Monday, February 28, 2011

Moqueca de Peixe (Brazilian Fish Stew)

Over the years, I have developed a love/hate relationship with Brazil (despite the fact that I have never been there.)

Things I Hate About Brazil:

1) They stole our Olympics! I had glorious visions of bringing my futuristic Jetson-like family of 2016 to see the Olympics in my hometown, Chicago. With Obama and Oprah both lobbying for the Windy City, I thought we were a shoe in, but NO.

Watch your backs, Rio. No one %$#@s with Oprah.

2) They charge $200 to set foot in their country. When I was at Iguazu Falls in Argentina two months ago, I could literally see across the river into both Paraguay and Brazil. All I wanted was to take a short boat across so that I could claim Brazil for my Facebook travel map, but NO. I was not going to pay that ridiculous visa.

Get over yourself, Brazil. $200? Really?

3) Brazilians are just too attractive for their own damn good. (You're welcome, gentlemen readers of this blog).

Things I Love About Brazil:

1) Brazilians are just too attractive for their own damn good. (Like Madonna's recent boy toy, aptly named Jesus):

2) Every Brazilian I have ever met is incredibly friendly, nice, and full of life. Case in point: the lovely Brazilian ladies Megan and I spent New Year's with in Montevideo:

3) Brazilian food.

This brings me to today's blog post. My first amazing experience with Brazilian food was at one of their rodizio style restaurants in North Carolina, where they bring you endless cuts of meat on swords. Who wouldn't like that?!

My second experience with Brazilian food was when I visited my friend Phil in Miami. His mother is Brazilian, and she took us to a great restaurant where I had a delicious moqueca de peixe, or fish stew.

I dug around for some recipes online to try to recreate this dish, and it turned out AMAZING, if I do say so myself! Tons of flavor, and very unique tasting. Great to try if you want to break out of your boring dinner routine.

Bom apetite!

  • 3-4 fillets of tilapia. Depends on how hungry you are and how big the fillets are. If you have an even firmer white fish such as cod or halibut, all the better.
  • 1 onion
  • 2 green onions. I included these cause I love green onion, but I honestly don't think they added a whole lot to the stew. If you have them, throw 'em in. If not, no worries!
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro. If you are one of those people who despise cilantro, I suppose you could leave it out. But it adds wonderful South American flavor and color.
  • 1 can diced tomatoes. Do not drain.
  • 1 can lite coconut milk. Obviously you can use regular if you want to, ya fatty.
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp. lime juice. I used the bottled kind, but use fresh if you have it!
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1.5 tsp. paprika
  • 1.5 tsp. chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Drizzle of olive oil. Real moqueca uses dende, or palm oil, but I couldn't find this stuff ANYWHERE! Oh well.
This dish is quite flexible. If you have shrimp, that would make a great addition. Traditional moqueca usually has bell peppers, but I personally $%#@ing hate peppers.

You can eat this served over rice, or just out of a bowl like I did. This makes enough for 2-3 people, so feel free to adjust quantities accordingly, or just enjoy the leftovers!


Cut your fish fillets into large chunks and lay them out in a single layer in a small dish or tray to marinate (you could also put them in a plastic bag). Keeping the pieces fairly large will help them to hold together during the cooking process.

Time to make your marinade! Mix together the lime juice, minced garlic, cumin, paprika, chile powder, and salt. Pretty colors, ooooh.....

Now it's time to get your hands dirty and pungent. Pour the marinade over the fish, and toss it together so the fish is well coated in the spices. Cover the tray with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, and up to a couple hours.

I wouldn't do much longer than that though cause the acidity of the lime juice will actually start to "cook" the fish and make it fall apart (this is how people make fact!)

Peel your onion and slice it up. If you are using green onion and cilantro, chop them up nice and fine.

Heat a large pot or high-sided skillet (make sure it comes with a lid!) to medium high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and cook your onions until they are soft and translucent.

Add your green onion, cilantro, and can of diced tomatoes with the juice. Let the mixture simmer together for a couple minutes.

Add your can of coconut milk, the fish, and the marinade. Stir everything together well.

Turn the heat to low, cover the pot and let it simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pieces of fish are opaque and flake easily. Your house will smell like a sexy Brazilian beach vacation.

Ladle some of that delicious stew into a bowl, garnish with some fresh cilantro and lime wedges, and dig in!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Beef and Cheese Empanadas (Or, How Two Wrongs Made a Right)

I know I may seem to you all like an accomplished three star Michelin chef, but I'm going to let you in on a little secret: sometimes the food I make sucks!

That's right, I'm woman enough to admit it. It's what happens when you try to invent your own recipes based on knowledge cobbled together from old Food Network shows and stuff you have laying around in the pantry.

I try not to include sucky recipes on Cooking for One, but I recently had a suckfest that I thought might at least win me some chuckles. Here's the story:

My friend Rachel invited a bunch of us over for a Superbowl potluck party. This, of course, sent me into a fit of excited giggles like Ina Garten at the thought of hosting a gay supper club.

I planned to give 'em the old razzle dazzle with some mini vanilla cheesecakes with blueberry ganache topping and pumpkin and goat cheese empanadas. How I envisioned the party going:

Here is what actually happened:

Mini Vanilla Cheesecakes with Blueberry Ganache Topping

The inspiration for these came from my lovely former roommate Danielle who is a cheesecake making fiend.

I had made these babies once before for my boyfriend's graduation party and they turned out pretty well, so I figured they were a sure thing. I'm still not really sure where it all went wrong.

Basically, the way you make them is by mixing some graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and pressing them into mini muffin pans to form the crust, and then pour the cheesecake mixture over them.

Then you melt some chocolate with heavy whipping cream for the ganache, and that becomes the glue to stick a blueberry onto each cheesecake. Cute, right?


Not sure where things went awry, but out of the twenty four cheesecakes I intended to bring to the party, only about fifteen made it successfully out of the muffin pans without crumbling into a mess (highly reminiscent of Failcake).

For some reason the cake part never really adhered to the crust, so when I popped them out of the pan, the crust remained behind like little piles of sawdust.

I decided to salvage the fifteen that kind of made it out successfully and topped them with the chocolate and blueberry to bring to the party. Even still, they tasted dried out and not something I would ever include on Cooking for One except to laugh at.

Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Empanadas

Now you may be thinking to yourselves, "Stacy, those don't even SOUND good! Why would you make those?!"

The inspiration came from my recent trip to Argentina, where I feasted upon empanadas. The best ones my friend Megan and I tried were pumpkin, corn, and cheese empanadas that were unbelievably delicious.

In my warped delusions of culinary grandeur, I thought I could replicate the native Argentinian cuisine with nothing but Pillsbury crescent dough and a sense of my own self-worth.

I made the filling with pumpkin puree, sage, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. In a flash of insight, I decided to try the filling before I actually made the empanadas. I was as disgusted as Ina Garten after tasting batter that didn't use GOOD vanilla.

It was salty, bitter, and nasty. I even tried microwaving it to see if the filling would taste better warm, and it didn't, so I just threw it all out. Strike two for this Superbowl party.

Beef and Cheese Empanadas

Now faced with the prospect of having one mediocre dessert to bring to the potluck, I needed to get resourceful. I still had my Pillsbury crescent dough for the empanadas (the grocery store didn't sell empanada shells and I'd be damned if I was gonna make them from scratch!) so I figured maybe I could just change the filling.

Hallelujah, they turned out delicious! They took a really long time to stuff and I'm not sure I would ever make them again because of that, but they tasted great and were a hit at the party. So, without further ado, my Beef and Cheese Empanadas.

  • 4 tubes Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough. I used the reduced fat kind.
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • Salt n' pepa to taste
  • 1/2 package of Mexican cheese blend shredded cheese
This will make 32 empanadas, so feel free to adjust quantities based on the size of your crowd. If you are Cooking for One, you can also always make a big batch for yourself and freeze them for a quick snack later.


Peel and chop up your onion and throw it into a saucepan with a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat.

Once the onion is softened and translucent, add the chili powder, oregano, cumin, and garlic.

After just a minute, add your ground beef and crumble with a large wooden spoon to mix in all the spices. Once the beef is browned after several minutes, go ahead and pour in the diced tomatoes, juice and all (I kinda jumped the gun and did it early.)

Let the mixture simmer for several minutes so the flavors get all incorporated. Taste it and add salt and pepper if necessary. Then take it off the heat to cool down before stuffing the empanadas. You should also skim off some of the fat.

If you are making this ahead of time for a party the next day, you can just refrigerate the filling and stuff them the next day.

Time to get your hands dirty! This part took forever and was kinda annoying cause I was making 32 empanadas. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and cover three baking sheets with aluminum foil.

Pop open your dough and separate it into the eight perforated triangles on a baking sheet.

Add a sprinkle of Mexican cheese to one corner of the triangle and about a tablespoon of the beef filling (don't overstuff!) Then fold the other corner over the filling and pinch the open edges together to seal. It's not the end of the world if they don't close all the way.

Continue until you feel like you want to claw your eyes out and your fingers reek of beef. Remind yourself that these will taste delightful and be worth it.

Once all the trays are filled, pop them in the oven to bake for about 14 mins, or until they are golden brown.

All's well that ends well!

Crisis averted, and I had a party appetizer to offer. And in honor of the winner of my last Cooking for One Contest, I am going to close with:

"Next stop, Munch Town. Population: you." --Matt Ogren