Pacific cod and caper kebabs

by Heguiberto on January 17, 2013

This is another great recipe from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. It uses capers! Hurrah!!! How can you go wrong with capers? Salted or brined, these tiny flower buds are alright with me. Yotam writes that caper bushes grow wild around the city of Jerusalem. They’re hardy and you can even find them growing out of cracks in the Wailing Wall (Muro das Lamentações in Portuguese). Isn’t that cool? I’d love to see that someday.

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

The original dish also uses quite a bit of dill too, an herb I sometimes find a bit over powering. I think it has to do with the smell of the lagoons around my home town in Brazil. The grasses that grew around those lagoons exhaled a strange dill scent and I always associate these smells with stagnant water. Alas! I think that I must have been a dog or a wolf in a past life. My sense of smell is powerful; which is good sometimes but as in this case, not too great at others. Anyway this dish is all about beautiful colors, flavors and, yes, aromas!

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

2lbs white boneless fish (I used wild pacific cod fillets)
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
½ cup panko break crumbs
1 large free range egg, beaten
5 tbsp capers in brine, rinsed and chopped
3 whole scallions, chopped fine
½ bunch fresh dill, chopped fine
Juice one large lemon
1½ tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil for frying

Cut the fillets into 3 inch pieces, place fish in the food processor and whiz for half a minute. Using a spatula push the fish down. Whiz it again for another half minute.

Transfer to a bowl, add lemon juice and beaten egg. In a separate bowl mix Italian bread crumbs, panko, turmeric, cumin, pepper, chopped capers, scallions, dill and salt together. Incorporate bread crumb mix into to fish using a spatula. Do not over mix.

Wet your hands with a bit of canola oil. Shape fish mixture into patties. Place patties on a wax paper lined tray. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Add some canola oil to a non-stick skillet on medium. Fry patties for about 3 minutes on each side. Serve hot with a side of eggplant baba ghanoush.


When I was in Brazil recently my niece took me to a fun restaurant in São Paulo that offered dishes from South East Asia, Peru, Japan and northern Brazil. The flavors were very exciting. We ordered a lot so we could taste everything. For my main course I had a white fleshed Brazilian fish served in a thick green curry with coconut broth that was divine! The fish was ultra fresh and the curry well balanced. It came with a bowl of perfectly cooked fragrant jasmine rice.

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

This eating out experience reminded me of the green curry we made while in Chiang Mai several years ago in a traditional Thai cooking class. I realized that I had never actually made it home, despite my vows to the contrary throughout our glorious trip to that lovely country, until now.

I prepared the green curry from scratch. You can refrigerate the leftovers for later use.

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

for the curry paste:

dried spices:

1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ pepper corns

fresh ingredients:

1 inch piece of galangal root, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bunch cilantro, stems, leaves and roots
3 tbsp minced lemon grass (white and tender part)
4 kaffir lemon leaves, cut thinly, center stem removed
5 small shallots
10 to 15 Thai green chilies
1 cup Thai basil
10 cloves garlic
1 tbsp salt

preserved ingredients:

1 tbsp shrimp paste

Place dry ingredients in shallow pan and toast until aromatic. Let cool. Grind in a coffee mill.

Add all fresh spices plus shrimp paste to food processor and whiz until mix turns into a paste. Use a spatula to push down spices so it blends uniformly. Add dry spices and blend again. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside.

Steven and I at Thai cooking school in Chiang Mai--in 2005

Steven and I at Thai cooking school in Chiang Mai–in 2005

for the dish proper:

2 cups coconut milk
1 lb fresh cod, cut into chunks
A few leaves of Thai basil
1 tsp brown sugar
1 chili pepper cut into small rounds
1 kaffir lime leaf
3-4 spoons green curry paste (prepared above)
1 tbsp canola oil
2-3 tbsp fish sauce

Heat up canola oil in a pan, add green curry paste and cook for a couple of minutes without burning. Add coconut milk, sugar, kaffir leaf and bring to a quick boil. Reduce temperature to low, add fish sauce. Taste it, adding more fish sauce if needed. Lay cod fish over sauce and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Add basil leaves and chili pepper. Remove from heat and serve with Thai rice.

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This delightful recipe comes from Eating Well. I was feeling inspired after Hegui made those tremendous red lentil croquettes. We eat a lot of beans at home and frankly it gets a bit boring just having them tossed with garlic and olive oil after a while. Sure, that always tastes great, but variety is the spice of life.

Southwest black bean and fresh corn croquettes

Southwest black bean and fresh corn croquettes

This dish certainly has variety, and spice. I used 4 cups of black beans that I rehydrated myself, rather than the suggested two cans. That turned out to make enough for a “double” portion of the croquettes, which means since I only had enough salsa ingredients for the original Eating Well recipe, I didn’t have any leftover to garnish. I used fresh corn which I cut from two ears. For some reason my “batter” was a bit runny, so I ended up adding more breadcrumbs. Also I used dried pasilla powder and chile in adobo instead of chili powder for the spice. Yum!

Southwest black bean and fresh corn croquettes

4 cups prepared black beans
2 tsp cumin
2 ears sweet corn, corn cut from cobs
~1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
2 cups chopped tomatoes
4 scallions, chopped
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
2 tsp pasilla powder
1 chile in adobo, minced
Kosher salt to taste
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 425F. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper.

Mash black beans with cumin in food processor. Remove to a bowl. Add corn, tomatoes, scallions, 1 tsp pasilla powder, chile in adobo, cilantro, salt and enough breadcrumbs to make batter firm enough to shape. Mix well.

In another bowl, mix ½ cup breadcrumbs, 1 tsp pasilla powder, a pinch of salt and olive oil together.

Shape batter into balls and gently roll into breadcrumb mixture. Bake croquettes about 20 minutes until they become a golden brown.

Serve warm or at room temperature with lime wedges. These would be particularly tasty floating on some tomatillo salsa.


red and white onion bajiis

by Heguiberto on August 30, 2011

Bajjis, bhajis or pakoras are Indian vegetable fritters I adore. They sort of remind me of the type of vegetable/rice fritters my mother used to occasionally make when I was a kid. She called them bolinhos de arroz, or rice balls. It was a creative way of using leftover rice. There was never waste at home and that was a good thing.

red and white onion bajiis

red and white onion bajiis

To make her bolinhos de arroz she would mix flour, baking powder, mild spices, eggs, water, left over rice, grated zucchini or chayote and just fry and serve them as an appetizer or side dish. I thought it was such a treat when she made it! But when you grow up and develop a taste for bold flavors then you replace bolinhos de arroz with bajiis.

You can make bajiis with peppers, eggplant, potatoes, or cauliflower; but my favorite ones have onions.

Here’s a simple recipe with a Brazilian-Indian approach.

red and white onion bajiis

1 medium sized white onion, thinly sliced in half-moon shape
2 medium sized red onions, thinly sliced in half-moon shape
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup chick pea flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large organic eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
3-4 tbsp cold water
Neutral oil such as canola for frying

Mix cilantro, sliced red and white onions together. Set aside.

Fill a skillet with about ½ inch of oil; bring oil temperature to high.

Meanwhile whisk flours, black and cayenne peppers, salt, cumin and turmeric powders together. Incorporate egg and water to make a thick batter. If too thick add a bit more of water. Fold in onions. Drop spoons full of batter into hot oil and fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve warm.


I made this Mexican rice the other day to go with my tutu de feijão. I don’t even know anymore how Mexican or Tex-Mex, Brazilian or Californian this combo might be. It is vegetarian, but that sounds as limiting as any other category. I want to call it “international,” but these days that implies sort of gourmet multinational with a fancy presentation. And though this is gourmet, it sure ain’t fancy. So I’m going to follow the lead of my sometime culinary muse, Alton Brown, and quote him. This is simply “good eats!”

vegetarian rice with tomatoes

vegetarian rice with tomatoes

vegetarian rice with tomatoes

1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed
1 cup diced canned tomatoes with juices
1 cup water
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ small yellow onion, chopped
½ tsp ground cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste
4 tbsp olive oil

Heat saucepan with olive oil. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté until aromatic. Add rice and toss to coat. Add water, tomato, cumin. Bring rice to a boil, turn temperature to low. Give it a good stir. Cover and cook until liquid is absorbed—about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit, lid on, for 10 minutes before serving it. Obviously, serve with beans.


Tutu is a dish made in my birth state, Minas Gerais, in Brazil, that consists of mashed beans seasoned with spices and some fat, either of animal or vegetal origin. In the essentials, it is more-or-less the same as the popular Mexican style dish in the US called “refried beans.” Traditionally tutu is served with fried pork skin, braised pork belly or ribs, fried egg, cassava flour, rice and sautéed collard greens. It is a delicious food bomb: you eat it and go directly into a food coma. Next time you visit Minas, make sure to include this on your culinary tour, for it is a local delicacy.

tutu de feijão or vegetarian refried beans

tutu de feijão or vegetarian refried beans

Steven and I used to eat tutu with all the fatty pork all the time, though not since we’ve become pesce-vegetarians. Nevertheless, the other day Steven cooked a large pot of red kidney beans so, feeling inspired, I decided to make some into a delicious vegetarian tutu. Turns out it doesn’t really need all the animal fat to be excellent. Tutu can be served as a side dish to any meal or as party dip. It is nutritious and full of flavor, and, since these are beans, children can have fun making jokes (after all, to English speakers this Portuguese name sounds a lot like “toot-toot”) while the whole family eats healthy.

tutu de feijão or vegetarian refried beans

6 cups cooked red kidney bean plus some of cooking liquid
3 cloves garlic, mashed
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp cumin powder
Pinch cayenne
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
2 whole scallions, chopped

Place beans with some of the liquid in a deep pan. Using a stick blender process until it turns into a thick paste.

Add olive oil to a non-stick skillet, followed by garlic and sauté until aromatic. Next in goes bean paste, salt, pepper, cumin and cayenne pepper. Bring it to a boil, reduce temp to medium-low and cook for about 10 minutes to allow time for flavors to blend. Stir every couple of minutes or so to prevent sticking. If excessively wet, cook longer.

Turn oven to broil.

Transfer bean to a heat resistant bowl. Mix cheddar cheese with scallions and scatter mixture over beans. Place bowl in the oven just long enough to melt cheddar. Remove and serve with a side of rice.


camarão com chuchu AKA shrimp with chayote

camarão com chuchu AKA shrimp with chayote

I was feeling like listening to Brazilian music the other day. For some reason, I haven’t been doing that as often lately, and I was missing the cool, soothing sounds of Bossa Nova. I like the old guard, so I set my iTunes for classics from João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, Elizete Cardoso, Maysa, Caetano Veloso and other Brazilian singers from the 50’s and 60’s of less international prominence. I was really getting into the groove, that is until a song by Carmen Miranda came on. Wait a minute! Carmen Miranda has nothing to do with Bossa Nova. I happily listened to her sing, but then I moved her to a different folder.

Here’s the song:

In this samba-styled song “Disseram que eu voltei americanizada,” Carmem is criticized by the crowd for returning to Brazil completely Americanized after her stint in Hollywood. She’s accused of forgetting her roots. Here, she argues that though she may have become a bit Americanized, she reassures her fans that she’s never been more Brazilian. As proof, she still likes and sings samba, and enjoys some of its most popular musical instruments, such as the tambourine, or ‘cuíca.’

Believe it or not, the last couple of sentences in the lyrics are about food! She sings that when it comes to food her favorite is camarão com chuchu, or shrimp with chayote. So today I offer this adaptation of Carmen’s favorite dish. The original is more like a stew. You sauté all the ingredients together and serve it over rice. In my version I broiled the shrimp and prepared the chuchu with Brazilian corn flakes, giving the dish a sort of tamale/polenta look, texture and taste. Delish!

prickly chayote or chuchu in Portuguese

prickly chayote or chuchu in Portuguese

chayote interior

chayote interior

There are two kinds of chayote commonly available. One is smooth and the other has sharp bristles on the surface of the skin. Usually I use the smooth, as it tends to be easier to handle. This time, I had the bristly one. If you’re using the later, than you should be very careful and wear gloves to peel the little monsters, or you could get hurt.

camarão com chuchu AKA shrimp with chayote

2 chayotes, peeled, pitted and passed through the mandolin
1 lb shrimp, shelled, deveined, tails on
4 cloves garlic crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp lemon zest
¼ tsp paprika
2 tbsp Italian parsley
¼ tsp cumin
Black pepper
Crushed red pepper
8 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp vegetarian bouillon paste
4 tbsp farinha de milho (Brazilian corn flakes)

Rinse and drain shrimp. Toss shrimp with salt, peppers, Italian parsley, cumin, lemon zest, paprika, 1 tbsp olive oil and the equivalent of 1 garlic clove. Let it marinate for 10-15 minutes.

Turn oven on to broil.

Place 3 tbsp olive oil on a saucepan, add remaining garlic and sauté until aromatic. Add chayote, salt, black pepper, vegetarian bouillon, give it a good stir then cover pan and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add ½ cup of water and further cook until chayote threads are soft. Incorporate corn flakes stirring to make a thick porridge. You may need to add a bit more water to get the desired consistency. Remove from heat. Set aside, keeping it warm.

Meanwhile place marinated shrimp in a single layer on a baking tray. Drizzle with lemon juice and some olive oil and broil for 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven.

Place chayote porridge on a serving platter, top with shrimp, drizzle with finishing olive oil and some of the juices from shrimp. Serve with a crisp white wine.


quinoa, fresh fava bean and avocado salad

quinoa, fresh fava bean and avocado salad

I’ve adapted this light and protein-rich salad from Plenty by Yotam Ottelenghi. It is flavorful and perfect for a barbeque party. You will enchant all your guests with this one, whether they’re vegan, vegetarian, or more omnivorous. The dish combines ingredients from both new and old worlds to become a beautiful international delight, just the way we like it 😉

quinoa, fresh fava bean and avocado salad

½ cup red quinoa
½ cup white quinoa
2 ripe Hass avocados
1½ cups fresh fava beans, from about 2 lbs fava pods
8 fresh multicolor oblong French radishes, quartered
1 cup frisée escarole, cleaned, cut into bite size pieces
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 garlic clove crushed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Aleppo pepper chili flakes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Add both red and white quinoa to a sauce pan, top with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce temperature to medium and cook until soft and little seeds have partially burst. Drain, rinse and let cool down to room temperature in a strainer.

Using a sharp paring knife cut a tiny strip off the stringy part of the fava pod lengthways, pop beans out of their velvety pod. Repeat process for remaining pods. Add beans to a pot with boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes. Drain, shock beans with cold water, let them cool down. Remove outer membrane from around each bean, being careful not to crush them.

Cut avocados in halves, remove large seeds. Slice into wedges, transfer to bowl and sprinkle with some lemon juice to prevent oxidation. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix garlic, salt, peppers, remainder of the lemon juice, cumin and olive oil.

Transfer quinoa, fava, radish and frisée to a serving dish, pour dressing over everything and toss to combine. Adjust flavors if necessary. Gently fold in avocado wedges.  Garnish with some crisp lettuce leaves.


broiled corvina in charmoula marinade

July 7, 2011

Like us, our friend Kristen adores Mediterranean, Middle/Near Eastern and North African foods. We haven’t seen her much since she was married so it was a real treat to have her spend the evening with us recently. Whenever she’s here, we hang out in the kitchen: cooking, snacking, sipping wine and caching up with the […]

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Indian red lentil soup with Savoy cabbage

June 17, 2011

Everybody throughout the northern hemisphere is probably eating summer food right now; you know: barbecue, ice cream, sno-cones, watermelon, and most anything grilled. Not us! The heat wave that has sent temperatures soaring past the 100’s elsewhere has yet to reach San Francisco. So we’re ‘stuck’ in the almost eternal refrigerator chill that makes the […]

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