Say the term "comfort food" and stew has to be in the top-ten of what first comes to mind.
I think of a long day that deserves a treat at the end of it. It can be a cold day in the Midwest, where I was raised, or just a busy day here in California that begs to be rewarded for just getting through it.
I've also known it as a welcoming gift when I first went to Sicily and it was prepared for us by the one of the first people we met. It was simple yet very memorable and I still love making it.
The stew pictured comes from the Bahia state of Brazil. It calls for dendê, a red palm oil that I highly recommend you searching out before you make this. It lends a flavor that is unique to the cuisine of the region and must be tasted in this dish to be really appreciated. I know that on a number of occasions I will say to make a recipe even if a certain ingredient isn't available. Not in this case, however. Dendê is as key an ingredient as the shrimp! If you do not live near a Brazilian market, no worries! Let the market come to you. amigofoods.com is a great source for all sorts of Latin American food products. In addition to dendê, they also carry mandioca torrada (toasted manioc flour), my ingredient of choice when making farofa. I hope you'll go out of your way to get these ingredients and experience these wonderful dishes for yourself.
Moqueca de Camarão
1 lb shrimp in shell, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 (14- to 15-oz) can tomatoes including juice, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
5 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon dendê (palm) oil
Toss shrimp with black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, garlic, and lime juice and marinate, covered and chilled, 20 minutes.
Cook onion and bell pepper in olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cayenne, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes and simmer briskly, stirring, until mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and bring to a boil, then add shrimp mixture and cook, stirring, until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in dendê oil and remaining 4 tablespoons cilantro and season with salt and pepper.
Serve with Brazilian style rice and farofa.
Brazilian style Rice
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup rice. long grain
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Rinse rice in several changes of water to remove starch and let drain in sieve. While rice is draining, saute onions in a pot until translucent.
Add rice and cook, stirring, until it turns a chalky color.
Add 1 1/2 cups water and the salt and bring to a boil.
Lower heat and cook with lid slightly ajar until water is evaporated.
Add remaining water and cook a few more minutes until water is gone and then turn off heat and cover undisturbed for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups toasted manioc flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil and butter in skillet and saute chopped garlic.
Let the flour pour slowly through your fingers into the skillet stirring it into the mixture.
When all the fat is absorbed, move it from one side of the skillet to the other making sure that it all gets toasted well.
Serve over beans or stew or meat.