Posted: October 2, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

I am grudgingly gaining an affinity for kale.

There really, truly isnt a food I dont like. But for a while there, Id been wondering about kale. Yet I cant avoid it. I belong to a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture), and danged if there hasnt been kale in my share for about 87 consecutive weeks.

So, like having an involuntary cellmate, Ive gotten to know about kale. I learned that there are several varieties, curly green being the most popular. In certain parts of Germany, it is so popular that citizens go on fall kale tours which involve playing games, drinking schnapps, and of course eating kale. Some communities even name a kale king and queen.

Usually I toss the stuff with olive oil, lemon and garlic (The Holy Troika) and bake it until crisp. Even kids like these kale chips, generously salted. Mommy! Mommy! Can me and Tommy have some kale chips and watch TV?

Then a recipe for Caldo Verde caught my eye. This is a traditional Portuguese Green Soup made with kale or more precisely, Galician cabbage, a close cousin. That is not available here, so we use kale, or even collard greens.

Now Im no expert on Portugal. All I can really tell you is that it was orange on my globe, and deprived Spain of much Atlantic coastline. But they make one heck of a soup, kale notwithstanding.

There was little variation among the recipes I reviewed. Olive oil, onions, garlic, potatoes, sausage, kale. It seems simple, but the result is so flavorful it will knock your socks off.

Caldo Verde

Adapted from a recipe by Joyce Goldstein, Casual Mediterranean Cooking.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil.
2 medium yellow onions, chopped.
3-4 cloves garlic, minced.
3-4 Yukon Gold potatoes
     (I used 8-9 small ones)
     - peeled and sliced or cubed.
6 cups water.
2 bay leaves.
1 TBS salt.
3/4 lb kale or collard greens.
1/2 lb chourio or linguia sausage
     (Portuguese pork sausages made
     with smoked paprika and perhaps
     garlic. Check with your butcher.
     Spanish chorizo or even Italian
     sausage may be substituted).

Directions:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saut until tender, 7-8 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and potatoes and saut a few minutes longer.
3. Add the water, bay leaves, and salt. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are very soft, 10-15 minutes.
4. While the broth is cooking, wash the kale, remove the tough stems, and cut into thin strips. It may help to roll them up like a cigar and cut crosswise. Set aside.
5. Cook the sausage in a saut pan over medium heat until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Let cool then slice, set aside.
6. When the potatoes are tender, remove the pot from heat. Remove the bay leaves. Use a potato masher to roughly mash the potatoes into a puree.
7. Return the pot to low heat, add the sausage, and cook uncovered 5 minutes.
8. Add the kale and cook 3-5 more minutes. Dont overcook the kale! Season the soup with salt and pepper.

This can be enjoyed as is, with crusty bread or a traditional cornbread. Sometimes people float a little olive oil on top. Some versions call for a spoonful of chili pepper sauce to be mixed into the soup. Heres a quick recipe for that: mix 1/2 cup chopped fresh red chili peppers, 3 cloves garlic, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1 cup olive oil. (A little red wine vinegar is optional; I overdid it. Use a dash or none at all.) Store in a jar in a dark place for at least a week; it will keep for up to a year. Shake well before using.

A vegetarian version of Caldo Verde is easy. I substituted cooked garbanzo beans and boiled carrot slices.

After eating this soup, you will not only feel more knowledgeable about all things Portuguese, but will feel more affectionate towards kale. I know I did.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor.