Ten years ago, I spent three weeks in Portugal, tooling about the countryside in a rented Suzuki (the “A” car for the “E” price), sight-seeing, visiting family & friends, and watching a whole lot of football (soccer, in our football-heathen country). I still remember having caldo verde, literally “green soup,” nearly every day. It’s a traditional dish in Portugal, and on the menu pretty much everywhere you go, with a broth as light as air but full of flavor, bright green, tender strips of kale, and just enough linguica for a surprise taste explosion every third or fourth bite. I can’t quite reproduce the same soup here in the States – that’s the fun (or the frustration, depending on how you look at it) of terroir I guess, but this one is pretty close. Definitely tasty, satisfying, and good for you, this soup is also an excellent way to make use of the bucket-loads of kale that will soon be filling CSA boxes across the Northeast.
Traditionally, this soup is made with spicy, cured Portuguese sausage, linguica, which can be hard to find in the States, unless you live near a Portuguese neighborhood. Occasionally, I splurge and have some Gaspar’s linguica shipped – not exactly “artisinal,” but what I grew up with (linguica pizza Sundays were a tradition at our house), and I’ve yet to find any local source for linguica. Chorizo is an acceptable substitute; any cured, spicy sausage will likely work, but you don’t want to use too fatty a sausage, or it will overwhelm the lightness of the broth. Bom apetite!
Adapted from Caldo Verde at Leite’s Culinaria
- 2 tbsp clarified butter or olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 5 oz chorizo (about 2 links), grilled or browned slightly and sliced
- 2 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced to 1/2-inch cubes
- 8 cups filtered water
- 1 large bunch kale (1 lb)
- 1 and 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
- 1 and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
- In a large (4-quart) soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, but not browning, about 8 – 10 minutes. Add the garlic and about 3/4 of the sausage and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are just tender through, about 15 – 20 minutes.
- While the soup is cooking, wash and slice the kale. Stack two or three kale leaves together, lining up the center ribs. Roll the leaves together, lengthwise, like a cigar. Starting at the top of the leaf (holding the stem end), slice very thin strips of kale all the way down the leaf. For very large leaves, slice the leaf in half, lengthwise, through the center rib, then stack and chiffonade as before. You want the strips to be thin enough to cook to tenderness before the leaves lose their bright green.
- At this point, you can choose to purée some, all or none of the soup; I often puree about 50% of the soup, with an immersion blender, in the fall and winter when I want a heartier, thicker soup. In spring or summer I usually leave the broth clear and the vegetables whole, for a lighter, more delicate soup (the picture above is not puréed). Either way is excellent.
- Add the kale to the soup and bring back to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer soup until the kale is tender, but still bright green, about 3-5 minutes. Add salt and pepper, taste, and adjust seasonings. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the remaining sausage.
Yields about 4 quarts soup.
- Don’t be tempted to replace water with chicken or vegetable stock; I’ve tried it, and the resulting soup is not as good as that made with water. It’s all about the lightness of the broth, and allowing the quality of the few ingredients to shine through.
- I’ve tried the soup without the center ribs of the kale; I like it better with them. They give the kale a textural interest that it doesn’t have without the ribs; also, it is easier to eat, as without the ribs, the kale strips tend to slide off your spoon.
- I’ve also tried a vegetarian version with no sausage; it’s just not as good. I think the small amount of sausage is critical to adding flavor to this very simple soup; if you are a vegetarian and you have a good idea for replacing sausage in this soup, please leave a comment below!
This soup re-heats well and will last up to one week in the refrigerator, up to 6 months frozen.
Kale is abundant in Spring and Fall, which is when I usually find myself making this soup. Kale is generally available in farmer’s markets throughout the winter as well; it does not fare so well in the summer, not liking the heat.