So here we are. Like most Americans, we’re waking up in varying degrees to a food hangover. After a day of thankfulness, football and food, we’re all probably thinking about dialing it back a bit. After, of course, a breakfast of pumpkin pie. And a turkey sandwich. After all, what is Thanksgiving without leftovers?? An honest assessment of the situation is this: we are now right in the thick of the holiday food scene. The next 4-5 weeks will be full of holiday parties and more blowout meals. It’s here people and I love every minute of it.
Today maybe we want to take it easy, just a little. Slow down our roll into the holiday feeding frenzy. If we’re honest, we probably want something green, something healthy-ish. A green vegetable that’s not bathed in butter and wrapped in bacon, as delicious as that is, might be nice right now. Can it also be something easy after the cooking extravaganza that is Thanksgiving? Sure. May I present to you a delightful little Portuguese soup known as Caldo Verde?
Known as “green soup”, it’s an uncomplicated dish common throughout Portugal made of greens and a few simple vegetables. I was first charmed by caldo verde in that lovely country many, many years ago and have been making it ever since. Ubiquitous, on nearly every menu across the country, I think I ate 22 bowls during my visit, each one equally delicious. Thinly sliced kale, onions, potatoes, garlic and sometimes with meat such as Portuguese sausage, other times not, it was always wonderful even in the heat of those late summer days. Wandering the Lisbon markets, I was delighted to discover tables piled high with pre-cut kale, shredded into impossibly thin ribbons. Housewives buy it buy the bagful for this very purpose. Back home, we’re not so lucky and have to do it ourselves. I need to find myself a caldo verde vendor.
This peasant dish is wonderfully satisfying as only dishes of that genre can be. In it’s simplest form the kale, or some times collard greens, is typically simmered in water until tender though I greatly prefer chicken stock, with a few potatoes, a sautéed onion and some seasonings. You can add sausage or a ham hock if you like, but I often don’t. I like it just the way it is – fresh, nourishing, and warm. Nothing overly complicated about it and everything delicious about it.
Last week as I closed up my little garden plot for the summer, I eyed the abundant kale and knew exactly what I was going to make. The air had taken on a distinct chill. It was caldo verde time. Having no vendor at my farmer’s market with a big pile of thinly cut leaves (I’m still looking), I removed the stems from my kale, rolled the leaves up into tight cigars and sliced them as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife. I’ve been told that frugal Portuguese housewives finely chop the stems for the soup too, which is a fantastic idea. A sautéed onion, a little garlic, a few potatoes and some simple seasonings, I had a delicious warming soup within a half hour that reminded me of those sunny days on the beautiful Portuguese coast. It may be time for another visit.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: BACK ON THE BANDWAGON. I think it’s fair to say we’re going through a period of kale fatigue. It’s everywhere, in everything and we just can’t take it anymore. So let’s look to a soup that’s used kale since the beginning of time, before trendy salads, obnoxious chips and strange juices. Where it’s not an “on trend” ingredient but one that’s been used by housewives longer than anyone can remember. There’s a reason for this; it’s delicious.
Six years ago: Pumpkin Bundt Cake
Five years ago: French Apple Tart
Four years ago: Salted Caramel Apple Pie
Three years ago: Kale & Squash Salad
Two years ago: Apple Cider Rolls
Last year: Port Wine Cheese Log
This is an incredibly easy soup to pull together quickly. I like the Tuscan kale variety here, cavolo nero, but standard curly kale workes equally well as do collard greens. If you like, finely dice the kale stems and sauté along with the onions.
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 pound russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
6 cups chicken stock
¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
1 pound kale, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves very thinly sliced
Accompaniment: fresh lemon wedges, piri-piri sauce or other hot sauce
- Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat and sauté the onion with the salt and pepper until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes.
- Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add potatoes, chicken stock and chile flakes; simmer, covered, until potatoes are very tender, 15-20 minutes.
- Roughly mash the potatoes into soup to thicken. You want it somewhat chunky.
- Add kale and simmer uncovered on low until tender, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and taste for seasonings; adjust if necessary.
- Serve hot with a squeeze of fresh lemon, Portuguese piri-piri hot sauce or other hot sauce if desired.