A beach day on the southeastern coast of Brazil requires many supplies beyond a towel and sunscreen. Your day trip from São Paulo is well provisioned and won’t be complete without chairs, tables, multiple barbecue grills, coolers, cups, and dishware, as well as a speaker blaring music. The food that best sustains an all-day beach retreat is freshly grilled, so bring along marinating meats (stored in plastic bags) and throw them right on the barbecue grill when the coals are hot.
In Brazilian Portuguese, a beach-goer who hauls extensive supplies to stay at the beach all day, eating freshly-grilled food, is called farofeiro. The adjective is derived from the popular breadcrumb-like side dish, farofa: toasted cassava flour served with barbecue or meats and bean stew to soak up the juices and add crunch. Sand-covered bodies resemble steak powdered with farofa, and the most prepared beach-goer will go so far as to prepare farofa on the beach.
Farinha (pronuounced far-EEN-ya) is the Portuguese name for the flour made of dried and milled cassava. In English, this is known as cassava flour or manioc flour, and in the US it is available online or in grocery stores that serve the Brazilian immigrant populations. Like all cassava products, farinha is gluten-free, and is occasionally stocked in that aisle.
You can prepare this BBQ side on any stovetop, whether or not you are beach-bound. Serve with juicy meats by scooping directly onto your plate and coating individual bites in the toasty crumbs. Tapping your meat on the farofa adds flavor and contrasting texture to the classic grilled meats of Brazilian barbecue.
Farofa comes together quickly but requires a careful eye to prevent burning. After sautéing an onion in butter until translucent, stir in the cassava flour until it absorbs all of the butter. Using a wooden spoon, gently fold the farofa over itself to stir constantly, until the mixture is golden brown and aromatic, the texture of breadcrumbs.
Just before serving, stir in a mix of chopped green onions and parsley to add color and cut the buttery farofa with a sharp, bright aroma. These herbs are an oft-used combination in Brazil known as cheiro verde (green scent). It mixes well with the aromas of SPF 50 sunscreen.
Serves 6 as a side
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
Salt to taste
2 cups cassava flour
3 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring, for 7 minutes, or until onion is translucent.
- Add the cassava flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, or until the mixture is golden brown and smells toasted.
- Remove from heat and stir in scallions and parsley. Serve alongside juicy grilled meats or meat and bean stew.
Ariana Gunderson. Adapted from Marta Pinheiro.
Thank you to Sheryl Julian for your edits and teachings.