So like most normal people, i try to have a social life here in Brazil aside from the daily conversation i have with my three sunflowers that have managed to grow, my facebook and the tweeter. I'm sure a psychologist would try to tell me that electronic friends are not real eh? Well, in self-placed solitude they are. The social life; so in six months i have actually managed to make my own friends here, all of whom i came in contact with through this blog. Cod fish really are social buterflies. Salty is how R, my wonderful Brasilian friend, found me by reading through my earlier posts on gringo "transition". It's interesting to hear how people stumble upon Salty, whether looking for recipes, travel descriptions, recipes for salt cod (there aren't any), or in R's case, the expat thing as she is married to an Irish gringo. After a bit of chat, we realized that we all had a lot in common aside from the fact that they live in São Paulo city (one hour away); we've been through all of the same garbage concerning the immigration (ok, marriage) trauma in Brazil, we despise the Brazilian style of "wine" that the masses prefer (cold sweet grape juice crap), we're travelers, love dessert, and can all speak English. Wow, best friends right! Though i know i need "social portuguese", my language level is not yet at that of a cocktail party, so it is a gift above any to feel normal for even just one evening every now and then. I'm determined to make it so that eventually we all drop the English during a gathering, just not yet. Friends through the blog; score one more point for Salty.
As humble youngsters living in an expensive country (you didn't think Brazil was expensive?) we decided that the last get together we had at a charming, yet overpriced French restaurant need not be repeated yet. Brazilian restaurants are very expensive, however, as is the case in most areas, cooking at home is not. Now, R doesn't cook (J is the chef of the casa), therefore to remedy the apprehensive situation, we did an in-kitchen cooking lesson on the easiest dish of them all--risotto. Brazilians love risotto, it's on the menu at nearly every medium to upscale restaurant for murderous prices. People are willing to pay top dollar for it because they have it in their brain that they can't make the same thing. eeeeh wrong. Yes i cook, and quite often, surprised? Will Salty turn into a cookery as well? who knows. But risotto is something i do extremely well. Not to be conceited, but i will say it is a Salty specialty. Digressing, whether the lesson stuck (next lesson will be about simple red sauce) or not, that was the largest pot of risotto i have ever made. I'm starting to think that i really love to "teach" or rather go in somewhere and cook for someone, whether it's for my own ego or not (no i don't want to be the next Curtis Stone) but i'm really starting to feel that Brazil needs me, whether they know it yet or not. Now to the point of this post here, chocolate cheese tarts with gooseberries.
All food bloggers out there know that when there is an event there is a post. For the non-professionals who don't have unlimited budjets and time to spend on making posts (idea, baking, photographing, editing, writing, and more editing) blogging becomes somewhat of a rare treat that neads an excuse in order to occur. I have no less passion that i did before, the only thing that is less is time and money. So when there is a reason to make something special, bingo.
I was at the grocery market purchasing a few packaged things to send in the mail to a gal in Minnesota for the Transplanted Baker's farmers market exchange (note: if you live in a country that is not the United States, don't sign up for events that require shipping food out of the country because the majority of participants will be in the U.S. and not need 3 weeks to a month for ground shipping. The customs officials already hate me, and now i'm trying to weezle them again. verse.) and i spotted, tucked off in the corner, some little golden leaves. Wait a minute, i thought, i ripped the plastic cover off of a carton, gooseberries (note: these are a different variety than their darker north american cousin). Now wait, in a country without a single raspberry, blackberry, cranberry, or blueberry (actually just spotted a few from Argentina, YES blueberries grow in Argentina), there are imported (cape) gooseberries for sale? Touché Brazil. The carton noted that they were grown in Colombia, so there we go. Colombian fuzzy gooseberries. So start importing raspberries from the north why don't you, please! A week later when thinking about desserts i could only think about the gooseberries; finally someting other than banana and guava! Who ever thought i would complain about tropical fruit. (note: the only reason i pine after berries is because i love and miss them, there are thousands of wonderful fruits in Brazil, but when you're away from everything you know, well, you want berries! Particularly the berries that used to grow in your backyard.) The plan was New York style cheese cake with the berries, the problem was lack of sour cream in this country, and to be honest, no real equivalent (it's just how it is, same thing in France and many many other places). So as to Brazilianize it, we replaced the sugar and sour cream with condensed milk, which happens to be what Martha Stewart also does in her no-bake cheesecake recipe. But that's the rule; all you have to do is put condensed milk in it and you've made it Brazilianized.
Let's see if you're like me; when i hear the word gooseberry i think of Snow White making gooseberry pies for Grumpy. You follow? They are very tart, but very distinct looking. Distinct looking is all we care about right? Right. Leaving the leaves on serves absolutely no purpose other than presentation, in my opinion, their little chapeau is quite cute. The tart crusts are made of rice flour and polvilho, which is a soft tapioca flour. The cheesecake is simply cream cheese, condensed milk and lemon juice. That's it; a simple, refreshing winter dessert made in miniatures and one large tart (6 small and 1 8-inch round). The thin tart layer of cheesecake was much more palatable than the thick 2-3 inch layers of traditional cheesecake, especially as it was more creamy and less stiff due to the condensed milk. All consumed by five people: yes.
Tart Shells (gluten free)
Ingredients: 1 cup rice flour, 1/2 cup tapioca flour, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/4 cup cooking oil or 1 stick butter (i actually used olive oil), 3 egg yolks, pinch of salt.
Method: beat powdered sugar and the butter or oil, add the yolk. Add the flours, cocoa powder and salt. Stir until combined (if not using kitchenaide mixer you will need to use your hands). Roll the dough tightly into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour before pressing into your tart shells. Base at about 350F for 15-20 minutes.
Ingredients: 8oz sour cream, 1/2 can of condensed milk, 2 tbsp lemon juice, jelly or mashed gooseberries.
Method: beath the cream cheese until fluffy, add the lemon juice and condensed milk. Set aside. Spread the mashed gooseberries intot he bottom of each tart shell and pour the cheesecake mixutre over the top. Refrigerate for about two hours before serving.
When i get to this part i feel like it's the recap closing sequence; i can see Tony Bourdain ending an episode of No Reservations; looking off into the distance, saying how while the food was great, it as the people who made the experience for him, a few more sentimental life shattering comments, and then the camera bleeds out of focus and we're left to ponder the heartfelt comments. Erm, well maybe he is right. Do not undervalue your friends, because when you start again from zero, you'll remember how important they really are in a human life.
Moving on from sentimental, i really do love simply going to São Paulo. Every time we go, it's a new route and a new city. As one of the largest and most complicated city in the world, strangely enough we don't even have a road map for it. H has never printed out a map for any location, as he was born in the city he believes there to be a São Paulo gps planted in his brain at the hospital. No matter where, the weather, how late or what part of the city, we always eventually get to where we are going, somehow. Some people have it, some people don't; i still get lost in the town i grew up in. Depressing. But despite the reputation, São Paulo really isn't a terrible place for those who are lucky enough to enjoy it for what it is. While it has unending problems, areas of squalor, a smelly river, crime and misery, like Rio it has its character, and is fastly improving. Just in these past few weeks motorcycles are now prohibeted on the express lanes! One small step for man...
Obrigada R&J pela sua hospitalidade!