Meat

Portuguese Kale Soup – Caldo Verde

Caldo Verde - Portuguese Kale Soup

I have weird comfort food cravings.  Sometimes it’s grilled sardines.  Sometimes pasta with tuna and peas.  Sometimes paella.  What can I say, I’m a Portuguese gal (and Italian and Irish, so there’s lots of other cravings that go along with comfort).

In the cold of winter, a favorite is Caldo Verde – Portuguese Kale Soup.  My father’s from the Azorean island Sao Miguel, and I’ve been there many times in my 30 years.  It’s so savory and creamy and hearty and spicy and just full of rainy/snowy day deliciousness.

So I was thrilled when I realized how easy it is to make! Some potatoes, kale, butter, chorizo, maybe some leeks… brava!  And it’s so easy that quantity and process are nothing to a bit of inspiration and flow.  I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio last year for a performing gig and upon two visits home to Connecticut my father sent me packing back on the plane with chorizo, kale from the garden and hot pepper.  What more perfect dish to make than caldo verde, no?

Bom Apetite!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 bunch of kale (about 6-8 pieces), shredded thinly
  • 6 small white potatoes
  • 1 large chorico sliced in thin rounds
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Salt to taste
  • Garlic (ground or minced fresh) to taste

Directions:

  • Place shredded kale in a large soup pot and fill 3/4 of the way with water.
  • Add about 2 teaspoons of salt.
  • Peel and half potatoes and include in soup pot.
  • Bring to a medium / high boil and cook until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.
  • Remove potatoes from pot and place in large bowl, blender or food processor with a cup or two of the soup water.
  • Add chorico to soup pot and turn down to low.
  • Blend the potatoes and soup water (with hand mixer or other source) until very smooth.
  • Add back into the soup pot progressively, mixing thoroughly until incorporated.  Add more water if needed to thin the soup a bit.
  • Add butter and olive oil, taste, and add more as desired.
  • Simmer soup at least 1/2 hour or longer

Serve with Portuguese rolls or toasted Italian bread and an awesome red table wine and you’re good to go!

Notes from soup #2, January, 2010

So I made this soup again the first week of 2010, when my father had sent me home some chorico after the holidays.  This chorico was finer than the last, with a glorious dark-pink inside, less fat and thin casing.  Longer than its previous brother, it had a tight, pungent sent, perfect for flavoring the caldo verde that my cold bones were craving!  I varied the process of the recipe, and turned out the same great (albeit slightly pink in tone) soup! It made me realize the amazing flexibility of such a cuisine: because I didn’t want the fresh chorico my dad had sent to go bad,  I used two long pieces instead of one.  This, of course, made me need a bit more water and potatoes.

Directions:

  • Peel and cut about 8 small/medium white potatoes into quarters.  Place in a large soup pot and fill with water until covered, add about 2 tsps salt.  Boil until the potatoes are soft.
  • When cooked thoroughly, remove about a third of the potatoes.  Using a hand blender, blend the contents of the pot until the potatoes are thoroughly dissolved.  If the broth is thin, add the rest of the potatoes progressively and blend.  The consistency should be a little thinner than a pureed sweet potato or squash soup; not watery like a standard chicken or beef broth, but thin enough that the kale and chorico will be able to slide around comfortably.  If too thick, simply add in warm water and stir until you get the desired consistency.  If too thin (like my first attempt with this trial), simply add more potatoes and continue to a thickness you like.
  • Slice the two chorico into disks about 1/4 inch thick, and add to the pot.  Cook about 10 minutes on heat just high enough to keep it at a low boil.  You should start to smell a gloriously rich scent wafting from the pot.
  • Add the 1/2 bunch of shredded kale and cook until soft, about another 10-15 minutes.
  • Drizzle in some olive oil and about 4 tablespoons of butter.

Remember, as I learned quickly, this recipe is really adaptable.  I don’t think any of my relatives ever had a recipe written down, and I never saw them measure a thing when cooking.  Portuguese cooking should be full of tasting, reseasoning, and adding personal touches.  Enjoy!

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Easy, Healthy, Yummy, Lamb and Roast Veg Dinner

There are just some things about living in NYC’s lower east side that you’d be a right nut not to love.  In a total of twenty minutes, I procured a pound and a half of gorgeous local Frenched lamb rib chops from Whole Foods and dried fruits, nuts and a creamy, sharp goat cheese from Russ and Daughter’s (and if you’ve ever tried to go in there on a Sunday, you’d appreciate the spaciousness and quiet going in there early on a Thursday evening provides).  Then I hauled the lot up to a roomy apartment with a great view to gaze out at while I got some work done.

Ok, I don’t live in the LES.  But the current man-in-my-life does, and he’s stuck out of the country on, um, legal matters (insert ominous music).  And while absence does make the heart grow fonder (and crankier), the presence of his apartment and darling roommate do somewhat soften the blow of not knowing when he’s coming back (ooh, it’s scandalous).

(I kid – he’s Canadian.  Not that scandalous.)

So, food and the Canadian.  What’s the connect?

Since I’ve started dating Mr. Current MIML, my playing with meat has lessened to a great degree.  MIML doesn’t eat much meat.  No pork, beef or lamb.  Very little duck.  He does eat shrimp.  I find this out a few dates in and my left arm starts to hurt a bit.  I breathe again when I realize that MIML’s roommate devours meat and likes to cook.

Hence my presence at their apartment this evening with said booty.

I chose lamb ribs because, well, the market had no duck.  And the boys don’t have a proper dutch oven for me to slow-roast anything.  Or a deep saute pan for anything on the stove.  Lamb ribs only require a sheet pan and season delectably with salt, pepper and rosemary, so the list of ingredients that had to be added to their cupboard was minimal.  These ribs cook quickly and are succulent and juicy, an impressive dish for one so simple.

You hear me out there?  If you want to serve up a savory dish that requires little time in the kitchen and will easily impress both a friend who doesn’t know how to George Forman a hamburger and one who believes foie gras is a food group, roast some lamb ribs.  Don’t try to over season or over sauce.  If they’re cooked perfectly, all they need is a minimal amount of love to shine.

The roommate suggested roasted cauliflower with dried apricots and pine nuts.  Russ and Daughter’s didn’t have pine nuts, so raw cashews took the prize.   Delicious addition.  In a relaxed atmosphere we created a simple, healthy, delicious lamb dinner that was the perfect accompaniment to red wine, good conversation, a comfy couch and The Social Network (mixed feelings on that one).

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs lamb rip chops, Frenched (about 5 chops – I got three for the gentleman and two for myself.  Add one or two more each if you’re really hungry)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped small
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper (I usually stock a four-pepper blend – white peppercorns add a fine dimension to meat, in my opinion)
  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1/4 pound raw cashews, chopped
  • 1/4 pound dried apricots, quartered
  • extra virgin olive oil (we used Whole Foods’ organic blend).

Directions

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Place florets in a baking dish and season with salt, pepper and olive oil to taste. Make sure they aren’t crowded in the dish.  Stick on the middle/low rack in the preheated oven.  These will cook for about 20 minutes before you add the lamb.
  • Meanwhile, chop the cashews and toast lightly in a dry frying pan on low heat, until they start to smell nutty and are slightly brown.  Remove from heat to cool.
  • Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray and lay lamb ribs out.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and about 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary.  With your (clean) hands, rub the spices in on both sides until evenly coated.
  • When the cauliflower has been in the oven for at least 20-25 minutes and is starting to soften, place the lamb in, uncovered, on a high rack (2nd down in the oven works best).  Cook for ten minutes, flip and cook for 5-7 minutes more, depending on how rare you like your lamb.
  • Remove all from the oven.  Let the lamb sit for 3 minutes before removing to serving plates.
  • Meanwhile, toss cauliflower with apricots, cashews and a little more olive oil / salt and pepper if necessary.

Buen prubechu!

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