Sunday, July 8, 2007

Caldo Verde / Portuguese Kale Soup

We've been taking home enormous bunches of kale from the farm, and in the interest of putting it to good use, I've been planning to make a huge pot of caldo verde, or Portuguese kale soup.

Caldo verde, literally "green soup," is said to have originated in the northern region of Portugal. It's eaten all over the country, and is considered by many to be the Portuguese national dish.

It doesn't look like the most beautiful soup, but don't be fooled by its humble appearance. Wonderfully comforting and surprisingly filling, it is thick with creamy potato and thin ribbons of jade-green kale. It's also a great way to incorporate healthy greens into your diet: kale is naturally high in antioxidants, calcium, and vitamin B. If you're feeling under the weather, this is the perfect antidote (bonus: if you choose spicy over mild chouriço (pork sausage), it will clear your sinuses, too!).

If you're vegetarian, omit the chouriço, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and add a cup or two of cooked white beans for protein.

You can eat caldo verde as a first course, or on its own as a one-dish dinner. Try it in June and July, when kale is at its peak.

Caldo Verde - Portuguese Kale Soup
serves 4 as a main course

1 large bunch of kale, cut into as fine chiffonade as you can manage*
3 pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 cloves garlic, minced
one handful scallions, sliced into thick rounds
8 ounces mild or spicy chouriço, sliced into thin rounds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste (this will depend on the saltiness of your chouriço and broth)
64 ounces (8 cups) chicken broth

Toss the chouriço rounds into a large heavy pot (3+ quarts, preferably enamel) and turn burner heat to medium. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until they release a fair amount of their paprika-laced oil, but before they get really browned. Turn off the heat, remove the chouriço to a plate and pour off all but a tablespoon of the oil.

Return the burner heat to medium. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the pot with the chouriço oil and let it heat up for about 30 seconds. Add garlic and scallions and saute for 2 minutes, stirring often, until the garlic is slightly coloured. Do not let the garlic get too brown, or it will turn bitter. Add potatoes cubes and broth, and turn the heat to high. Cover and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, turn the soup back to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. When the potatoes are done, use a potato masher (carefully, as the soup is still hot) to coarsely mash the potato cubes. This will give you a lovely thickened broth with a satisfying chunky texture. Add the kale ribbons and gently simmer the soup for another few minutes, until the kale has softened slightly.

I like to let it rest, covered and off the heat, for 15 minutes, to let the flavours soften and meld. Serve with thick slices of good, crusty bread.

* To chiffonade kale, break off the stems where they start to produce leaves. Pile 6-8 leaves on top of each other and roll them up lengthwise, tightly, like a cigar. Starting at the top of the roll, use a very sharp knife to cut the thinnest slices you can manage (if you're like me, you'll end up with some thick ones- this isok !). Continue slicing down the cigar until you reach the bottom end of the kale. You should have a pile of very thin kale ribbons.


Anonymous said...

the best fucking soup i have ever tasted!!!!!!!

la petite gourmande said...

Fucking awesome! :) Glad you liked it!