The first in an occasional series of posts over the next few weeks about Brazilian food and ingredients we discovered during our visit.
On Thursday mornings in Rio de Janeiro, everyone goes to Copacabana.
Not to the beach, but to the weekly farmers' market that stretches along two blocks of Rua Ronald de Carvalho.
Our group of five cousins strolled the length of the market, sampling the familiar (pineapple) and the unfamiliar (jackfruit). We were fascinated by the cashew nuts still attached to their fruits.
Next to the strawberries, we found fruta de conde, which is related to cherimoya, soursop or custard apple. The flesh inside has a creamy, banana-like consistency.
Maxixe, a spiny cucumber, is crunchy and refreshing, and according to my friend Peter, very easy to grow.
Jilo looks like a baby green eggplant, and tastes somewhat like it, too.
We recognized okra, of course...
... and manioc.
And I loved these packaged vegetables, cut right on the spot, all ready to cook. At left are the ubiquitous hearts of palm (you'll read more about that later this week).
My favorite thing? You could use the hand-cranked grinder to create your own spice blends and pastes.
Brasilieros love to eat, and the farmers' market was the perfect introduction to many of the foods we tasted during our recent visit.
Jilo and onions
At the pousada, I watched Marcinha make this simple and delicious side dish; I've adapted her recipe slightly. The tart flavor makes a great accompaniment to a rich casserole or grilled meats. Jilo is available at many Latino and Brazilian markets here in the United States. Though it looks a bit like eggplant, it's firm inside, and does not get salted before cooking. Figure on one per person. Serves 6.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large or 2 medium onions, cut in half, then thinly sliced
6 jilo, stems removed, thinly sliced into rounds
1 clove of garlic, smashed
Kosher salt or sea salt, and fresh black pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a heavy (cast iron) frying pan or skillet over low heat. When the oil is hot, sprinkle some of the jilo and onions on it. When those begin to brown, add more of the jilo and onions. Stir a bit, and let sit until just starting to brown. Add the remaining jilo and onions, along with the garlic. Keep stirring until all of the vegetables are a bit browned, and the onions are slightly caramelized and very soft. Season with salt and pepper, and serve hot.
Thanks to Ben for his photo of the manioc at the farmers' market.
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