Last year, when tests showed that her 26-year-old daughter, Katia Reiser, had an ovarian tumor with cancerous cells, Vera Hasler Port of Arnold prayed hard.
She vowed that if Reiser were spared, she would do everything she could to help the Santo Antonio Orphanage and Educational Center in her native Salvador, Bahia, in northeastern Brazil.
Surgery was successful, and Port, 62, is working hard to fulfill her promise in a way she knows best -- by cooking. Bahian specialties will highlight a Brazilian Food Festival this weekend at her small Severna Park restaurant, Vera's Bakery and Cafe, to benefit Santo Antonio.
"I made a promise to help the center if Katia recovered," Port said. "Whatever I can do to help, I will do."
The $30 "all-you-can-eat" dinner will be held Saturday and Sunday at the restaurant at 548 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd., off Ritchie Highway. Reservations can be made for sittings at 5:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. by calling 410-647-3337.
A similar festival last year raised more than $1,000 for the orphanage. Port said that all profits from the event again will go to Santo Antonio.
The complex cares for 600 children from infancy to age 8 and includes a medical center and social-work center to serve Bahia's poor. It was founded by Irma Dulce, a nun known as "Bahia's Good Angel," who has been the subject of a beatification movement since her death in 1992 at age 77.
"I met Irma Dulce when I was 12 or 13," Port recalled. "She would come to the schools in Bahia seeking donations. She worked in the lowest part of the city, where the poorest of the poor people lived, the sickest of the sick; she would take care of them, no matter what. She was wonderful, like Mother Teresa."
Port and her husband, Joe Port, a retired U.S. Navy officer, recently sent a package of clothing to Bahia with their daughter, "but I think the money is better; that way they can buy what they need," she said. "I've seen what wonderful work those nuns do. My family still in Brazil assists them, too."
The Ports opened their cozy Anne Arundel restaurant, tucked into a shopping center, five years ago as a bakery. It then grew to a breakfast and lunch stop, and now serves dinner as well.
This year's Brazilian Food Festival will feature traditional favorites including moqueca, a fish and shellfish stew cooked with vegetables; feijoada completa, the Brazilian national dinner of black beans cooked with sausage and dried meats; and ximxim de galinha, chicken sauteed and cooked with shrimp, vegetables, coconut milk and cilantro.
Molho de Churrasco (Salsa-Like Sauce)
1 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, 4 or 5 branches, chopped fine
1/4 bunch fresh parsley, 4 or 5 branches, chopped fine
1 cup tomato, chopped small
1 cup green pepper, chopped small
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or a couple of fresh garlic cloves, chopped fine
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar (red or white)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
sprinkle black pepper
few drops Tabasco sauce, or to taste
pinch of ground cumin
Mix ingredients in bowl. Keep in refrigerator until served. The sauce often is served with churrasco, Brazilian-style grilled beef, pork and chorizo, which will be served at the benefit.
Caldo Verde (Potato and Kale Soup)
1/4 pound linguica, chorizo or (more easily obtained here) garlic-seasoned smoked pork sausage
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, pared and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh kale or collard greens
Add sausage to 6 cups of simmering water in a large saucepan. Simmer 10 minutes; remove sausage, cut into thin slices and reserve. Bring the water to a boil; add potatoes and cook until soft. Remove from heat and mash potatoes in their liquid with olive oil, salt and pepper. Wash the kale, removing stems; shred leaves fine. Add kale to the potatoes and bring to a boil over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sausage pieces and boil 1 minute before serving.
iceberg and romaine lettuces
hearts of palm
black and green olives
slices of tropical fruit, such as mango, optional
Spread iceberg and romaine lettuce leaves (or similar greens) on a dish, add slices of hard-boiled egg, palm hearts (palmito) and avocado, and black and green olives. Top with slices of tropical fruit, if desired. Serve with Brazilian Vinaigrette (recipe follows).
olive or vegetable oil
vinegar (red or white)
salt, pepper to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Combine 3 parts olive or vegetable oil to 1 part red or white vinegar and 1 part water. Add sugar, salt, pepper, lemon juice and garlic powder. Mix well and spoon over salad.
Bananas a Brasileira (Fried Bananas)
4 firm bananas, barely ripe
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
butter or vegetable oil
Peel the bananas and cut each into 4 pieces; roll in egg, then in bread crumbs, and cook in butter in skillet until golden brown. The bananas make a sweet addition to various dishes.