Just when you thought there was nothing more comforting, nothing more humble, nothing better for the day you look in the recycling bin and wonder who exactly (hmm…can’t recall really…) finished that bottle of Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey, just when you thought there was nothing cheaper than a packet of 10 for $1.00 Ramen Noodles, there is Caldo Verde soup.
Caldo Verde is what I serve when the cupboards are bare, my wallet is empty, the whiskey is gone, when I’m in dire need of vegetal liquids, and my kitchen is full of guests.
Since this happens more than once per year, I’ve actually gotten to be quite obsessed with Caldo Verdo. In fact, each year I grow a whole bed of Beira Kale, the official kale used in this, Portugal’s national dish.
Beira’s nubile inner leaves are gorgeous in salads and as they continue to grow to the size of elephant ears, they are still sweet and delicious. I save the stems for juice or the odd sauerkraut experiment (which often fails miserably).
If you attempt this super-easy recipe, you’ll soon realize that one of the reasons Beira is the Caldo Verde kale of choice is its flat, easy to chop leaf. None of that frilly or nubbly kale for me!
I’m so in love with Beira Kale that I use it for way more than Caldo Verde. Once you learn how to chop it (step-by-step, idiot-proof directions below), your whole attitude about the Cruciferous leaf of the Brassicaceae family will change. You will no longer boil-the-hell-out, you will forever more flash cook.
For all of you corner-cutters like me out there, there is no skipping out on your knife skills here. The only truly necessário step is cutting the kale into baby fine slices. Your CALDO VERDE WILL FAIL if you wimp out with the Henckel.
This is both a humble dish and a luxurious delight. You will find as many variations on this recipe as there are for chocolate brownies but I never switch it up from this, the simplest one. I rarely even add the chouriço and instead go pure green. I look forward to it all year and could eat it everyday for breakfast and lunch.
Olive oil is an important flavor here. Don’t skimp and use the almost-best-stuff you have in your cupboard. If you want to be super-sexy and the wallet don’t mind, as always break out the big bottle of Badia a Coltibuono.
CALDO VERDE SOUP
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
10 ounces dry or already-cooked chouriço, sliced into ‘coins’ (optional)
6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
8 cups cold water
1 pound kale (ideally Beira), stems removed, cut into very fine julienne – *see photos for instructions
Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent but not at all brown. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes, cover with the water, bring to a boil and lower the heat. Cook until the potatoes are almost done, about 15-20 minutes.
2. When the potatoes mash up easily, lightly purée the ‘broth’ with an immersion blender. I usually leave a few chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Keep the broth piping hot.
3. Divide the finely sliced (uncooked) kale into four pretty bowls. Ladle the broth over the kale. If you want to use chouriço add it now on top like a garnish.
Take your boots off before you come in here!