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The Girl from Ipanema

Cultural Perspectives

By Tim Hazell

Poet, songwriter, and diplomat Vinícius de Moraes (1913-1980) became an integral part of the 1960s bossa nova and samba movement. Born in Río de Janeiro into a family that surrounded him with books and music, Vinícius began composing while in college and published his first book of poems in 1933. His career as a musician blossomed when he teamed up with partner Tom (Antonio Carlos) Jobim. The duo of Jobim/Vinícius produced some of Brazil’s most significant songs, such as “Insensatez” and the “Girl from Ipanema.”

“When she walks she’s like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gentle, that when she passes each one she passes goes ‘a-a-ah!’ Oh, but I watch her so sadly. How can I tell her I love her? Yes, I would give my heart gladly, but each day when she walks to the sea, she looks straight ahead not at me.”

Brazil’s cuisine is steeped in tropical color and ethnic diversity, as in its moquecas of fish and shrimp.

Moqueca de Peixe – Brazilian Fish Stew

1-1/4 pounds sea bass, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 scallion chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

7 tbsp. olive oil

4 tbsp. chopped coriander

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/3 cup chopped yellow bell pepper

1-1/2 cups fish stock or chicken broth

1 cup coconut milk

2 tbsp. tomato paste

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1/3 cup canned hearts of palm, drained and diced

2 tomatoes, seeded, and diced

Salt and black pepper

In a bowl, mix together half the scallion, onion, ginger, and garlic. Add four tablespoons of the olive oil and half the coriander. Place chunks of fish in a plastic bag and add the marinade, pressing to evenly coat the fish. Place sealed bag in a shallow bowl and refrigerate for several hours. Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Add remaining three tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add rest of the scallion and onion along with green and yellow peppers. Cook until softened. Add remaining ginger and garlic and continue, stirring, for another minute. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add coconut milk and tomato paste, returning to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer the sauce while preparing the fish. Place the fish and marinade in a casserole dish. Pour the lemon juice on top, season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until fish is partially cooked through. Carefully transfer pieces of fish to the pan with simmering sauce. Add any juices in the dish from the fish and marinade. Cover the pan, reduce heat to low, and cook until fish is tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover the pan, add hearts of palm and tomatoes and allow to heat through. Taste and adjust the moqueca for seasonings with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining fresh coriander and serve.


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