Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Part 2: Spontaneous Brazilian

...After making tacos (and ice cream) for the moving crew, Amanda and I kicked around town for awhile, and headed back to her house to make salads and watch Sex and the City. Lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, zucchini, and broccoli in the bowl, Amanda went out to the balcony to put the chicken on the grill. Sterling, a neighbor from a few doors down, came around the corner just in time to hear Amanda turn on the propane, and invited us over to sample some empanadas. We figured we'd just head over and have a quick taste, and come back to check on the grill. Little did we know, we were in for a spur-of-the-moment Brazilian feast.

As we entered Sterling's home (after accidentally knocking on the wrong door), we were greeted with glasses of champagne, and warm welcomes from Sterling's girlfriend Laurie, roommate Leslie, and a big group of their friends (who all happened to work at Greenlake Bar & Grill). Sterling loves to cook, try new recipes, and entertain, and was thrilled to have a random group of friends and neighbors over for his newest culinary endeavor: Brazilian. Their new roommate Leslie had spent some time living in Brazil, and had recently treated them to dinner at a local Brazilian restaurant. Obsessed with the delicious new flavors, Sterling was on a mission to recreate and perfect Brazilian cuisine. The menu: empanadas, collard greens, grilled chorizo with chimichurri, and my favorite part... a Brazilian condiment called farofa. Seeing the feast at hand, smelling the delicious aromas, and being handed glass after glass of champagne and wine, we decided it was time to turn off our grill, and settle in for a night of laughs and great eats with new friends.

Sterling took charge in the kitchen, and it was obvious that he had a passion for food and a zest for cooking. He was almost giddy with the excitement of the meal, and sharing his talents in the kitchen with new people. Laurie was the ultimate sous chef. To make the empanadas, she stuffed little rounds of dough with a mixture of top sirloin, raisins, and other tasty odds and ends that Sterling had mixed up. Once filled, the edges were crimped and the empanadas were brushed with egg wash and put in the oven to bake up to golden perfection. They were crispy on the outside, and full of flavor on the inside. Absolutely delicious.

The chorizo sausages were sliced lengthwise, doused in Sterlings homemade chimichurri, and thrown on the grill. Chimichurri is a basically a Latin pesto, a mix of garlic, oil, parsley, peppers, and other delicious ingredients, used as a marinade for the meat and condiment for the empanadas. Sterling's was full of fresh flavor, and he explained that in Brazil they said that meat marinated in chimichurri tasted as if it was 'pulled through the garden' with all of it's fresh garden flavor. The sausage was spicy and tasted amazing with an extra splash of chimichurri.

Sterling explained that Brazilian cuisine uses similar ingredients as Southern American cuisine (because of a similar history with the slave trade), but they use different methods of preparation. Case in point: collard greens. Well versed in southern cooking, Sterling said that he was used to cooking down the whole leaves until they were wilted and less bitter, but in Brazil, the common preparation involved removing the thick stems, slicing the greens into thin ribbons, and giving them a quick saute with garlic. After tasting his Brazilian greens, I'll take his word for it! Slightly crisp and chewy at the same time, the greens were like nothing I had tried before.

And finally, the bell of the ball... farofa. Farofa is a buttery, bacony flour mixture, made with manoic flour, which is often sprinkled over food, or eaten on it's own. I think I'm in love. I had never seen, heard of, or tasted anything remotely similar to farofa. We spooned it onto our greens, sausage, and empanadas, and then ate it straight from the bowl with spoons. Smokey, buttery, and amazing, I can't believe I lived so long without farofa in my life!

After too many glasses of wine and champagne, three helpings of dinner, tons of laughs, a shared love of food, and several hours, we took our to-go bags of tasty Brazilian treats, hugged our new friends goodbye, and stumbled out the door. By this point it was well past 10 PM. We put our measly little salad and chicken in the fridge for another time, grateful for the amazing feast we spontaneously happened upon. With fantastic homemade farofa on my mind, I hope to be back to Sterling's kitchen soon, to see what else he's cookin' up!
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