Saturday, March 9, 2013

Everyday life in Brazil - The dinner party

 Since I have been in Goiania many of my friends here have asked when I was going cook for them.  I am used to hosting dinner parties but I am not sure I have what I need to prepare what I want to serve here in Brazil.   And then again,  what would I serve? I thought long and hard as it would have to be something from scratch and not that I wouldn't cook from scratch in the US if I invited friends over.  After 2 1/2 years,  I finally decided to set the date for Sunday and invited a hand full of friends over.   
The grocery store ...  - So it is the Friday before and a menu of american lasagna, salad, and peach crisp with ice cream is set. Lasagna because it can be prepared ahead and since there is no extra room in the kitchen for friends to sit around and talk while I cook it seemed appropriate and "american" lasagna because Brazilians make their lasagna quite different then I do.  Off to get the ingredients needed - fresh tomatoes, oregano,  basil,  carrots, and garlic.  All products I have seen here in the grocery store previously but this time I am looking for fresh.   I find most of the ingredients easily and head to the herb section where we find something that smells like basil but surely does not look like what I would call basil.  After asking around and

talking to three grocery store workers we get confirmation that this strange looking leafed green is indeed basil so I grab a bunch and put it in the cart.  I soon find all the other ingredients for the sauce, however I am a little disappointed that there is no fresh oregano to be found today.  I guess I will have to make do with dried, a small detour to my wishes.  I decide the dried oregano will be fine as I plan on making the sauce tonight and let it set a couple of days. 
Now on to the meat for the sauce.  I always make lasagna with some ground beef and Italian sausage mixed so we head to the meat counter where they grind some beef for us but they don't have Italian sausage and at this grocery store they don't grind pork either (a possible substitute as I am not sure I will be able to find Italian sausage).  We will have to make a quick trip to one of the little butcher shops on the way home.  I finish collecting all the ingredients for the main course but at this point cannot find brown sugar so I hold off on the other ingredients for the dessert.  I have not seen brown sugar in stores and Luiz thinks we may be able to find it at the fair on Sunday. I'm just not sure it is the same "brown sugar" needed to make crisp.  I may have to rethink my menu and change the crisp to something else.  Peach crisp is so southern and apple crisp so northern U.S.A, it just seems like the perfect ending to the meal and it would be ashamed if I cannot figure out how to make it work.
We stop by a casa de carne (house of meat) but they don't have the Italian sausage I want either so I will have to make do with ground pork. It is getting dark so we head home so I can get started on preparing the sauce.  After I get the skin off the tomatoes,  I realize how late it is and since no Italian sausage could be found I decide to prepare the tomatoes, dice the onions,  mince the garlic and grade the carrots so it is all ready to put together in the morning to make the sauce.  I do a quick internet search for Italian sausage which comes up with several options but they require ingredients we do not have.  Maybe we can go find them tomorrow so I finish my prepping with grading the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and head to bed.    

 Saturday comes and I take a moment shortly after the sunrises to continue my internet search for Italian sausage and find a recipe that looks easy enough.  I just need fennel, paprika and some red wine vinegar which hopefully we will be able to find. My cooking gets put on hold as as we have plans to spend the afternoon eating feijoada with some friends at the chacra (shakra - small farm), one of my favorite Saturday afternoon activities.  On the way home we stop at three markets to look for brown sugar and the ingredients needed for Italian sausage.  At the specialty store, our third stop, they have all kinds of herbs and we find the paprika quickly but I forgot to translate fennel from English and we are not able to figure it out.   After looking around a bit and getting frustrated, I realize all I need to do is call a friend and have them translate on the internet.  Erva Doce/Sweet herb - it ended up being right in front of us,  how easy was that and we save ourselves a trip to another grocery store.  I find the rest of the ingredients for the Italian Sausage but still no brown sugar.  After the third strike I make the decision to do something else or maybe have no dessert at all.  I am glad we exhausted this quest but it is time to move on.   
Upon getting home in the early evening I begin the final preparations for the lasagna.  The Italian sausage come out good and is added along with the ground beef to the tomato sauce filled with the onions, garlic, oregano, basil, carrots, salt and pepper.  It is set to simmer a while as I prepare the noodles.  Since I am not sure how great our little portable oven is,  I decide to fully cook the noodles so the lasagna just needs to fully heat through tomorrow. 
Layer after layer the pan of lasagna comes together and soon it is finished and ready for the fridge and by this time I am ready for sleep as well.  OH, I did look up a substitute for brown sugar and found it is 1 American cup sugar to 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses.    As I lay my head on my pillow I hope we can find all the ingredients for the crisp at the market in the morning.  
Sunday morning is here and we head off for salad greens and the ingredients for the dessert at the street fair.  Peaches, (check) apples (check), molasses (check), sugar (check) oatmeal (check) and the rest we have at home. YEAH we will have dessert!  Since Brazilians love rice with lasagna we decide to add that to the menu and stop at another market for bread, rice, and ice cream.  Finished with our shopping we head back home to finalize the preparations. I peal and slice the peaches and apples mixing in a little flower and sugar.  The fruits are spread on the bottom of the baking dish and dry ingredients are mixed in a large bowl.  I cut in the butter and molasses in and layer the crisp on top of the fruit.  It is ready to bake.  All that is left is the final tidying of the house and waiting for our first guests to arrive.   

The house is soon filled with conversation in Portuguese (another great study lab for me) and laughter by friends.  I am told by a couple of my friends that they can tell I have been working on my Portuguese which is encouraging.  The lasagna goes in the oven,  Caesar dressing and Parmesan cheese are added to the salad greens, and our friend Marcos volunteers to make the rice.  (yeah - not my strong point in cooking but afterwards I realized I should have watched and learned how to cook rice from an expert).  Soon, all is ready and everyone begins to eat.  They love the Caesar salad as I brought a bottle of the dressing with me when I came.  The local Caesar dressing is quite different then that in the US so an excellent start to the meal.  Then on to the lasagna which receives high praise.  I think the most common comment is that it is sweet.  Brazilian 
lasagna like other Brazilian food is quite salty.  With the carrots, basil and oregano in the right formula,  the sauce becomes more on the sweet side. We all enjoy the food and soon it is time for dessert.  The apply peach crisp is removed from the oven and served warm with a touch of vanilla ice cream.  The pan is soon empty and cleaning up is all that is left.  I have to say,  although there were a few twists and turns, the meal turned out wonderful an I am glad I could share it with my friends.  I enjoyed cooking for them in this country where I have to rely on my street smarts to get what I want. 

 Message me if you are interested in the recipes for dave's lasagna or apple/peach crisp I be happy to share.  

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