The kickoff for the 2014 FIFA World Cup for men is Thursday, June 12. This quadrennial soccer championship will take place throughout Brazil, which is the home of a vibrant Jewish community of about 150,000, most in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
The first Jewish settlers in the Portuguese colony were forced to convert to Christianity, but other Sephardic Jews followed and many thrived, especially when the Dutch won control of part of the territory. With the Dutch defeat, the Jews were expelled, returning only after the Portuguese government changed policies in the 18th century. By the 20th century, European Jewish immigration was on the rise, followed later by Egyptian, other North African and Middle Eastern Jews.
Jewish food in Brazil is a mix of these traditions as well as an adaption of local tastes, including feijoada, a black bean stew.
My slow cooked Brazilian-Style Black Bean Stew has many of the flavors of feijoada and is based on a version made by a cousin from São Paulo. While kosher recipes in Brazil and elsewhere replace the pork with beef, her version is vegetarian. Some sources credit the dish’s roots to Portuguese and Spanish traditions, which were said to be inspired by the long-cooked Sabbath bean dishes.
Customarily, feijoada is served for Saturday lunch sprinkled with toasted manioc flour and accompanied by sautéed, shredded greens, chopped hot peppers, rice and slices of fresh orange. Manioc flour is made from cassava and is available in some Latin American and West Indian markets. Look for the type labeled “cruda.” It is light brown and the texture of fine breadcrumbs. If it is not available, sprinkle finely crumbled cornbread on top. The stew is just as good without the topping.
Brazilian-Style Black Bean Stew
2 cups raw black beans
2 Tbs. peanut oil
5 oz. vegetarian bacon
2 cups chopped onion
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground red cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
4 cups vegetable stock or water
2 cups of 1-inch cubes of peeled butternut squash or sweet potato cubes
28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 tsp. salt or to taste
Soak beans in plenty of water for 8 hours or overnight. Drain. Preheat large slow cooker on low. In a fry pan, heat oil and brown bacon until crisp. Place cooked bacon on paper towels, wrap loosely and reserve. In same pan, sauté onions until softened and garlic until golden. Stir in cumin, cayenne, paprika and black pepper, sauté for a minute. Scrape onion mixture with all the oil and seasoning into the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the drained beans, bay leaves, stock and squash. Stir and cover.
Cook in slow cooker until beans begin to soften but are still chewy, stirring occasionally (after about 6-8 hours, timing will vary), add drained tomatoes and salt. Chop bacon into 1⁄2-inch pieces and add to cooker. Stir well. Continue to cook until beans are tender but not mushy and the beans are not dry but also not soupy, another 2-4 hours. Add hot water or take off the lid to cook down as necessary. Remove bay leaves and taste and correct seasoning. Serve with rice, sautéed greens, chopped peppers and orange segments. Let diners sprinkle with toasted manioc flour (see note) or finely crumbled cornbread, if desired.
Note: To make toasted manioc flour, heat 1 Tbs. oil in pan and stir in 1⁄4 tsp. smoked paprika. Add 1 cup manioc flour and toss over low heat until evenly browned.
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Josie A.G. Shapiro. Faith blogs about her food at www.clickblogappetit.com. Contact her at email@example.com.