July 08, 2014

What gets you excited? I mean really EXCITED. For some people, it's travel, great food, or a sun-soaked day spent by the water. For others, it's a new book, time spent with family, or discovering what newfangled consumer ridiculousness SkyMall will ply us with on our next flight. If you're a sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea, crabby patties do it for you. Point being, there's an endless deluge of nouns and verbs that get folks excited. But what gets me and the majority of the world excited today, July 8, 2014? The first World Cup semi-final, of course! It's Brazil pitted against the Germans. And y'all...I couldn't be more excited if I tried.

Today's bout has all the makings of an insta-classic. The Seleção have won the World Cup more than any other country (5 times), while Die Mannschaft return to the semifinal stage an unprecedented fourth consecutive time (they've also won the whole thing three times). These countries have produced some of the best players in fútbol history, to boot: Pele, Kahn, Ronaldo, Ballack, Ronaldinho, Beckenbauer, Cafu, Klinsmann, Zico… I could go on and on. In layman's terms, this game is the equivalent of Hulk Hogan getting down and dirty in the ring against The Rock. Cue the Olivia Newton-John if you'd like, because it's gonna get real physical.

Would you prefer your match with a side of drama? Well…go on, have a pinch. Or a whole gravy-boat full if you must, because Brazil's best player, Neymar, is out today after having a vertebrae fractured against Colombia. And their best defensive player, Thiago Silva, is sitting this one out after picking up a late (and careless) yellow card in that game.

Strap in, ladies and gentlemen. Regardless of the outcome, this is a game you won't want to miss.

Match of the Day: Brazil vs. GermanyWhy is this our match of the day? Because it's the only one, silly goose. Even if it wasn't, though, this is where you want to fix your peepers come 3 p.m. CST. Many pundits will be picking the German machine to keep rolling in this rematch of the 2002 Final, but never underestimate the home team. Sure, they don't have their top attacking threat (see: Neymar), and sure, Germany has been gaining steam and confidence as the tournament presses ever onwards. [Author's note: here comes a big ol' but] BUT, never count out a team with a clear purpose. And Brazil's purpose today is to win for their injured teammate. As Neymar put this team on his back through the early group stage games, expect his teammates to repay the favor by carrying Brazil through to the Final. The Canarinhos will find a way today. My Pick: Brazil 2, Germany 1

Person to Watch: Luiz Felipe Scolari 

Brazil's fearless leader, "Big Phil" as they call him (not to be confused with this Big Phil, may he rest in peace) will have his work cut out for him today. He's coached Brazil to glory before (2002 WC), and will need to pull out all the stops if he hopes to get past Germany. Absent two key players, expect to see a different Brazil than we've seen all tournament. It'll be interesting to see what formation he goes with or who he replaces Neymar with (Willian?), but rest assured he'll have his squad ready to win.

Match Day Dish: Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqeuca de Peixe)When in Rome and all that jazz, am I right? Originating in the tropical climate of Brazil's Bahia state, this hearty stew is enriched by healthy coconut milk and works well with just about any fresh seafood. Whip this up after the host country kicks ze Germans to the curb. After you've whipped it up, take some photos and send them to our Instagram account for a chance to win cool prizes (details here). Happy World Cup semifinal day! Cheers.

Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqueca de Peixe)Hands-on Time: 36 min. Total Time: 1 hr. 19 min.

  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) sea bass or halibut fillet, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 3/4 cup minced green onions (about 1 bunch)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups chopped tomato (about 2 large)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro, divided
  • 2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
    1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl; toss to coat. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes.
    2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, green onions, garlic, and bay leaf; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high; add tomato, and cook 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup cilantro, clam juice, and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
    3. Place one-third of vegetable mixture in a blender, and puree until smooth. Pour pureed vegetable mixture into pan. Repeat procedure with remaining vegetable mixture. Add coconut milk and red pepper to pureed vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook 3 minutes. Add fish mixture; cook 3 minutes or until fish is done. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cilantro.
     

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