cuscuz paulista AKA savory Brazilian bundt cake

by Heguiberto on January 17, 2011

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Cuscuz paulista is a very popular dish from the region in Brazil that I call home. The main ingredient for the recipe is farinha de milho, or “corn flour.” Farinha de milho is made of white or yellow corn that is finely ground, mixed with water and baked in the oven. This has nothing to do with American corn meal. The process precooks the ground corn, gives it a light toasty flavor, makes it ready to eat, and augments shelf storage. It is very versatile and can be used in sweet and savory dishes. You can find it in Brazilian and sometimes generic South American or Latino grocery stores. Early colonizers spread the taste for this corn product throughout the Brazilian Southeast, mainly in the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais.

cuscuz paulista AKA savory Brazilian bundt cake

cuscuz paulista AKA savory Brazilian bundt cake

In São Paulo the most popular dish made with farinha de milho is cuscuz paulista. There are several versions. It can be entirely vegetarian or you can add shrimp, canned tuna, sardines, or if want to be fancy, crabmeat or even lobster. It is fairly low-fat, healthy and delicious!

I have been wanting to make this cuscuz for a while, but every time I suggested it, Steven would roll his eyes in disbelief, wondering if it would taste good. I think that he was afraid that it would be loaded with mayonnaise, like certain kinds of American deli salads. Poor thing: he detests mayo. He’s also suspicious of anything made of corn. Silly. When I finally prepared this for a dinner party, everybody loved it. I shaped it with a bundt pan. One of our friends, Juanita, called this dish a “savory Brazilian bundt cake.” So there you go.

Here’s another version.

cuscuz paulista AKA savory Brazilian bundt cake

3 cups farinha de milho
2 cups vegetable broth
6 tbsp olive oil plus more for finishing
1 cup tomato sauce (make your own* or pre-made would work)
1 white onion, chopped fine
1 cup fresh or fresh frozen peas
1 cup fresh or frozen sweet corn
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, cubed
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
4 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
½ bunch Italian parsley, chopped
1 can Brazilian palm hearts, drained, all but four cut in rounds
¼lb fresh shrimp chopped (optional)
1 cube vegetable bullion (optional)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
crushed red pepper

*For tomato sauce:

1 can crushed tomato plus juice (28oz/800grams)
2 cups water
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
1 white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp olive oil
1 red Jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced
2 fillets of anchovies packed in oil (optional for vegetarian version)
crushed red pepper
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of fennel seeds

For decoration:

4 cherry tomatoes halved
2 parsley sprigs
4 sticks palm hearts (reserved from above) cut two in quarters along the long axis to make sticks and two into about four rounds each

Yoki Farinha de Milho aka Brazilian Yellow Corn Flakes

Yoki Farinha de Milho aka Brazilian Yellow Corn Flakes

To make tomato sauce:

Using a stockpot, sauté onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic, Jalapeño and anchovy fillets. Continue sautéing until aromatic. Add rest of ingredients and bring it to a boil. Reduce temperature to low and simmer for about 30-45 minutes stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Add more water if needed. The tomato sauce should be thick when finished. Reserve left over sauce for another use.

To prepare cuscuz:

Sweat onion in 3 tablespoons olive oil on high heat. Next add garlic, salt, red and black pepper followed by peas and corn. Push partially cooked veggies to side and continue by adding bell pepper, shrimp (if using), the remainder of the olive oil, scallion, parsley, palm heart and bullion until everything is cooked but not overcooked. Next add tomato sauce and hot vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and immediately turn temperature to low. Lastly mix farinha de milho and nutritional yeast together and pour them into the pan, folding delicately to incorporate without breaking the veggies. It will have a mushy consistency. Continue cooking another minute until mix begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.

To mold the cuscuz, oil a bundt dish (or any medium sized bowl with an interesting shape though the bundt is traditional) with olive oil. Lay parsley springs, tomato halves and palm heart rounds at the bottom of the pan. Stack pieces of palm heart sticks on the sides. Carefully transfer cuscuz to bundt pan to avoid moving decorative vegetables. Gently press with a spatula. Drizzle with some olive oil. Let it rest for about 5 minutes. Place a serving platter over pan, and, holding it tightly, flip the finished cuscuz onto dish. Tap at the bottom to dislodge. And voilá!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nourhan @ Miss Anthropist's Kitchen January 17, 2011 at 7:51 am

This looks so strangely delicious! Great job 🙂

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