cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies

and a vacation to Ilhabela-SP

While i had planned on being part of an Easter celebration this year with eggs, chocolates and bunnies, a sort of last minute vacation got in the way. Thank god. Two weeks before the long four day weekend of Tiradentes (a holiday that celebrates a national revolutionary hero, Tiradentes, who was among the first martyrs for the cause of Brazilian independence from Portugal) that happened to fall the day before Good Friday, H and i decided to go to the beach. If you know anything about the state of São Paulo then you know that is a suicide mission. National holiday weekends on the São Paulo seashore are nightmares. Every human with the means to leave the concrete jungle will. not to mention the rest of us in the heading to the seashore with half a million cars. Brilliant! Somehow we managed to plan the trip strategically though; we left a day before the holiday started and chose a destination that while popular, is not among the destinations of the majority. Ilhabela is an Island just south of the São Paulo coast (you can see it clearly from the city of São Sebastião) and requires a ride on a small flat deck ferry to access. The long drive, ferry and extremely inflated prices of lodging, food and virtually everything on the island does not attract as many people as say the bigger and more affordable destinations such as Santos or Praia Grande. So while there were many visitors to the island during the weekend, it was nothing like Copacabana. Only a few of the island's beaches were crowded beyond our liking (we could never, ever be a carioca when the beaches turn into sheep farms.) While we did wake up at 2:30 on Sunday morning to avoid the five hour ferry wait and seven hour traffic crawl on the continet, the vacation was a wonderful decision and i didn't miss Easter at all. I can say that i have been to paradise, can you?

I really didn't take many photos while on vacation, there's something about just wanting to sit in your plastic yellow Skol chair and not do anything. at all. Well, anything other than drinking caipirinhas, rubbing on bug repellent (Ilhabela is known as mosquito Isle, and i'm still itching) and randomly getting up to jump in the deliciously blue water for a swim. We explored the island, sized up the beaches, trecked through a monkey trail for an hour to get to a hidden waterfall for an icy (dangerously slippery) swim, but in the end there was only one beach where we really wanted be--Praia do Jabaquara. The first day on the island i grabbed a map and decided that i wanted to go to Jabaquara only because it was the very last beach on the circuit that you can get to by car. All of the beaches on the eastern side of the island are only accessible by boat or by a guided jeep offroading expedition. So we drove, and drove and drove. It really is the last destination on the circuit. The drive is about an hour of long and ends on a bumpy, dangerous, dusty rock-filled dirt road that hugs the cliff on the northern side of the island. You really feel like you are never going to get there...witnessed a few cars giving up and turning around...if you are brave enough to scale the monkey trail then you end up at paradise. The beach is secluded, away from cars, roads, everything. And the distance and terrifying drive keeps the number of beach goers way down. White sand, a bar, trees, chairs and open ocean. The chairs and umbrellas belong to the only restaurant/bar on the beach, so if you sit you have to order. But it's well worth it, not just for the shade and seats but for the bathroom and shower. Buy a few drinks but bring a few of your own as well.

We liked Jabaquara so much that on the fourth day we gave up looking for another beach and just headed back with fresh fruit and a bottle of wine in tow. We did end up losing our licence plate on the difficult terrain, but that's ok. Ilhabela was truly the perfect vacation fo us. H and i are travelers and we hadn't been anywhere since Rio in July. 2011 has been extremely busy for both of us; H started a new job and continues his post grad classes and I jumped into language teaching which has taken off a lot faster than i expected. Throw in my photography and housework (yes, i consider housework a job) and it sounds like we're on turbo. I mean, i haven't even been blogging! We're too young to not slow down and do something crazy every once in a while. A little fresh perspective is helping to refuel my Salty motiviation.

We spent most of Easter in the car (from 2:30am-11am) after which we indulged in a very long nap. I realized onlythe day after Easter that neither of us had had an ounce of chocolate. sad. So last night i took out the giant 2.5 kilo bar of baking chocolate at about 9pm and could only think of doing something simple; cookies. I'm not terribly good at baking gluten free cookies, i've gotten my hand in on cakes, pizza doughs and quick breads, but my cookies always disapoint because they end up too crumbly. Tried anyway and threw in a banana in hopes that it might be sticky enough to keep the things together. They were still a bit crumbly, but once cooled they seemed like normal cookies... not something that i would really want to blog about though.

On monday we eat dinner at about 11pm because that's when H gets home. After the fire breathing curry i made for dinner, i shuffled a plate of hot cookies over to the couch. To my surprise, H was giddy; "cookies! you haven't made cookies in forever!" i suppose i haven't, and i suppose i haven't actually baked anything for us in forever either. No desserts in months. We eat no sugar! I was wondering why we were getting so skinny. I love to bake and we love to eat baked things yet i let them dry up. So like with needing vacations, i realized that we both need Salty so we can have a few sweets at least once a month! After coming to this conclusion the cookies seemed so much more regal to me; a cookie, a chocolate chip cookie. Nevermind that it has no butter and is made with whole soy, rice and quinoa flours, it still has chocolate in it. So here it is, on the blog. Nothing special yet it's what shoved me back in finally.

Having the cookies around also led to another excuse for photographing them; to try out my new lens. I shot these with my first ever prime lens, nothing special-i can't afford special, but all were taken with my new 50mm 1.8. If you don't know what a prime lens is it is simply a lens that cannot zoom; it only has one focal length. There are many advantages to a prime lense (quality advantages if you can't afford top zoom lenses like me) but also i needed something with a wider aperture. So lo and behold! $135 on Amazon and i only had to wait a month or two before the aunt of a friend in SP came for a visit from the US. Yes, that's how we buy things in Brazil....

Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Tartelette)
1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup soy flour
1/4 cup quinoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 banana
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil (i mixed olive and soy)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
about 1 cup chocolate chips or chunks
Mix all the flours together and set aside. Beat the sugar, oil, banana, egg and vanilla together and add the flour mixture. Combine and add the chocolate. Refrigerate until stiff and form into flat disks. Do not cook round balls, this recipe doesn't flatten out very well. Let cool completely before eating or you will be in the midst of a crumbly mess. I don't have xantham gum here so binding agents are always my biggest challenge...if you have xantham gum, add 1 tsp for a better result.

Ilhabela really is a paradise. We declared it our Christmas/New Years/H's birthday/one year wedding anniversary vacation. At least that's how i see it. It's always a bit sad to go home from a vacation, leaving the hot sun (for some reason it was hotter there than farther up north...) and freedom to do whatever on a weekday is difficult. I remember crying and getting really depressed when i was a young girl every time i had to go home after a vacation at my aunt's house or a camping trip to the beach. You grow out of that but there's still a little bitterness when it's time to go home. Over the past year i've not been feeling any bitterness though, and i think it's because while i enjoyed the beach imensley, what made the trip was who i was with. I celebrated my one year wedding anniversary one month ago and i hope i never stop feeling like the luckiest girl on the planet. A friend of mine recently asked for a bit of advice about "moving in" with a boyfriend or husband- i answered with the difficulties that we all whine about, but i also mentioned that the one thing that shadows over all of the negatives is knowing that you're always either going home to someone or someone is always going home to you. Or even better--going home together to eat chocolate chip cookies.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

Nothing Really, Just some Chat

Yeah, feels like forever. Two months; two months is the longest i have ever gone without a post since we started nearly four years ago. Where have i been? I'm sorry to say that i've simply been right here. No crazy vacations, no getting lost in the jungle. No time, i suppose i have had time, but over all less time than before. No inspiration, no i've had quite a few delicious things sitting on my table in the past few months. What's wrong? nothing. im just not sure what kind of blog this is anymore. food blogs are starting to get really annoying, the internet seems to be suffocating with them. That doesn't mean we're done posting about food, never. Started with food will end with food. But if i have any chance of consistency, we are going to have to open the genre. And i'm starting to feel crafty.

In the past two months of Salty Cod void, i started a new chapter in my life in Brazil. work. Lots of work. I started my own language school and teach both English and French classes here in my petite ville. Who ever thought i would actually use my college degree! So i have students, lesson plans and a lot of Portuguese speaking. I teach all beginner classes in Portuguese, am i perfect in Portuguese? Hell no. So you see it is quite a challenge. English is one thing, but try teaching your second language using your third language. Quite an exercize. Next door to my new "day job" continues my photography jobs-yes i still have those. In the past few months i have been shooting for a magazine as well as a cute start up cupcake shop in Sao Paulo. On top of that, the magazine i've been working with actually let me create my own recipes. That is a first and undoubtedly is an achievement for Salty who has been making up recipes for years. Bravo us. in any case, that is the professional update.

It's April, lets forget about March shall we. We're really starting to miss pastel-style Easter. I don't know how your Easter is, but my American Easter is full of pastels, chocolate bunnies, dyed eggs and snow globes filled with delightful springy Easter motifs. The pastel Easter bonnet ham and asparagus is not exactly what we do here in Brazil. I can't remember much of Easter last year as we were in the process of moving into our house. But i believeit involved a chocolate kinder egg. yep. The Brazilian tradition is the chocolate egg rather than the chocolate bunny. Which is better? Bunny by far. I remember those cuddly chocolate bunnies in my Easter baskets from my childhood--they could be a murderous weapon if chucked in your sister's face. American chocolate bunnies are solid deadly bricks of chocolate that lasts for months, come July and you're still knawing on cottontail's midsection. In Brazil, the eggs are beautiful but are hollow. Hollow? How much did i just pay for a hollow egg? This year we are making our own eggs Martha Stewart style (filling real egg shells) as well as dyeing eggs. People don't dye eggs in Brazil. Isn't that sad? This year i'm dyeing and will make those crafty daycare style bird nest cupcakes. But how to really do Easter right without peeps, malted eggs, cadburry creams and jelly beans? insanity. We'll see how the homemade peeps turn out. Get excited.

I don't know if anyone is still out there with us, but if you are, thanks for being here. We're not dead yet, just waiting for a comeback. Now i've got to finish editing the photos of the fig, almond and olive oil financiers!