Farofa à Brasileira
by Jen Zern
It’s not hard to find a Brazilian-inspired dish on an otherwise all-American menu on Martha’s Vineyard. Or, for that matter, at any Island grocer that sells Brazilian ingredients, which speaks to both the proliferation of Brazilian cooks and the culinary demands of an established immigrant community.
Laura Weisman (née Ferreira de Camargo) came to Martha’s Vineyard for love. A native of cosmopolitan Sao Paulo and an avid sailor, Laura moved to St. Thomas in the 90s and while on that island, met “An American guy living on a boat.” This “American guy” was Vineyard-based architect Jamie Weisman. They married in 1997 and settled in Vineyard Haven soon after.
Their son, Nathaniel, will be seven in July. He speaks both English and Portuguese, and he loves his mother’s cooking— especially her Farofa à Brasileira.
The word farofa refers to the use of cassava (also called yuca, or manioc) flour. This mealy, gluten-free starch can be prepared by itself as a side dish, or as a finishing texturizer for vegetables or meat. Its coarse, sandy quality can feel a bit foreign to taste buds not familiar with Brazilian cooking—Laura recalls that her husband “didn’t get it at first.”
“Americans put flour in so many things, but it’s never the star of the dish. He was thrown off by the texture. But next thing I know, he starts asking me to make it,” Laura says of her husband.
The beauty of it is its versatility: you can make a farofa dish with just about any ingredients you have on hand. It can be a heavy, not-so-healthy affair, or it can be light and healthy—it all depends on how it’s prepared. It can be quick and easy, too, and that’s important to Laura—not only because she’s a busy working mom (she works as an outreach coordinator and translator for Healthy Vida/MV Partnership for Health, and also occasionally for a caterer), but also because her family spends four months of the year at sea. During the off-season, the Weismans live comfortably in a home of Jamie’s design. In the summertime, however, they rent out the house and crowd into their 50-foot schooner.
Whether she’s moored in the Vineyard Haven harbor or traversing the Atlantic, it’s essential that when it’s her night to cook, Laura whips up something healthy, versatile, fast, and easy—and her take on Farofa à Brasileira is all of the above.