Spiced Up Portuguese Cockles

My husband had been traveling through Korea and China on business for two weeks. Obviously, I was going to make whatever he wanted when he returned to welcome him home. Through Skype, I asked him what he was craving after eating deep fried everything in China. He said that everything I blogged while he was away looked so good and he was looking forward to anything healthy again. I then got him to narrow that down. He wanted cockles.

Mmmmmm cockles! My man is very lucky to have married a Portuguese girl! I grew up watching both my Vovo (grandmother) and mother cook incredible creations in the kitchen with such ease. These ladies never ever had to follow recipes. They would just create culinary masterpieces. I like to think that growing up exposed to this is what has instilled in me my love of cooking. Following in their footsteps, I don’t use recipes either…I create them.

I wish my Vovo were around to see my creations. She passed away in 1999, before I ever even fathomed that I would be blogging. I credit my love of cooking to those hours I spent watching her seamlessly make meals to feed our family.

Not all supermarkets and fish markets will have cockles. Quite frankly, I have no clue where to purchase them other than the Portuguese supermarket called Seabras. I am pretty sure that Seabras does not exist outside of New Jersey. If you can’t find cockles, this recipe would be delicious with any small clam. The smaller the better! Also, piri piri isn’t that readily accessible. I am slowly using up my supply that I got on our perfect honeymoon to the Mediterranean. Any chili powder would work as a substitution.

Without further ado, I bring you Spiced Up Portuguese Cockles!

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Ingredients:
2 pounds cockles – washed in cold water
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion – chopped
5 cloves garlic – minced
2 red bell peppers – chopped
1 green bell pepper – chopped
1 cup white wine
1/4 tsp piri piri (not going to lie, I put much more in, but not everyone loves spicy food like we do!)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Over medium high heat, heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add onion and garlic, and sauté while frequently stirring until onion is translucent and garlic is lightly browned.
2. Add peppers, and cook for about 5 minutes until very fragrant.
3. Add wine and piri piri. Allow to reduce for 5 more minutes.
4. Make sure that your molho (Portuguese term that could mean any type of sauce from meat drippings to gravy) is delicious by adding salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a slow boil.
5. Add cockles, stir, and cover. Cook while shaking it up ever few minutes. Once all cockles are open, you are ready to serve it piping hot with some delicious Portuguese bread on the side for dipping!
6. Enjoy to the very last bite! As you can see here, my hubby sure did:
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Spicy Campfire Garlic Shrimp

After a long day of hiking, the last thing I want to do is attempt to prepare dinner in the woods. I was able to prepare this the day before, and then just make a fire to cook it up! I used frozen shrimp, which thawed overnight in the cooler, but ensured freshness.

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Ingredients:
2 dozen frozen, large, peeled shrimp
1/4 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves – minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 tsp piri piri (or substitute chili powder)
Salt and Pepper

1. Before leaving on your camping trip, combine all ingredients in a ziplock bag. Keep shrimp frozen if you plan on using the next day, or defrost if you are going to use that night.
2. When ready to cook, build a hot fire to produce embers. Make a flat pile of them and place a flame resistant pot directly on them.
3. Add shrimp, stirring frequently. Depending on temperature, cook time may vary. Cook until shrimp curl and are pink, approximately 10 minutes.

Grilled Whole Bronzini with Spiced Up Lemon Molho

We have a little Mediterranean seafood restaurant in town where we have always enjoyed grilled bronzini (sometimes also referred to as branzini or Mediterranean sea bass). The waiter always looks at us a bit funny when we stop him from filleting it for us at the table. Why order the whole fish if you don’t enjoy all of the perks of it?! The little morsels of meat that get stuck to the bone are scrumptious, and the itty bitty “cheek” is the best part of the whole meal!

Luckily, we were able to sample some bronzini while on our Mediterranean honeymoon of a lifetime, which makes it a romantic dish for us. I was thrilled to see it at the Portuguese supermarket today (on the way back from Social Security Administration… Changing your name is NO fun) and immediately knew I wanted to surprise my hubby with it tonight! I am adding a Portuguese twist by creating a piri piri molho (directly translated means “gravy” but could also mean “sauce” or “juice”) to drizzle on top of the fish and serving with a fresh crispy salad.
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Ingredients:
2 whole Bronzino – gutted and scaled
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup olive oil + a drizzle
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup white wine
1 small onion slivered
1 tsp. piri piri (or substitute chili powder)
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. Rinse fish, pat dry, drizzle with olive oil, and rub with kosher salt.
2. Preheat grill to medium high heat. Grill for 5-7 minutes per side.
3. While fish is grilling, heat olive oil and onions over medium high heat in a small saucepan until fragrant. Add remaining ingredients except for parsley and simmer until fish is cooked.
4. When fish is done, remove from grill, and plate. Stir parsley into molho and pour over each fish.

Piri Piri Barbecue Sauce

Growing up with my Portuguese family, there was no such thing as barbecue sauce as Americans know it. Yes, that sweet, thick, and sticky BBQ sauce is finger licking good, but as far as I am concerned doesn’t compare! This sauce is so flavorful and is excellent on grilled chicken, ribs, or pork chops.

The only hard part to this recipe is finding piri piri powder. Piri piri is a type of chili pepper that grows in Africa. Substituting any chili powder would be fine. Piri piri is quite hot, and you may want to cut down on the amount if you aren’t into the extra spicy sauce.

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Ingredients:
4 cloves garlic – minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp. dried piri piri

1. In a sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat, add garlic, and sauté for 3 minutes.
2. Add wine and lemon juice and sauté until reduced to half.
3. Add ketchup and piri piri and stir well. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
4. Use on grilled meats as you would bbq sauce.