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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Leticia Moreinos Schwartz hopes that when Rio de Janeiro hosts the summer Olympics Games in 2016 it will shine the spotlight on Brazilian food.
The classically-trained chef will share her knowledge of Brazilian dishes like croquette de carne, or meat croquettes, and moqueca de peixe, a Brazilian fish stew, in her upcoming book, "The Brazilian Kitchen."
The 34-year-old Rio native, who lives in the United States with her family, spoke to Reuters about Brazil and her passion for its food:
Q: With Rio hosting the Olympics, what will the world discover about Brazilian cuisine?
A: "It's a cuisine that comes from a very rich culture. It is a mixture of Portuguese, African and native Indian influences. We see that in the faces our people, in our music and in the food we eat."
Q: Describe your interpretation of Brazilian food.
A: "We inherited a very sweet tooth from our Portuguese colonizers. I'm trying to maintain the authenticity and balance out the sweetness with other flavors. By introducing some of my culinary training, I can maintain the authenticity of the dishes, elevate them with different techniques, ingredients and even portion sizes."
Q: Who inspired your interest in cooking?
A: "I grew up on the shoulder of my housekeeper. I was totally inspired by this lady. She was an amazing cook."
Q: What were you doing before you became a chef?
A: "It was a gradual realization. I had treated cooking as a hobby. After my bachelor degree in economics, I worked in private banking in Rio. Then I quit in 1996 and decided to come to New York."
Q: Since you have been living in Connecticut, what native Brazilian ingredients do you miss the most?
A: "I miss some of our fruits like passion fruits. There are two kinds there, a sour one and a sweet one. There are also some exotic fruits, which you can get in frozen-pulp form here."
Coconut Brigadeiro (Brigadeiro de Coco)
(Makes about 30 balls)
1 cup condensed milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut, divided
1. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the condensed milk, coconut milk, corn syrup, butter, and 1/2 cup of the shredded coconut. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
2. Reduce the heat to low and whisk constantly until the mixture is the consistency of a dense fudgy batter, about 8 to 10 minutes. You want the mixture to bubble, so it's important to use low heat or else the sides of the pan will burn the coconut fudge. You know it is done when you swirl the pan around and the whole mixture slides as one soft piece, leaving burned residue on the bottom of the pan.
3. Slide the mixture into a bowl (do not scrape the bottom of the pan) and let cool at room temperature. Chill it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
4. Scoop the mixture by the teaspoonful and, using your hands, roll each into a little ball, about the size of a chocolate truffle.
5. Place the remaining shredded coconut in a bowl. Pass 4 to 6 brigadeiros at a time through the coconut, making sure it sticks and covers the entire outside surface.
6. Store your brigadeiros in a plastic container covered with a tight lid at room temperature for 2 days or up to 1 month in the refrigerator. Eat them at room temperature.
Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Patricia Reaney