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A Portuguese Twist on Thanksgiving Leftovers

Portugal’s ultimate leftovers food has to be “Açorda” (pronounced ah-soar-duh). Growing up, if my mother had leftover “bacalhau,” the next day, there was “Acorda de Bacalhau.” If she had leftover shrimp, then it was “Açorda de Camarao.” If she had too much stale bread lying around, then it was plain old bread “Açorda.” What is Açorda? Think bread pudding, but savory not sweet, with a porridge-like consistency. It was originally a rural, peasant dish; the most famous comes from the southern region of Portugal, the Alentejo. The traditional “Açorda Alentejana” isn’t as thick as the one my mother makes. The Alentejo version has a great deal more broth and is traditionally finished with poached eggs and lots of fresh cilantro. […]

A Tale of Two Portuguese Regions: Douro & Serra da Estrela Are Calling Part II

Editor’s Note: In Part I, Sonia visited some of the Douro’s enchanting wine-producing villages, took in prehistoric art at the Coa Museum with wine glass in hand, savored the rustic flavors of the Beira Interior at O Lagar, and was nearly run over by a pickup truck packed with shouting, shirtless men in the historic village of Castelo Rodrigo. Her Douro e Estrela – In Tourism journey continues … and ends with a Portonic. The itinerary our group had been handed couldn’t have seemed more deceiving at that very moment. In its description of Castelo Rodrigo, it noted the ancient village’s tranquil streets. Perhaps on most days—but certainly not when we visited. The silence was disrupted by a band of shouting, shirtless men packed […]

A Tale of Two Portuguese Regions: Douro and Serra da Estrela Are Calling

Editor’s Note: Invited by the Douro e Estrela – In Tourism  project, our Catavino contributor Sonia Nolasco spent five days in June traveling through the Douro Valley and the Serra da Estrela region’s Beira Interior. Sonia gorged at countless gastronomical feasts, imbibed great quantities of wine, and checked out hunky, shirtless Portuguese men on her trip—all for the sake of bringing you this two-part report. Enjoy! Imagine traveling about an hour through pitch black darkness, going to sleep not quite sure where you are at the moment—only to find yourself a few hours later waking up to the beauty in the picture above. That’s not likely how I would’ve planned it, but in the end that’s part of what made the […]

Easy Breezy: Summer Salads Portuguese Style

As the hottest months quickly approach, I begin to feel the spellbinding sluggishness of a sultry summer day creep up on me. I want nothing more than to lounge around on the weekend, with very little fuss or muss about anything—including cooking. For as much as I enjoy hanging around the kitchen, this time of year, I turn to quick and easy salads. However, any old salad with your standard store-bought dressing won’t do! I can give up my robust Portuguese roasts and hearty stews when the days get warmer, but I still want lots of flavor in my easy salads to stand up to a good glass of wine. Bet you do too. So, thought I would share three […]

Chouriço: Connecting the New and Old World through Smoked Sausage

The night before I drove down to New Jersey to unite with my mother, aunt, cousin and niece to make “chourico” (Portuguese smoked sausage), “O Lenço da Carolina” by Fado singer Cristina Branco came on via Portuguese satellite TV. Though it’s a song about a person in love, all I could think about (as tears unexpectedly streamed down my face) was the immigrant’s journey. In the song, the person in love is giving Carolina a rosemary-scented kerchief. This very same person has tucked a map with an X over their “ninho” (nest), so that Carolina doesn’t forget it or ever get lost. It made me think of the small things that immigrants pack in their suitcases before adventuring on to […]

Part III: An Ode to My Three Grandmothers and Their Portuguese Stories

Editor’s Note: In this three-part series, Sonia shares memories of her three grandmothers in Portugal. How they influenced her curiosity about the country and its culture—in hopes that they’ll also inspire you to continue exploring Portugal, or discover it for the first time. Read Part I and II. There’s always that person in your family that your parents insist you’re like, even if you haven’t had enough contact with that person to justify such similarities. I guess it’s in your genes? That’s likely the case with me and my Avo Ermelinda. A woman that inspires me in spite of the little time I spent with her. My parents are sure that my love for writing comes from her. She wrote poetry. She also loved […]

Part II: An Ode to My Three Grandmothers and Their Portuguese Stories

Editor’s Note: In this three-part series, Sonia shares memories of her three grandmothers in Portugal. How they influenced her curiosity about the country and its culture—in hopes that they’ll also inspire you to continue exploring Portugal, or discover it for the first time.  Read Part 1 here. Part II On my hunt for “Pao de Lo de Ovar,” I walked the city of Ovar (new to me) alone, while my then 89-year-old grandmother (Avo Maze) waited patiently with my husband at an esplanade (open space). I passed ornate buildings with alluring tiled facades that beckoned closer inspection; but I forced myself to focus on my mission. The mission: spongy cake with an egg-cream center. I had heard the best was at a place called “O […]

Part 1: An Ode to My Three Grandmothers and Their Portuguese Stories

Editor’s Note: In this three-part series, Sonia shares memories of her three grandmothers in Portugal. How they influenced her curiosity about the country and its culture—in hopes that they’ll also inspire you to continue exploring Portugal, or discover it for the first time.   I’m fascinated by the stories of women’s lives—especially the stories of my three grandmothers. All three had lives rich in the kind of material great movies and literary works are made of. Why did I have three grandmothers and not two like most people? It’s a long story … But to simplify, I had two paternal grandmothers (“Avo” in Portuguese). There was my biological Avo Ermelinda, and the woman who raised my father, Maria Jose (Avo […]

Portuguese Soup: Recipes during the Chilly Winter Months

Editor’s Note: In December, we posted Beyond ‘Caldo Verde’—Three Soups and Wine Pairings to Try This Season. As per our Catavino reader, Venita Noronha’s request, here are a couple more recipes to enjoy this winter season. When I was growing up, my mother each evening began with a bowl of soup. Sometimes, I would fuss about it like any kid who just wants to get to the main course. My mother would say, “So uma concha,” which means, just one ladle of soup (she always slyly added more despite my moaning and groaning). But as soon as the soup touched my lips, my protests came to an end. My mother’s soups are a treat; and as I got older, I […]

Dieting Food Lover Style: A Portuguese Guide to Healthy Food

I have to admit that I don’t jump right into a rigorous diet on the first day of the New Year. I spend most of January convincing myself that it’s time to cut back on the carbs and desserts and to hit the gym. I ease my way into a new food routine, the one I had before the first signs of the holiday season in America burst into supermarkets in the form of giant turkeys. Like with any type of withdrawal, it’s not easy to recover from nearly three months of intense gorging. I take baby steps towards recovery, and by February, I’m ready to get back to a moderate way of eating. I say moderate, because I’m not […]