this day. On the sixth day, the mother was encouraged to try a variety of vegetables to make sure she could easily digest and enjoy them all. A combination of religious belief and folk wisdom determined that this dish is ideal nourishment at that time. It can be made from virtually any combination of vegetables, but it is best to include a few leafy greens (like fenugreek leaves or dill) as well as beans and root vegetables.

I was lucky to have my mom stay with me after my daughter, and more recently my son, were born. She made these vegetables for me on the sixth day each time, but I can assure you that the recipe is delicious any day!

Serves (appropriately enough) 6

3 to 4 tablespoons oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 teaspoon ajwain seeds
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1.5 teaspoons salt

Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of all the vegetables you desire to make a total of about 2 pounds. Here are some suggestions:

potatoes, peeled and cubed eggplant
chopped okra, trimmed and chopped
ghilora (tindora), trimmed and chopped
bitter melon, peeled and chopped
bottle gourd, chopped
cauliflower florets
cabbage, shredded
carrots, chopped
corn kernels
green peas
green beans, chopped
pigeon peas
fenugreek leaves, chopped
dill, chopped
spinach, chopped

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, and ajwain seeds. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until seeds are browned. Add onion and bell pepper and continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add cayenne, turmeric, cumin, coriander and salt. Stir well and sauté for 30 seconds to release flavors of spices.

2. Add all the vegetables, EXCEPT any leafy greens. Reduce heat to low and stir and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Add any greens and cook until tender, about 10 more minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Questions about this recipe or Gujarati cuisine for Priti? Post them here and we'll ask Priti to respond!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Moujadara (Lentils and Rice with Crispy Onions)

Our recipe for this week comes from another one of our more recent releases, The Lebanese Cookbook by Hussien Dekmak, owner and head chef of Le Mignon in London. Says Dekmak:

This is always a favorite at my restaurant, Le Mignon. You can use either brown or green lentils, but I find that brown lentils give a much better result.


Serves 4

generous 1 cup brown or green dried lentils, rinsed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup basmati rice
salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin

for the crispy onions
vegetable oil
4 tablespoons sliced onion

Place the lentils in a deep saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a lidded saucepan, add the chopped onion and fry until browned. Add the rice, cooked lentils, salt, pepper and cumin and just enough water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and stir occasionally until the rice is cooked, 15 minutes. Place in a serving dish.

For the crispy onions, pour vegetable oil into a deep skillet to the depth of about 2 inches. Heat well and deep-fry the sliced onion until brown and crispy. Remove from the skillet and arrange on top of the lentil and rice mixture. Serve hot.

Photography by Martin Brigdale.