The act of cooking simple food well in a very cosmopolitan city requires years of training and experience, and a self confidence that must be based on previous successful enterprises.
Spanning from such path is the new brave restaurant Volta. Could any carioca’s intentions for dinner sound more timeless and deliciously grown up? Just say the word “Volta” and you think about “Voltar no Tempo” or to go back in time, which is exactly the manifesto behind this new restaurant’s concept. A dance into the past, a mythic combination of old farm props, crockery and tableware with grandmotherly cuisine.
Tucked away in an unremarkable space on Rua Visconde de Carandai, at Jardim Botanico, a street that doesn’t attract a lot of foot traffic, Volta has nonetheless become a crowded neighborhood favorite since its opening in late 2013.
The walls are decorated with a collage of traditional recipes such as Bombocado , Mãe Benta and Queijadinha.
The chandeliers are a creative design of cups and pans stacked together with the purpuse of lighting.
The china and earthenware takes me back to the farm I used to visit when I was a child.
There is a first rate cocktail list, prepared by Thiago Politi,
who likes to create his own drink recipes and infusions. Beautiful bottles showcased upfront at the bar calls your attention to small details.
There are accents and furnishings, including an antique armoire bought in Petropolis (on the mountain regions of Rio) and naked chairs that complement the style.
And there is aptly pampering service, including dishes like Fish of the Day, Chicken with an Okra Ravioli, and Roast Beef Gradma Style.
The Chef, Ermelino Verissimo is with the company for more than 2 years, and brings considerable experience to the task. Volta, from the same group that brought Venga to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, has been meticulously focusing on perfecting the execution of its dishes.
A tender coxinha appetizer is beautifully presented and delicious on the stomach.
The Bolinho de Bacalhau com Espinafre was among my favorites. The Roast Beef is a sublime hunk of glorious meat, the kind you dream about hours later.
If you are lucky enough to have room for dessert, don’t forget to try Manjar de Côco com Ameixa (Coconut Flan with a Plum Compote),
or Pavê de Brigadeiro (Brazilian Style Tiramisu).
For anyone seeking to go back in time, Volta is a great choice. It reminds me of that movie, Volver, by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar and his actress muse Penelope Cruz—an incredible and sensitive drama. It also makes me think of Venga, the group’s first enterprise, a Spanish restaurant with appetizers meant to be shared.
This restaurant, this movie, this conversation, makes me think, yet, of another movie, also with Penelope Cruz called Woman on Top. I have its soundtrack, full of bossa nova and Brazilian melodies. It’s the kind of music I think about when I close my eyes and think of the foods I ate at Volta, the movies that marked my life, and the people I met along the way. Makes me want to “voltar”.
Makes 1 caipirinha
1 tablespoon sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons cachaça (adjust amount to taste)
1 – Cut the two ends of the lime and cut lime into medium chunk wedges.
2 – Using a muddler or even the end of a wooden spoon, mash the lime with sugar, making sure to squeeze all the juices from the lime and to dissolve the sugar in the juice.
3 – Transfer the lime mixture to a shaker. Add the cachaça and ice cubes. Shake well (about 8 to10 times) and pour into a large but not tall sturdy glass.
This is the granddaddy of all bar foods served in Boutequins (a type of tapas restaurant) all over Brazil. An exquisite deep-fried morsel that usually comes in a basket with multiples, cod fritters or in Portuguese bolinho de bacalhau has many versions. What makes this recipe so delicious and different from other cod fritters, are the egg whites mixed into the batter, which provide the fritters with a delicate, airy texture.
When using salt cod, always allow a bit of planning since you need to soak the cod for at least 24 hours, preferably for 2 to 3 days, in cold water in the refrigerator, while changing the water at least 3 times per day. Then the cod is gently poached in milk and cut into tender shreds before being mixed with the mashed potatoes. The result is a tender and fluffy-potato mixture surrounded by a golden crunchy crust. Once the fritters are done, they re-heat quite nicely in the oven.
I often serve this as hors d’oeuvres with a side dip of Tartare sauce (a simple mix of mayonnaise, hard boiled eggs, capers, cornichons, and parsley) or as a main course with a green salad on the side.
Makes about 25 fritters
1½ lbs salt cod (this will make 1 ½ cups of shredded cod)
3 cups milk
1 large Idaho potato (about 11 ounces)
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
4 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg
2 cups vegetable or canola oil for deep frying and a deep fat thermometer
De-salt the cod:
1 – When buying the salt cod, try to find a piece that looks very meaty. Trim away all the dark parts around the belly and tail.
2 – Rinse the fish in cold water and place it inside a large container. The volume of water should be 10 to 15 times the size of the cod, so use a very big container (maybe a plastic bucket or a large pitcher). Fill it with about 2½ gallons cold water, and store it in the refrigerator to soak for 2 to 3 days (if you want to maximize space in your refrigerator, cover the container with a lid, however it is not necessary). Change the water at least 3 times per day and each time you change the water, rinse the container as well. It is very important to de-salt the cod properly, otherwise the dish will taste too salty.
3 – On the day you will be cooking the cod, remove it from the container and place it in a medium sized saucepan. Cover the fish with cold milk so that it cooks gently and does not suffer any shock of temperature. Bring it to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook the cod, uncovered until it becomes opaque, about 5 to 7 minutes.
4 – Using a slotted spoon, remove the cod from the hot milk and discard the milk. Flake the meat with your hands into big chunks then shred the fish by either chopping it with a chef’s knife or passing it through a food processor on the pulse mode. The fish will have lost about half its weight after being desalted and cooked, so you should have about ½ lb (1 ½ cups) of shredded fish. Place the cod in a plastic container covered with a tightly fitting lid and refrigerate until ready to use (you can keep the cooked shredded cod for up to 6 hours before using).
Prepare the mashed potatoes:
1 – Peel the potato and cut it into similar-size pieces to ensure even cooking.
2 – Place the pieces in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cover them with cold water; add a pinch of salt.
3 – Cover the pan, bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are fork- tender, about 8 to 10 minutes; drain them in a colander. While they are still hot, pass the potatoes through a ricer or food mill. Expect about 1 1/3 cup of mashed potatoes. You should assemble the cod fritters while the potatoes are still warm.
Assemble the fritters:
1 – In a large bowl, mix the shredded cod, mashed potatoes, onions, garlic, parsley, egg yolks, olive oil, and cayenne. If this batter gets too hard to mix by hand you can use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment at low speed. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
2 – In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer with the whisk attachment to beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Be advised that egg whites without sugar can be easily over beat and lumpy, so be careful.
3 – Carefully incorporate the egg whites into the cod/potato mixture by folding it in with a rubber spatula. At this point the batter should feel light, airy and a bit runny. You won’t be able to shape the fritters with your hands since the dough is so light (that’s what makes it so good) so you will need to spoon the batter directly into the hot oil.
Fry the fritters:
1 – Pour the vegetable oil into a heavy-bottomed pot or casserole and heat the oil to 350°F as measured with a deep fat thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, pour a drip of batter into the oil; if you hear a sizzling sound and see the batter turning golden brown, then the oil is ready.
2 – Using a small ice-cream scoop or tablespoon, drop each spoonful into the oil. Only add as many as will fit without touching each other- otherwise they won’t fry evenly. Turn them occasionally with a long slotted spoon, making sure both sides are browned evenly.
3 – When each fritter is lightly browned all over, remove it from the oil and place it onto a half sheet pan or another large, flat tray that’s been covered with a double thickness of paper towels to absorb extra oil. Pat off any excess oil. Continue working in batches until all the fritters are cooked; keep the finished batches in a warm oven until serving. Serve immediately with tartare sauce. These can be reheated in a 300°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
Like many other recipes inherited from Portugal, the origin of Toucinho do Céu goes back hundreds of years to the convents where nuns used to cook sweets based on eggs and sugar and prepare recipes such as pão de ló ( genoise cake), flans and custards. At that time, it was almost mandatory for Portuguese ladies to study in convents, where they picked up recipes like this from the nuns. Many of these ladies came to live in Brazil as the wives of the Senhores (who then owned plantations) and brought these recipes with them. The word Toucinho do Céu translates into “bacon-from-heaven” thanks to the traditional version of this recipe being made with pork lard. This lighter version has as much flavor without the fat.
Unlike most almond cakes which starts a creamy batter, this cake is prepared by cooking ground almonds in a simple syrup. The rest is easy, just add eggs and extra yolks and it’s done. The result is this very moist almond cake, mostly unknown in the United States. While this makes a great snack, it’s especially good as a dessert when paired with rhubarb and strawberry compote and some sweetened crème fraiche. It can also travel well when made in a bar form, like brownies.
Serves 6 to 8 people
– ½ cup water
– 1¼ cups sugar
– 1/8 teaspoon salt
– 1¾ cups (250g) ground almonds, skinless
– 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
– 5 egg yolks
– 2 whole eggs
– 1 teaspoon almond extract (or Amaretto)
– 1 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated all-purpuse flour, for dusting
8-inch round cake mold
1 – Pre-heat the oven to 325ºF. Line the cake mold with parchment paper. Grease with butter and dust lightly with flour.
2 – Bring the water, sugar and salt to a boil in a big saucepan. Add the ground almonds. Stir gently but constantly, over medium-low heat, until the almond mixture starts to thicken and you can expose the bottom of the pan by stirring, about 2 minutes.
3 – Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter. Mix until the butter is melted and blended well.
4 – In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the yolks and eggs. Pour into the almond mixture and mix with a spatula. Add the amaretto and orange zest and stir well.
5 – Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is firm in the center and the top is lightly golden brown, about 28 to 30 minutes (if you over bake it, the cake becomes chewy).
6 – inch round cake mold.
7 – Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
8 – After the cake has cooled for about 20 minutes, invert the cake onto a platter. Lift off the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and invert the cake on a serving plate with the topside up. Cut the cake into wedges. Serve at room temperature (if you serve it too hot, the cake will seem overly sweet; too cold and it will not be at the right consistency).
Tip: ground almonds are sold in some supermarkets as almond flour. Feel free to use store-bought, or if you want to make your own, start with blanched almonds (whole, slivered, or sliced) and pulse in the food processor until the almonds are finely ground
A soft chewy bread roll, about the size of a golf ball, infused with cheesy flavor, Pão de Queijo is Brazil’s favorite savory snack and an excellent recipe to add to your regular repertoire. The manioc starch is what gives the cheese roll an incredible gooey and chewy texture, so try your best to find the Brazilian brand ( both the regular and the sour) for you really cannot substitute it for another type of starch or flour and achieve the same effect.
I recently met a Brazilian cook who grew up in Goiás, in the heart of Brazil, surrounded by manioc. She excels at cooking all kinds of sweets and snacks using yucca and its derivatives.
Eronária de Souza is the kind of woman who cooks from the heart, with barely any recipe to consult. When I showed her my batter for Pão de Queijo, she took a little in her hands, examined with her fingers and told me: – “Nao tem liga” meaning its not well binded or the dough is not well kneaded. She then told me to put the batter back in the mixer and knead the dough with the paddle attachment at low speed for at least 10 minutes. The extra kneading gave the manioc starch the chance to develop the optimal structure in the dough. It worked wonders!
I always buy manioc starch in big quantities, so that whenever I decide to make Pão de Queijo (and that is quite often), I don’t have to go hunting for it. You can prepare the recipe ahead of time and freeze the little balls unbaked for up to 3 months. Just pop one in the oven directly from the freezer and in 12 to 15 minutes you’ll have deliciously cheesy treats. But be advised that when the dough is baked right after it’s done, it’s when it puffs the most.
Makes around 30 balls
2 cups (200g) finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese (or Pecorino Romano)
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1¼ cup sour manioc starch (povilho azedo)
¾ cup manioc starch (povilho doce )
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup whole milk
½ cup water
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 – Place the grated Parmesan cheese in the bowl of a food processor.
2 – Add the eggs and yolks to the food processor and blend until you have a smooth paste, about 1 minute. Set aside.
3 – Place the two starches and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Set aside.
4 – Place the milk, water and oil in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil.
5 – Immediately pour the milk mixture in one stroke into the starch mixture and turn the machine on at low speed. Mix until the dough is smooth and the starch is all incorporated, about 2 minutes.
6 – Pause the machine and add the cheese and egg paste, scraping directly into the manioc starch mixture.
7 – Mix the dough at low speed until it turns a pale yellow, about 10 minutes. You are trying to develop the structure of the dough by kneading it slowly, as Ernaria de Souza taught me. The dough will feel a bit sticky.
Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight in the refrigerator.
8 – Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.
10 – Wet your hands with olive oil (alternatively, you can flour your hands with manioc starch) and use an ice scream scooper as a portion control to make 1- inch balls, rolling them with your hands. Place them on a sheet pan lined up with parchment paper or a silpat, leaving about 1 ½ to 2 inches between each roll (you can freeze them at this point by storing them in a zip-lock bag and freeze for up to 3 months).
11 – Bake the cheese rolls in the oven until they puff up and look lightly golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes. To ensure even baking, rotate the pan once during baking time.
12 – Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the rolls in a basket lined with a napkin. Serve immediately while they are still at their warmest and chewiest.
POR MONICA BATEMAN
Hoje nossa entrevista é com a chef Letícia Schwartz, uma brasileira muito simpática e talentosa que vem divulgando a culinária Latina através de seus livros e aparições em diversos programas da televisão norte-americana.
Fale um pouco sobre você e sua trajetória:
Eu sou formada em Economia e iniciei minha carreira trabalhando no mercado financeiro, num banco. Naquela época tinhamos uma visão bem diferente da carreira de chef. Chef era considerada uma profissão mais simples, as pessoas não tinham a aspiração de se tornarem um chef como nos dias de hoje. Mas eu sempre tive paixão pela culinária, e sempre gostei de cozinhar, de planejar e criar pratos gostosos. Eu levava para o escritório alguns quitutes que eu fazia em casa e meus colegas de trabalho adoravam. Muitos até me pediam “encomendas”, e minha paixão pela culinária foi aumentando. Foi ai que, em uma viagem à França, estive no renomado Le Cordon Bleu. Minha visão da culinária mudou completamente. Comecei a ver a carreira com outros olhos! Pesquisei muito e resolvi começar um curso em Nova York, no French Culinary Institute (hoje conhecido como Internacional Culinary Center). Nunca mais retornei para viver no Brasil e hoje já moro nos EUA há 18 anos!
Quais cursos você recomenda para quem tem vontade de se tornar uma chef como você?
Hoje o mercado está totalmente diferente de como era há 18 anos. Naquela época as pessoas tinham que sair do Brasil para encontrarem um bom curso na área. Hoje já não é mais assim. O Brasil tem bons cursos de culinária, como os do Senac, por exemplo, e chefs que se tornaram conhecidos no mundo inteiro. Claro que um curso fora do Brasil expande seus horizontes e agrega novas experiências, mas hoje chefs como o Alex Atala (do restaurante Dom, em São Paulo) ou o Pedro de Artagão (do restaurante Irajá, do Rio de Janeiro) se tornaram famosos no mundo inteiro. Estudar, trabalhar muito e tentar uma experiência ou estágio com grandes profissionais é o que fará diferença em sua carreira de chef. Lembre-se de que muitos profissionais em início de carreira aceitam fazer um estágio ou uma experiência de trabalho sem remuneração. Isto é uma prática comum, ao menos por períodos curtos de tempo.
O que te inspira na criação de receitas e pratos?
Tudo por servir de inspiração! Pode ser uma fruta, uma foto, uma receita de outro chef. E depende também do objetivo do trabalho, se minha receita será para uma aula, para um livro ou para um programa de televisão. Tenho formação em culinária Francesa, sou Brasileira e moro nos EUA, por isso digo que minha culinária é um reflexo disso tudo.
Como você divide seu tempo como chef?
Hoje eu atuo dando aulas, escrevendo livros e fazendo apresentações no rádio e na TV. Meu primeiro livro, The Brazilian Kitchen: 100 Classic and Contemporary Recipes for the Home Cook foi publicado em Fevereiro de 2010 e recentemente escrevi My Rio de Janeiro, a CookBook.
Deixe uma mensagem para os leitores do Brasileiras pelo Mundo:
Hoje o Brasil tem um campo fértil, um grande mercado nesta área, então é possível se tornar um bom profissional dentro do Brasil. Mas não seja imediatista. As coisas não acontecem do dia para a noite em nenhum mercado, muito menos no mercado de chefs. São necessários muito trabalho, muita dedicação e muita persistência para se obter bons resultados no longo prazo.