Thoughts on Love, Dinner and New Discoveries Courtesy of Brazil

Happy Valentine’s week fellow kitcheners! Since love and romance are dominating the spotlight right now, it’s wonderfully fortuitous that the featured destination on our International Vintage Recipe Tour this week wound up being Brazil. It’s not good to generalize people or countries, but Brazil is known to be a passionate place.

Beautiful Brazil!

Consistently included in top ten lists as one of the world’s most romantic nationalities, it’s safe to say that Brazil is in love with love. And we are not just talking romantic relationships here. Brazilians are known to be equally passionate about their hometown  soccer team, their spouse, their favorite carnival and their kitchen.  Ah serendipity! On this week of hearts and roses and pink colored everything, a romantic holiday dinner awaits us here in the Vintage Kitchen.

Or so I imagined!

I was hoping that our vintage recipe was going to highlight a dinner food that matched the passionate place from which it came.  Surprisingly  that wasn’t quite the case. On today’s menu we are making Picadinho a Brasileira, a recipe that roughly translates to “Minced to the Brazilian” in Portuguese. A popular heritage dish especially in Southeastern Brazil, there are two main versions of picadinho – one a hearty beef stew with whole vegetables and the other a slow simmered light and fluffy ground beef cooked with wine and vegetables.

Picadinho a Brasileira

Our recipe this week involves the latter.  Not exactly one of the glamour foods usually touted on Valentine’s Day menus (steak, lobster, oysters, anything drenched in champagne or chocolate) ground beef always tends to get relegated to more humble, homey everyday recipes like meatloaf, burgers, tacos and casseroles. It’s never a dish you see people eating in romantic movies. It’s never the culinary centerpiece tucked in between candlelight and flower bouquets. And it’s definitely not the most tantalizing type of meat to photograph.

I don’t know exactly what I expected of Brazilian food at the start of Week 6, but I think I was hoping for something a little more exotic in the food spectrum, something that matched the passion of the people. A recipe that involved colorful fruit perhaps or a sea swimmer from the waters of the Atlantic. Picadinho a Brasileira is neither of those two things. But after making this recipe and thinking about it for a bit, I came to realize that it is in actuality, an absolutely wonderful and appropriate dish to share with your sweetheart or your gaggle of loved ones on Valentine’s Day. More reasons on that shortly.

Tonight we’ll dive right into the recipe so that we can talk about the unique aspects and attributes of it after all the steps are laid out. A super easy recipe to make (a nice reprieve after the confusing fondue affair of last week!) Picadinho a Brasileira is a one pot dish that slow simmers on the stove for almost two hours.  It includes half a bottle of wine, a satisfying amount of vegetable chopping and six eggs (something that originally sounded a bit unusual). It’s also low-maintenance thanks to the slow cooking so it conveniently allows time for you to do other stuff while its simmering away. Maybe that’s where you can fit some extra time for romance:)

Picadinho a Brasileira

Serves 6-8

1/2 cup olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, coursely chopped

2 lbs ground beef (I used grass-fed)

6 eggs

2 ribs celery, including leaves, finely chopped

1 green pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped

1 cup finely chopped parsley

2 cans (17 oz. each) Italian style tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups dry red wine (I used Storyteller Red Blend)

Hot red pepper flakes to taste

Heat the oil in a large, deep saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Cook until golden brown, stirring frequently.

While the onions are cooking, place the meat in a large bowl. Add the eggs, celery, green pepper, parsley and tomatoes.

Combine everything together with your hands until it is thoroughly mixed. (Note: This step is a little soupy and a little sludgy not to mention both visually and tactile-wise pretty unappealing, but don’t worry, it gets better soon.)

Add the mixture to the onions in the pan and cook stirring until well blended and the meat loses its red color. Cook the mixture 15 minutes and then add the salt (I used about  1 1/2 teaspoons), pepper (I used about 1/2 teaspoon) and one cup of wine. Cover and cook 15 minutes longer.  (Side Note:  If you are following the Recipe Tour over on Instagram too, you can see a  little video of this step in the Highlights section. Every Sunday, I post a sneak peek video of the recipe coming up, so if you are big into previews come visit the Vintage Kitchen Instagram page on Sundays!)

Now back to the recipe!

Add the remaining wine  and red pepper flakes (I used about two pinches), then partly cover and cook, stirring occasionally, one hour or longer. At the beginning of the one hour of cooking, the picadinho will be very liquidy, but as it cooks over the next 60 minutes, it will dry out and all of the moisture will evaporate. At that stage it will look like this…

…a  mixture that mirrors taco meat but is much lighter and fluffier. Once all the liquid has evaporated the dish is done and is ready for serving.

Traditionally, you’d accompany Picadinho  a Brasileira with white rice or farofa (which is a Brazilian form of farina – something similar to cream of wheat). However, I wasn’t that excited about either option when it came to pretty plating,  visual appeal and a Valentine vibe. As you can see the picadihno has lost most of its vegetable color and is pretty much in the end just one shade of brown. It is not the most visually striking dish that we have made so far, but what it lacks in appearance it more than makes up for in delicious flavor.

Between the fruity notes of the wine, the citrus notes of the tomatoes and the sweetness of the onions, combined with the fact that it looks a lot like taco meat, my first impression upon tasting it was to pair it with something in the corn family. Something like tortillas. Although this dish would be fantastic with such a companion, corn tortillas are not widely consumed in Brazil, so to stick a little closer to a more authentic meal, I chose corn grits since they are more similar to the consistency of farofa. Made with milk, Parmesan cheese and butter, the grits add color, a creamy texture and a complimentary corn flavor that blends all the ingredients in the picadinho together so well. I also added some freshly chopped onion, parsley and green pepper for a burst of fresh crunch and more color.

All sorts of other garnishes like sour cream, cheddar cheese, olives, avocado, cilantro, basil (basically anything you enjoy on a taco)  would also be delicious here, albeit not very Brazilian. But that, I discovered, was really the fun of this recipe. It is open to creativity, to interpretation, to personal touch. Which brings us back to why this recipe is actually a very good choice for Valentine’s Day. Let’s look…

  1. It has the ability to showcase your own creative flair and your personal passion for cooking. Wrap it up in pastry dough like empanadas, stuff it into pasta shells, serve it over potatoes or transform it into a patty melt. It’s yours to experiment with, to make, to mold, to accent and to call your own. It’s a love letter to your culinary ingenuity!
  2. For all the lovebirds that like to eat together, it’s a shareable meal.
  3. It’s family friendly, thanks to its basic ingredients, making it inclusive for all the ones you share your life with.
  4. It feeds a crowd, so if you wanted to throw a galentine party this Valentine’s Day it’s a delicious option for both entrees or hors d’oeuvres.
  5. It’s a food that stimulates the art of conversation and encourages new ideas, which means it’s pretty much guaranteed to keep the attention of fellow diners for at least a little while.

Picadinho a Brasileira may not be chocolate covered strawberries or lobster thermidor or a fancy special occasion food brought out once a year, but any Brazilian would tell you that love deserves to be extended, extolled and celebrated every moment, every day, not just on February 14th. Romance doesn’t have to be elaborate in order to be understood or received. A simple meal served to someone special is such a sincere act of love. The enjoyment that follows – tasting something new, talking about the experience and exploring some culinary curiosities leads to unexpected discoveries. This one dish opened up a whole conversation between myself and my valentine of a husband about spices that had us chatting and speculating the day away. Also, while researching this blog post,  I discovered some new favorites courtesy of Brazil…

Two new vintage books to read by Brazilian authors Paulo Coelho and Jorge Amado

and a new art book to explore…

And it also led to the discovery of two new artists. I love this 1920’s era portrait, untitled, but referred to as Woman with Lemons by Brazilian artist Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973)…

and the colorful botanical collage paintings of Brazilian-born artist Beatriz Milhazes…

So you just never quite know where your dinner will wind up taking you!  At the start of this particular cooking adventure, I thought this post was going to be all about a traditional romantic Valentine’s Day worthy dinner. An idea I understand now sort of bordered on the cliche side of things. But in reality, this seemingly unromantic Brazilian ground beef recipe turned out to be quite a little passionate catalyst that produced new loves in art, literature and conversation. That’s pretty romantic after all!

I hope this Valentine’s Day your hearts and bellies are full to the brim with thoughts and  foods that you make you feel happy, loved and inspired. Cheers to the holiday and cheers to foods that surprise and satiate us not only physically but mentally and emotionally!

Next week finds us making a sweet treat that hails from the land that Meghan and Harry now call home…Canada! Until then, happy cooking!

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A lesson from Grandma
A lesson from Grandma

Happy Valentine’s Day dear readers!

On this special day of love Ms. Jeannie was thinking of her grandmother, Dorothy Ruth, who hand crocheted the tablecloth above that Ms. Jeannie used as a backdrop for her valentine message. Dorothy loved to sew, embroider and crochet. She wasn’t a professional seamstress, although she made a lot of clothes for herself and her family, including wedding dresses for all three of her girls and clothes for her grandchildren.

dorothy
Dorothy with Ms. Jeannie’s mom as a baby.

She would never dream of calling herself an artist or a designer, even though she had so many artistic tendencies and talents.  She just loved the act of sewing.

Dorothy’s husband, Philip, loved to build things, and in his spare time, he would make furniture. When Philip built a table for their living room, Dorothy loved it so much, she didn’t want to get a scratch on it. So she made this very tablecloth to protect the finish.

tablecloth2

Now when Ms. Jeannie looks at this tablecloth she sees great reminders. She sees how one stitch leads to a circle, which leads to a flower, which leads to a pattern, which leads to a piece, which eventually leads to an entire tablecloth.

She sees how doing things that you love, however small they may seem, can lead to big things.  She sees how true happiness can offer protection against the marks and scratches of life.

Protect what you make with love.

Protect what you love with what you make.

Make what you love.

That was Dorothy’s way. And in keeping, Ms. Jeannie’s special valentine message for you… May all that you love to do today, inspire and protect all whom will love it tomorrow.

Happy Holiday!!!

From New York City to Rockport, Massachusetts: A Love Story

Mid-February marks two special events for Ms. Jeannie and her valentine. First, the holiday of love of course, and then two days later, February 16th, marks Ms. Jeannie’s wedding anniversary.  Each year, her and Mr. Jeannie Ology alternate planning something special between the two events.

It’s fun to keep each another guessing as to what’s in store for a special treat. Some years, there are elaborate plans like a weekend getaway or an expensive gift, but mostly they are simple celebrations – a special dinner, a movie, a bottle of champagne. Time spent together is all that matters. Really they could sit at home and do nothing and still have a grand time together.

It was like that right off the bat for them. They struck up this wonderful conversation when they first met here…

nyhilton

in the lobby of the New York Hilton Hotel. Both were there on work purposes involved with running a tradeshow. Ms. Jeannie on the corporate side, Mr. Jeannie on the entertainment side.  Ms. Jeannie had just been promoted to a new position with a ton of responsibility and Mr. Jeannie was there to keep the show moving along at an interesting clip. For three days, they worked side by side. For three days, they talked, they laughed, they got to know one another. For three days, they kept discovering small things they had in common…

A profound love of Ireland. Photograph by TootsFair.
…a profound love of Ireland. Photograph by TootsFair.
The same taste in movies.  Vintage movie real canisters from PassedBy.
…the same favorite movies. Vintage movie real canisters from PassedBy.
The exotic appeal of white cherries. Photograph by AmeliaKay Photography
… a newly discovered fondness for white cherries. Photograph by AmeliaKay Photography
The art of spontaneous travel. Vintage suitcase from epochco.
…the thrill of spontaneous travel. Vintage suitcase from epochco.
and a shared respect for each other's dreams. Inspirational art from typoem.
…and a shared respect for each other’s dreams. Inspirational art from typoem.

As you can see they covered a lot of topics! By day three, it felt like they had known each other for years.

On the afternoon of the third day, the show ended. Ms. Jeannie packed up. Mr. Jeannie packed up. Ms. Jeannie felt ill at ease. In just a short while Mr. Jeannie would walk out those hotel doors and disappear from her life.  Ms. Jeannie’s heart ached at the very thought of never seeing him again. So what did she do?

She gave him her phone number. This is a re-enactment for story purposes and not Ms. Jeannie's actual number, so please don't call it expecting to find her there.
She gave him her phone number. Please note: this is a re-enactment for story purposes only and not Ms. Jeannie’s actual number.

By the weekend they went on their first official date here…

The Central Park Zoo
The Central Park Zoo

As it turned out there was a special celebration going on for the sea lions that day, which involved free cake for all zoo-goers. There was also a  film crew, party balloons and a giant fish cake for the sea lions.  It all felt very festive! Ms. Jeannie took this as a good sign:)

On a quick side note: If you have never been before to the Central Park Zoo, you must visit. It is  a fabulous little hideaway tucked into Central Park and is often overlooked for the much bigger, much more well known Bronx Zoo.  A lot of people don’t even know it exists, because it is laid out in Central Park in such a way, that every time you visit you feel like you have unexpectedly discovered it.  Ms. Jeannie’s favorite exhibit is the penguins where you can watch them both on land and in the water in the same exhibit.

You can view them both above the waterline and below. Photo courtesy of penguinnewstoday.blogspot.com
It’s like one massive fish tank. Photo courtesy of penguinnewstoday.blogspot.com

Penguin exhibit.

Ms. Jeannie just loves these penguins. They have zippy little personalities and always seem to be having a ton of fun. If you are lucky enough to find yourself  alone in the exhibit – it can be very peaceful –  just you and the penguins.  Ms. Jeannie could watch them for hours!

Here’s a video of the exhibit Ms. Jeannie found on youtube. It gives you a feel for these active little guys…

So back to the date… the zoo, turned into an all day outing. And by the end of it, they still didn’t want to part. So they went for pizza. Then they went for cappucinnos.  Then they walked to the subway – the long way – 25 blocks in total.  They just kept walking and talking without realizing!  It turned out to be a record breaking 13 hour first date, from 10:00am in the morning until 11:00pm at night. It was grand.  Ms. Jeannie felt lucky to know such a great new friend.

Marvelous dates kept occurring.  Ms. Jeannie knew she had met her romantic match when Mr. Jeannie  took her up on the roof of an old hotel on the Upper West Side.  “So they could look at the city at night,” he’d said.

Few things are more romantic then looking down on Manhattan from that perspective.  The city almost looked fake. And all the lights seemed to twinkle. It was quite magical. New York provided quite the backdrop for falling in love.

manhattannight1

Fast forward a few years, and Mr. Jeannie proposed in Florida on a tiny little boat during a Christmastime vacation. Ms. Jeannie was surprised, she had no idea Mr. Jeannie had such big plans prepared! Ms. Jeannie said “of course” without hesitation.  Mr. Jeannie cried the whole boat ride back to shore:)

A few years later they were knee deep in wedding plans. Since it was so expensive to get married in the city, and because they were such big fans of road trips, they decided to get married somewhere else. They looked into Vermont, into Maine, into Connecticut, but couldn’t find just the right place.  A friend of Ms. Jeannie’s tol;d her about a fabulous movie she had just watched, noting in particular, the gorgeous coastal New England town setting.  Here’s the trailer…

The next weekend, Ms. Jeannie,  Mr. Jeannie and their newly adopted border collie, were on the road to Rockport, Massachusetts where the movie was filmed.  If you are unfamiliar, Rockport is located on the very tip of Cape Ann, just north of Gloucester (which, incidently, was the setting for the movie, A Perfect Storm). It’s a 5 hour drive from NYC and only a 45 minute train ride from Boston.

When Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie drove into town, this is what they saw…

Bradley Wharf in Rockport Massachusetts. Photograph courtesy of fineartamerica.com
Bradley Wharf. Photograph courtesy of fineartamerica.com

Bradley Wharf sits in the center of the scenic inlet that leads out to the Atlantic Ocean. The town of Rockport surrounds it on three sides.  The red barn, known as Motiff No. 1, is the most painted barn in America and Rockport, itself, is an actual artist community.  With views like this how could it not be?!

Rockport Harbor
Rockport Harbor

The town sits nestled against the hillside, facing the water and is filled with gorgeous, historic seafaring captain-type homes.

View from the harbor
View from the harbor
House built in 1711
House built in 1711
House built in 1900
House built in 1900
House built in 1771
House built in 1771
House built in 1840
House built in 1840

Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie stayed at Carlson’s Bed & Breakfast, the only b&b in town, at the time, that would accept pets.  Sven Carlson was a painter himself along with his wife (who dabbled!).  They were extraordinarily interesting hosts.

Carlson's Bed & Breakfast
Carlson’s Bed & Breakfast (on the left) . Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie stayed on the top floor in a yellow wall papered room that was bright and sunny.

Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie did all sorts of exploring up and down the coast. They went lobstering with a boat captain as he picked up his pods for the day, they went shopping on Bearskin Neck (see photo below) and they ordered take-out lobster from Roy Moore Lobster Company which they took down to the beach to enjoy. True picnic decadence:)

All the storefronts here are old fishing shacks and are wonderfully weathered. Some even have apartments on top too.
The shops of Bear Skin Neck.

You might also recognize Rockport from the movie, The Proposal, with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. The movie is supposed to take place in Sitka, Alaska – but it was actually filmed in Rockport  and the neighboring town of Manchester-By-The-Sea.

Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie returned to Cape Ann several more times for vacations. Each time having more fun then the last.  They decided on the Emerson Inn  as their wedding venue, because it was located on a bluff right above the ocean. Also Ms. Jeannie loved that it had literary connections in it’s namesake, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Emerson Inn by the Sea, Rockport, MA

It had been lodging house, always, since the very beginning in the 1850’s.  Ralph Waldo who spent summers at the hotel with his family, was said to have gathered poetic inspiration from the landscape.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) Boston born poet and philospher credited with leading the transcendentalist movement in America.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) Boston born poet and philospher credited with leading the transcendentalist movement in America.

Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie were married at 8:00pm in a small candlelight ceremony, by the town clerk. They wrote their own vows. They held each other’s hand.  Mr. Jeannie cried:)  They danced to Ella Fitzgerald’s At Last.  They had two cakes, a traditional lemon creme pound cake with rolled fondant and fresh flowers and then a red velvet  groom’s cake in the shape of a lobster.  Both of them agreed they were the best cakes they had ever eaten.

The Emerson Inn at night.
The Emerson Inn at night.

For their honeymoon, they traveled with their pup, up and down the Massachusetts coastline for a week, exploring each small town.  They visited parks  and cafes and antique shops. They ate lobster and drank wine and walked to the beach every day. On their last night, they stayed near the water’s edge until late in the night looking for their dreams in the depths of the stars.

Fast forward all these years now, and Ms. Jeannie and her valentine are still adventuring together and still dreaming. Their pup has come and gone, their lives have twisted and turned, and their love has lasted. And for all that, Ms. Jeannie feels incredibly lucky. To know such experience and to know such a man.

Thank you New York Hilton, thank you Central Park Zoo, thank you New York City, thank you best dog ever, and above all, thank you Mr.Jeannie for starring in the best love story of Ms. Jeannie’s life.