Denise Browning is a professional chef and food blogger who specializes in Brazilian cuisine. A mom of two girls, she understands the importance of relying on go-to recipes that are healthy yet delicious. But she’s taken it to the next level by crafting Brazilian food recipes that are also easy on the budget and your time. Each recipe includes a key that indicates gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, sugar-free, and low carb recipes.
We recently sat down with Denise to discuss her background, passion for traditional Brazilian food, and which recipe she feels exemplifies the Brazilian way of cooking.
1. Tell our readers a little bit about your background and how you were first introduced to Brazilian cuisine.
I am a native Brazilian and former lawyer who immigrated to the United States in 2002 when I got married to an American doctor. I graduated from the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts program in 2006 and then worked in catering before having children.
In 2012, I started a blog focusing exclusively on Brazilian cuisine under the name “From Brazil To You.” About four years later, I extended the concept to incorporate easy and healthy global food and changed the name of my site to Easy and Delish. On my blog, I focus on healthy global dinners (including Brazilian) on a budget–with a few splurges, because life is all about balance!
2. What is it that you love most about Brazilian food?
There are so many aspects of the cuisine of my home country that I love. The most significant to me is its diversity, on account of its varied origins. Brazilian cuisine was forged by three very different groups (Europeans, Africans, and Natives) that together created a new identity by mixing their traditions and local ingredients—sometimes even from scraps, like our feijoada, the national dish of Brazil.
Brazilian cuisine is full of contrasts–sometimes tropical, sometimes comforting… But it is, at its essence, healthy-ish! It has as its fundamental ingredients a range of root vegetables, a lot of tropical fruits, and a variety of animal proteins. Its staples are rice and beans, which together provide a complete source of plant-based protein. Grilling and stewing are common cooking methods.
If I could define Brazilian food in one single word, it would be vibrant!
3. What do you think is the secret to great Brazilian cuisine?
That is a good question! I think the secret is its fresh ingredients, and sometimes their proximity to the source. Although some ingredients are available all around the world, there are others that are only accessible locally. In fact, some regional/local ingredients are not even available throughout the whole country of Brazil. They are exclusive to one single region, such as the Amazonian region. That is the reason why I was unable to feature most of the dishes from Northern Brazil on my blog.
4. Tell our readers a bit about the recipe you chose and why.
Selecting just one recipe was a really hard choice since there are many that are deserving of a great feature. But in the end, it all came down to feijoada and its sides (called feijoada completa) because it is the most iconic dish in Brazilian cuisine. It is a dish that transcends regions and has components from all three of the main ethnic groups that forged Brazilian cuisine.
It consists of a black bean and pork stew served with white rice, farofa (toasted cassava flour), couve a mineira (pan-fried collard greens), and orange slices. Our version comes with three different options for cooking methods: stovetop, slow cooker, and pressure cooker.
Feijoada (Brazilian Black Bean Stew)
Here are the ingredients for feijoada:
1 lb thick-cut smoked bacon, chopped
14 ounces smoked sausage, sliced
3 pounds pork baby back ribs, membrane removed and ribs separated individually
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds dry black beans
10 cups water
1 teaspoon baking soda (only if beans were NOT soaked overnight)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp salt, plus more to taste if needed
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp red wine vinegar (improves taste and reduces gassy elements)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, optional
Please click on the link to obtain the full instructions for Denise’s feijoada recipe.
Denise’s Easy and Delish website contains two recipe indexes, one for Brazilian food recipes and the other for recipes from the United States and all over the world. Her website remains an excellent resource for everyday home cooks looking to incorporate more variety into their family’s meals while maintain a focus on healthy eating. If Denise’s recipe inspires you to long for a family-friendly Brazilian vacation, we’ve got two options from which to choose. Check out our Brazilian Amazon Cruise Family Vacation and our Chapada Diamantina/Salvador Adventure.