Saturday, June 17, 2006

World Cup Dinners… Gooooooal!!!

Don’t you love a gimmick? For instance, a diet book cannot just tell us to exercise more and eat less. It has to give us a detailed regimen that requires us to eat say, every three hours, or a plan involving the supposed habits of French women. I am not by any means condemning the use of gimmicks. They keep things new and fresh. Instead of a yawn-inducing tally of calories in and calories out, a dieter can obsess over the gimmick of the moment (“Get me to the nearest frommagerie; I must prepare a cheese course, stat!”).

In the interest of spicing up my routine in the kitchen (you didn’t think I was writing a post about dieting, did you?), I have seized upon a fabulous gimmick to shake up the dinner status quo. My dinner gimmick is focused on the most popular sport in the world (no not baseball—there’s a whole world beyond these domestic borders, and I’m not just talking about Canada). It’s a sport that results in more missed work days and deaths by trampling than any other. It’s futbol, and the ultimate event in footballing, the World Cup, is about to become an exploration of world cuisines.

Here’s how it works: On a day when I have the time and inclination to prepare a home-cooked meal, I will pick a World Cup game being played on that day. I will watch the score with baited breath, and I will cook a dish from the victorious team’s country. My first world cup dinner was on Tuesday, and I picked the Brazil vs. Croatia match-up. I know all about Brazil because my sister’s been living there for the past two years with her Brazilian boyfriend. I can’t even tell you what continent Croatia is on (I do have a college education, I swear), but I had the notion that their cuisine is an eastern European mélange of Hungarian and Czech. I never got the chance to find out, as Brazil took the match, 1-0. So, I turned to the internet for Brazilian recipes. Mike and I were in the mood for seafood, so I settled on Moqueca de Peixe, or white fish cooked in a fresh salsa, that I found on

A gorgeous vista near Rio, courtesy of my lovely sister, Sara. You can just make out the famous statue of Christ on the rocky promontory on the left.

I picked this recipe for its mainly for its simplicity. All you do is toss an onion, 2 jalepenos, 2 tomatoes, garlic, cilantro and salt into the food processor. Then, squeeze in some lime juice and puree until fairly smooth.

Once the salsa is made, add it to a skillet with your white fish of choice, then simmer until the fish is cooked through. I marinated the fish in the salsa for about 20 minutes, but I don’t think this step is critical. In Brazil, they seem to be quite taken with dende, a highly saturated red-orange palm oil. It was included in many of the recipes I read, with olive oil often listed as an acceptable substitute. Since I didn’t see the need to add yet another exotic fat source to my cooking repertoire, I used the olive oil. It was drizzled over the salsa-simmered cod at the end of cooking. Maybe Sara will send me some authentic Brazilian dende for my birthday…

You can just barely see the fish peeking out of its tasty salsa Jacuzzi. You can turn the fish fillets halfway through so they cook evenly.

If I were in Brazil right now reveling in the World Cup victory, I would end my day with a plate of moqueca eaten outdoors at sunset with this view of Ipanema in my sights…

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