By Leticia Moreinos Schwartz
Photographs by Ben Fink
Kyle Books -- 2010
Buy it on Amazon
When I'm having that "hmmm, what's for dinner moment," rarely does the word moqueca come to mind. Nor, for that matter, does my super cool iPhone grocery app know the ingredient cupuaçú. Well, If Leticia Moreinos Schwartz has her way, that's about to change. If you've got a hankering for Brazilian food, The Brazilian Kitchen could seriously rock your pantry.
See what we tested and whether it's worth buying after the jump.
Takeaway tips: Brazilian food usually gets lumped into the Latin food category, but it's got its own unique, multicultural cuisine with roots in Indian, Portuguese and African cooking. Add to that a vast geography plus waves of immigrants who've fallen in love with the country and made it their home, introducing and influencing the cuisine. What you get is really generous and diverse food. It's a mini vacation at the supermarket, visiting whatever aisles the recipes take you to.
Quality of pictures: What sticks in my mind about Brazil is the vibrancy and color. Surprisingly, this book is at times pallid. The street photos shot in Brazil buzz with life, but the recipe photos feel a trifle lackluster and at times suburban.
What we tested: I was itching to make the cachaça-marinated hangar steak. After all, once a bottle of cachaça is open, a caipirinha is at hand. What's not to love: great steak, great cocktail. For best results, make a caipirinha one at a time... which makes them tastier and keeps you slightly sober slightly longer.
For the chicken and plantain moqueca, I needed to seek out dende oil (extracted from a type of palm tree), but the hunt was well rewarded. The chicken, braised with coconut milk, is soothing and deceptively sexy at the same time.
Lastly, the chocolate brigadeiros, fudgy sprinkle-encrusted sweets, are stellar -- simple to make, more charming than kittens, and poised to become my fave hostess gift du jour.
Worth the investment: Many Brazilian ingredients are not readily available and a little help (like a list of mail-order sources for these) would have been a great touch. Moreinos Schwartz has put together a book of very doable, strong recipes. Fair warning: This is a meat-and-starch-driven cuisine -- Schwartz tries to give it some balance, but don't go looking to feed a vegetarian out of this book.
Labors of love are a beautiful thing, and there is no doubt this is just that. Moreinos Schwartz has brought a fresh eye and smart sensibility to Brazilian cuisine.