This week we’ll pay our annual visit to the tidal basin in D.C. to see the cherry blossoms in full peak, or whatever survived of them after the late season snow fall. It is the local official “welcome spring!” tradition that is much anticipated and it is also my favorite time of the year in D.C. Or have I said that about other seasons? I do love living in this area, in spite of the lack of blood relatives.
But before we turn to spring mode, I want to share with you one of my favorites from Brazilian cuisine, which you could probably have guessed, involves rice and beans: baião-de-dois. Baião is the name of a traditional dance of the Northeast of Brazil, where the dish originates and where the temperatures are hot year-round. Although it may seem odd, Brazilians do eat hearty foods when it is 90°F outside, but for cultural reasons, not for the instinct to quasi-hibernate like we do in the colder climates.
Photo: Tom Le Mesurier via The Latin Kitchen.
The recipe traditionally uses freshly picked beans instead of dried beans and varies from region to region: it sometimes includes carne-seca (dried salted beef typical of the Northeast), bacon, sausages and queijo coalho (rennet cheese), a Brazilian semi-hard cheese that is commonly served grilled on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro (it is one of the safest snacks you can buy on the beach, believe me, my part-gringo family loves it). If you can’t find queijo coalho just look for a semi-hard cheese with a high melting point, ideal for grilling, such as the greek halloumi. The closest substitution to carne-seca would be beef jerky, although I have not tried it. Or you could skip it altogether – there is lots of flavor from the sausages: paio and linguiça calabresa. If you can’t find them in a store that sells Brazilian or Portuguese ingredients, your best bet would be Portuguese chouriço or Spanish chorizo, both usually more readily available. If you are local to the D.C. are, check out European Foods in Arlington. They have tons of good stuff and that’s where I stock up on my goodies.
You could substitute the dried black-eyed peas for the canned ones, but I advise against it, given that a big part of the flavors come from cooking the rice with the water remaining after you cook and drain the beans. The amount of butter used is subject of controversy… my uncle Rogerio’s recipe calls for a lot more, and his dish is to die for, but I seem to stop myself at less than half of his amount every time I am making it. If you think your final dish needs a little something to bring the ingredients together, add a little more butter, or add a 1/4 cup of the bean water.
What should you serve it with? It goes really well with squash purée, as I learned at my aunt’s home recently, and/or a simple leaf salad with vinaigrette. My aunt used kabocha squash, and I’ll get the recipe for you soon (right, Tia Claudia?). Baião makes for great leftovers and it freezes well, too. We ate our leftovers baked in acorn squash halves the other day, sprinkled with fresh herbs and drizzled with olive oil, and it was divine. It is definitely time consuming, but easy and worth it!
BAIÃO-DE-DOIS (RICE AND BLACK-EYED PEAS):
Prepare the carne-seca: If you are using carne-seca, you have to remove the salt by soaking it in a bowl with cold water and changing the water 4 or 5 times. Cook the meat in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes (around 45′ to 1h in a regular pot). Drain and shred the meat using a fork . I usually prepare the beef the day before. If you are doing on the day of, place meat in a pot with water, bring to a boil and let it boil for 8 minutes. Drain and repeat 3 times before cooking the meat, draining and shredding.