In Belo Horizonte, Brazil, there's a street closed off to traffic, lined with shops and filled with people enjoying drinks with friends at small tables set up here and there. Along that street, the name of which I can't remember, we found a wonderful bookstore café that had a large selection of cookbooks, including one with English translation. And in that cookbook was a recipe for lambe-lambe, the kind of un-fancy shellfish and rice dish you'd eat while sitting on the beach at sunset, with your toes in the sand.
Part travelogue, part love letter to Brazilian cuisine, Caiçara Cooking: Flavor Between Mountain and Sea (published in 2007) features mouth-watering photos plus recipes in Portuguese, though the translations leave a bit to the imagination. This recipe bears only slight resemblance to the lambe-lambe in the cookbook, and perhaps bears no resemblance to a seafood dish you would actually eat in Brazil. However, it's beyond delicious, makes a beautiful presentation, uses staples you probably have in your pantry, and tastes great cold from the refrigerator should you have any left over. It would be delicious with shell-on large shrimp, too.
Lambe-lambe (Brazilian rice with shellfish)
From the pantry, you'll need: olive oil, garlic, onion, canned chopped tomatoes, canned roasted chile peppers, long-grain white rice, clam broth, red pepper flakes, hot sauce, fresh herbs.
Adapted from Caiçara Cooking. Serves 4-6.
1-1/2 lbs mussels, debearded and washed
2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup canned chopped tomatoes, drained
1/8 tsp mild red pepper flakes
A few drops of hot sauce, to taste
4 oz can roasted green chiles (or 1/2 malagueta pepper, seeded)
1/2 lb mussel meat (without the shells)
1 cup white wine
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 cups clam broth or vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped mixture of flat-leaf parsley, basil, cilantro, and scallion (equal amounts of each)
Mussels you buy from a fish market will be fairly clean, but still need to be prepared before you cook them. Wash them in cold water, and pull off the "beards" (strings that come out of the mussel, which is how it attaches itself to rocks, etc.). If any of the mussels do not close, lightly tap them on the side of the sink. If they still don't close, discard them. Set the bowl of cleaned mussels aside.
In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over low-medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and cook for a minute or two until the onion is translucent and the garlic is slightly brown (do not overcook).
Add the tomato, red pepper flakes, hot sauce, and green chiles, and stir to combine. Gently mix in the mussels in their shells, and the mussel meat, along with the white wine.
Cover the pan, and cook for five minutes; the mussels should just begin to open. Stir in the rice, and pour in the broth.
With the pan uncovered, raise the heat to medium, and bring the liquid to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to low, keeping the liquid at a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.
Discard any mussels in the shells that did not open.
Stir in the chopped herbs, and serve immediately.
More Brazilian dishes:
Pao de queijo, Brazilian cheese bread, from The Perfect Pantry
Caipirinha, from The Perfect Pantry
Moqueca a baiana (Brazilian fish stew), from The Perfect Pantry
Bolinhos de chorizo (Brazilian yucca fritters with chorizo), from I Breathe I'm Hungry
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