Want to try something different this holiday season? Try treating your companion (and yourself!) to some healthy dishes with a Portuguese flavor.
Portugal is a magical place I visited years ago and I have many fond memories of it. Imagine arriving in a village where very few have ever gone to the “big city”, where electricity is limited and a common oven, situated in the middle of the village, is used every day, with the most amazing aromas wafting through the air. That’s paradise; that’s Portugal.
I will never forget sitting at the table with our Portuguese friends, enjoying their annual family celebration with a bounty from the sea and land, like sardines and prawns, fresh from the beautiful ocean waters, served with the most wonderful fruits and vegetables, and the very best homemade bread. I’ll also never forget Blackie, a beach dog who shared our lives and hearts during one of our magical stays in Portugal. Food is a reflection of who we are. It offers us a window into our history, celebrates our culture and traces our values.
Food is like a book of life. This festive season, why not give your holiday fare an exotic flare with some delicious and healthy recipes reminiscent of Portugal. You can share them with your animal companions as well as your human friends and family. As always, try to choose organic products whenever possible.
• 6 fresh cod fillets (you can also use other white fish such as tilapia or sole)
• 3 tomatoes, thinly sliced (equal to three cups)
•1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
•1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
•1 tablespoon paprika
• 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder (or 1 cube)*
•1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
•Freshly ground pepper to taste (optional)
• 1/4 cup first-pressed extra virgin olive oil
•1 cup filtered water*
Layer red bell pepper strips and sliced tomatoes in a large cast iron pan. Arrange the cod fillets on top. Add olive oil and filtered water. Combine the paprika, chicken bouillon powder and cayenne pepper, and sprinkle over the peppers, tomatoes and fish. Add freshly ground pepper and chopped parsley.
Turn stove burner to high. As soon as you hear the sound of the liquid coming to a boil, or very small bubbles begin to appear, turn the heat right down to a low simmer and cover the pan. Cook for 1/2 hour. Remove the pan immediately from the stove, and transfer fish and vegetables to a serving platter.
The dish is ready to serve to your human family. Make sure it is at room temperature before serving to your animal companions. Do not leave the dish on the counter to cool, but refrigerate until ready to serve. This recipe is delicious even when served chilled, and it can also be gently reheated.
*In place of the chicken bouillon powder and filtered water, you can use 1 cup of chicken stock
Tsimmes is a stew of vegetables and/or fruits cooked slowly over very low heat. It can be made with or without meat.* I am always reminded of tsimmes when I think about our time in Portugal, visiting the old Jewish quarter in the city of Tomar. I enjoy making tsimmes a variety of ways; this recipe uses one of Portugal’s most loved spices, cinnamon.
• 3 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, cut into chunks
• 6 red delicious apples or other apples of your choice
•2 large carrots
• 2 cups pure unsweetened, not from concentrate apple juice
•1/4 cup first-pressed extra virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup organic maple syrup (honey can also be used)
•1/2 teaspoon sea salt
•1 tablespoon cinnamon
•Zest of 1 lemon
•1 cup unsulphured, sun dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Combine chopped yams, apples and carrots in a large Pyrex or other baking dish. Add apple juice, olive oil and maple syrup. Add cranberries and then sprinkle with lemon zest, sea salt and cinnamon.
Cover dish with foil and place in oven for 2 hours. This is a perfect dish to prepare ahead of time. It can easily be reheated and it tastes great straight out of the refrigerator. It also makes a terrific hostess gift!
*It is very easy to add meat to your tsimmes. Simply cut 1 pound of stewing meat into 1” cubes. You can also use flanken, also referred to as boiling beef. Sear the meat then add it to your tsimmes to bake along with the fruits and vegetables.
Fish is almost a dietary staple in Portugal, and is lovely poached. Use a pan large enough to lay each piece of fish down flat. Then add enough liquid to just cover the fish. Bring to a simmer. If you see big bubbles coming up from the bottom of the pan, it’s too hot. The ideal temperature for poaching fish is between 165ºF and 180ºF.
• 2 cups turkey sludge (boil the remains of your turkey and scrape off every last bit of remaining meat)
•2 garlic cloves
•1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
•1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
•2 whole eggs
•2 cups whole grain flour of your choice
• 1 tablespoon first-pressed extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Blend all ingredients together in a food processor or mixer. Form dough (the dough will pull away from the side of the food processor or mixing bowl.) Lightly flour a cutting board or counter. Knead the dough about 12 times and then let it stand about 10 minutes. Roll out the dough to about 1/2” in thickness, and cut into desired shapes. You can also place the ball of dough in the middle of the cookie sheet, and using a rolling pin, or even the side of a glass, roll the dough out to each corner of the cookie sheet and lightly score with a sharp knife or pizza cutter.
Before popping the cookie sheet in the oven, you can sprinkle the biscuits with extra parsley and Parmesan cheese, or add a sprinkle of oregano or even catnip for that special feline in your life.
Bake for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 200ºF and bake for about 30 more minutes. Turn the oven off and allow the biscuits to cool completely and get really hard. Store in an airtight container or a Ziploc bag. Refrigeration is recommended. These biscuits freeze well too.