Chef Carolina Santos-Neves. Photo by Mirella Cheeseman
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Chef Carolina Santos-Neves. Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

Carolina Santos-Neves was born in Geneva, Switzerland, and because of her father’s job as a Brazilian ambassador, she spent her childhood living in many places across the globe including Brasilia, Mexico City and New York. She is a partner and chef at the restaurants Comodo and Colonia Verde in New York City, as well as Comparti Catering, all of which are fueled by Latin American cooking influences.

Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

Carolina at Balsam Farms with the farm’s co-owner, Ian Calder-Piedmonte. Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

Every summer Carolina comes out to the East End and we throw a couple of dinner parties together. This year, to kick off summer, I asked her to come up with a special recipe for Hamptons Beachouse using our local bounty of fresh fish. We stopped by Gosman’s Fish Market in Montauk to pick up local black sea bass, squid and scallops; and then Balsam Farms in Amagansett for produce for our side dishes – kale, asparagus, and radishes. Carolina came up with a killer twist on a moqueca (a typical Brazilian fish stew that comes from Bahia and Espirito Santo) that is flavorful, fresh and light!

But before we get to the recipe, let’s get to know the chef, because like any great dinner party at the beach, getting to know the person who is making the food and where it comes from, makes it taste that much sweeter…

What is you first beach memory?

Being in Rio! My grandmother and grandfather lived there. The beaches of Rio are magical… you have an incredible mountain range with a view of the Christ the Redeemer statue and the Sugar Loaf peak. There are amazing Portuguese style mosaic calçadas (sidewalks) designed with different sized stones. Some days they close off the streets bordering the beach so everyone just walks up and down, especially in Ipanema. Rio is broken up into different sections, and each area has its own personality.

What is the beach culture like in Rio?

People go to the beach ALL day. There are tents called barracas where you can rent umbrellas and chairs. There are people selling Picolés (popsicles) – there are fruit ones, like passion fruit and mango, or coconut. There is one that is just condensed milk, very rich. And shrimp on a stick and grilled cheese – actual pieces of grilled cheese – corn on the cob, fresh coconut water. Over the years these places, the huts, have become more commercialized, but the beach is still an all day thing. They embrace the tan. There is a joke that in Rio you tan standing up – people are always standing and looking around. One of my favorite parts of being in Rio is sunset – it can be so incredible that everyone on the beach claps.

What would you eat at the beach?

Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

At home my grandmother would make lunch around 1:30-2pm. There was always rice and beans and farofa, a toasted yucca flour that you mix in with the rice and beans. There was usually some kind of French fry situation as well as meat, a steak or bife acebolado – beef sautéed with onion. Super simple and totally delicious. For special occasions, she would make a dish from Portugal, cocido, a wide range of root vegetables that are boiled and served with meats. It’s an all day meal – you generally have people over for a late lunch. She often made Bobó de camarão, a shrimp based stew with yucca and a little bit of coconut milk. There is a lot of shrimp and coconut milk used in Brazilian cooking and dende oil, which is essentially made from palm fruit. She would also make bacalhau, salt cod, another Portugese dish for New Year’s. She would soak it in milk or water for a couple of days, add potatoes, tomatoes, olives and a ton of olive oil. The consistency is firm, but delicate.

What is your favorite fish?

Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

Whole fish, like Branzino, grilled. Sardines. Octopus. Scallops. In Brasilia there was a place called Francisco’s where you could get tambaqui Amazon fish, a big meaty fish simply prepared on the grill. I’ve never had it anywhere else.

Ideal number of people for a dinner party?

That’s easy. Eight. It allows people to get to know each other. You will eventually exchange words with everyone throughout the night and make genuine connections, or not.

What’s the sign of a good dinner party?

Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

Timelessness. When you get there and people are still prepping it’s lovely, as opposed to, you’ve arrived, let’s sit. No sense of rush; everyone is feeling very present. I like to eat early, but over the years I’ve let that go for dinner parties. You will eventually eat. It’s going to be okay. Just enjoy yourself.

What do you love about the Hamptons?

I have a lot of great memories with friends here. Cooking of course. Even if I’m just here for twenty-four hours, it’s always worth it to me. The days feel longer. I love the farms. You can really tell the difference with amazing fresh produce like the just-picked kale we got for our salad.

The finished stew! Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

The finished Moqueca! Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

What do you want to tell us about the recipe you created for us?

I love Brazilian food, but I do think it can be a heavy cuisine in a lot of ways. So I did a twist on a moqueca, which generally uses dende oil. Dende adds a lot of color, but also makes it a bit heavy. The Bahiano version of this dish traditionally also uses coconut milk, which is great but can also be very rich. In this recipe, I replaced coconut milk with coconut water and replaced dende oil with coconut oil, and added turmeric for color, which also happens to be great for reducing inflammation. I used fish sauce as a replacement for dried shrimp, which is not necessarily used in this particular dish, but is found in a lot of Brazilian cooking, an influence from Africa. I served farro with sautéed shallots along with the stew, instead of the usual rice. It adds a nice nuttiness, and I like the contrast in consistency.

Recipe | Serves 8

MONTAUK MOQUECA

Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

A note from Carolina: I loved making this dish, because I cherish any dish that reminds me of the part of me that is Brazilian. This Moqueca recipe is nice and light and beautiful to look at. I replaced the coconut milk with coconut water, and replaced dende oil with a combination of turmeric for the color, and coconut oil for its health benefits and flavor. I also added fish sauce for a little added unexpected flavor, but remember it has sodium, so don’t oversalt the dish! I recommend using local fish whenever possible. Just remember, the white fish needs to be firm, and not too delicate. And though it may seem like you’re not cooking the fish long enough, you are. Serve with steamed rice or farro.

Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ lbs striped bass, skin removed, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 ½ lbs sea scallops
  • ½ lb whole squid, cleaned, tentacles separated from body, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (add half to the marinating fish and half to the stew)
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey (depending on taste and sweetness of coconut water)
  • juice from 4 limes
  • 4 ¼ cups coconut water
  • 6 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 ½ lbs fresh tomatoes, pureed in blender
  • 1 vidalia onion, chopped
  • ½ large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper chopped
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • fresh cracked pepper
    Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

    Photo by Mirella Cheeseman.

Garnish:

  • toasted coconut (optional)
  • ½ jalapeno, seeds removed minced
  • raw corn from 2 cobs
  • a handful of fresh cilantro, cleaned, stems removed, chopped

Preparation:

  1. Pat fish fillets dry, do the same with the scallops and the squid. Add to a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together coconut oil, honey, and two minced garlic cloves; pour this evenly over the seafood and let marinate, covered and chilled for at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine lime juice, coconut water, and fish sauce; set aside.
  3. Heat a large heavy duty pot (I love cast iron) over med-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, and once it’s hot add the onions to the pan and sauté, stirring often until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining minced garlic to the pan and sauté for an additional 30 seconds. Add turmeric, two pinches of salt, cracked pepper and stir.
  4. Pour tomato puree into the pot, and bring to a boil once again. Add coconut water mixture. Let reduce for about 20 minutes or until it reduces by half.
  5. Five minutes before you are ready to serve, add the squid, 40 seconds later add the fish, and lastly add the scallops. Turn off the heat and let the fish cook in the residual heat for a few minutes.
  6. Plate each dish, and garnish with corn, jalapeno, cilantro and the optional toasted coconut. Serve with grain of choice.
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