Friday, June 09, 2006

Caldo Verde

I know, I know, I am ruining the order of things. I haven't yet finished the last Sunday Night Dinner recap, and here I am, moving on to something entirely unrelated. But this was exciting for me (likely no one else though). My last Boston Organics box included a bunch of kale.

See it? Top left corner, next to the Massachusetts-raised red leaf lettuce, in my somewhat rushed picture of the box. I had not tried kale before - either cooking or eating it, and have always been somewhat weary of it. I conquered that fear tonight, and made Caldo Verde (aka Portuguese Green soup) following a recipe kindly included with my vegetables. I checked, and the recipe looked authentic enough. Unfortunately, I had to leave out the linguica (Portuguese sausage) which is always used in the soup - taunted by pork products yet again. The recipe included in my box said the soup doesn't suffer terribly for the loss.

Caldo Verde is basically a smooth potato soup with kale added at the end of the cooking. Smooth soup means I get to use one of my very favorite kitchen toys - my immersion blender, a birthday gift from my aunt. I didn't mess with the recipe too much, other than leaving out the sausage and using chicken stock in place of water to add more flavor to the soup. The recipe starts by sautéing the onions and garlic, as many soups do. The next step calls for sautéing the raw potatoes. I was puzzled by this until I saw what was happening to the potatoes - cooking the raw potatoes in a dry pot made them begin to release their starch. I could see the starch collecting on the sides of the pot and making the potato slices stick together. Brilliant! Rendering starch out of the potatoes before adding the liquid probably leads to a smoother and creamier soup.

The kale is added at the end as it needs far less time to cook than the potatoes. Kale wasn't as scary as I thought; it was very easy to work with. I cut out the tough stem from each leaf, although I am not sure that was necessary. Was that necessary? I am a kale novice. That goes for all greens, actually. Have to work on that.

The soup turned out well. The potato base was smooth and thick enough to hold the kale afloat (I added only some of the chicken stock at the beginning of the cooking so as to control the thickness of the soup at the end). The kale was tender and tasted fresh as contrasted with the potato base. I think the texture of kale was what initially scared me - I always imagined that a lot of chewing isinvolved with kale, but that wasn't the case at all. It was a lot like spinach in taste, but just a little coarser. I will definitely make this soup again, maybe even with another green of some sort, like chard. If the rain keeps up in Boston, I will be making this soup again very soon. I didn't know that Boston had monsoon season...

1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
salt, white and black pepper, to taste
1 bunch of kale, washed and trimmed
2 quarts chicken stock

1) In a large soup pot over medium high heat, heat the oil.
2) Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes.
3) Add the potatoes and sauté for 3 more minutes, stirring constantly (everyone now knows how I love to
stir constantly).
4) Add cold chicken stock and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover the pot. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are falling apart.
5) Puree the soup (with a nifty immersion blender, perhaps?) and season with salt and pepper. Return the soup to medium heat and warm.
6) Shred the kale leaves, add them to the soup and simmer for 5 minutes until the leaves are bright green and tender.

Do you see why this kale-containing soup was so exciting for me? I have a new vegetable? leaf? something, to add to my repertoire. I will finish the Sunday Night Dinner post soon. Really, I will.

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