Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Things to do with Kale I - Caldo Verde

One winter night, long ago, a Dutch friend came back from a weekend trip from the Netherlands with a bag of greens. She invited us over to her place promising a Dutch specialty. Knowing what she had brought, I could barely contain my excitement. Borenkool, known as kale in English. It's very difficult to find this kind of kale because it grows best in cold weather and is best shortly after harvest. I've had it frozen or canned but fresh - there is a new world of opportunities awaiting with fresh kale. This is one of them.

My local supermarket has been having this influx of fresh kale, something I have not witnessed in the last years of shopping there. I saw a 500g bag and claimed it for myself. I made kale chips the first time (another post). The next week, I tried a soup I had tried previously and discovered, frozen kale is not always interchangeable with cooked kale.

I may or may not have had this soup in Portugal. Apparently it's very popular there. My Portuguese memories have all been overtaken by the flaky crust and sugary sweet custard, hot out of the oven, topped with cinnamon, ordered as a 6-pack of Pasteis de Belem, devoured in a nearby park. I still think of those pastries, I still scheme ways to have them delivered to me but I know they will never live up to the freshness that came out of the oven of the Cafe de Belem. There's no room for memories beyond that pastry. So maybe I had caldo verde in Portugal, maybe not, but I was pleased with the result I was able to conjure.

Caldo Verde is apparently a popular dish in Portugal, apparently meant to fill you and warm you. Apparently, it's made out of a certain kind of kale impossible to find outside of Portugal. Knowing that faking this kale is easier than faking that custard tart, I went ahead nonetheless. This soup certainly warmed and filled me on a cold November night. Part of the soup is mashed to add a creamier texture.

Caldo Verde
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
4 inch (10 cm) of chopped chorizo (extra-spicy)
1 sprig of thyme
small sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 cup of sliced fingerling potatoes
2 liters of water
250g of kale, sliced thinly
Olive oil to garnish

In a spot over a medium flame, sautee onions in olive oil and add carrot. Add garlic and chorizo until garlic is softened and chorizo has released its red colour. Increase heat to high , add potatoes and cook, stirring constantly until potatoes develop a crust. Add in thyme, rosemary and bay, cover with water. When potato slices are cooked through, use a potato masher to mash some (not all!) of the potatoes. Add kale and cook for remaining 5 minutes, until kale turns an emerald colour. Garnish with olive oil. Serve with a crusty bread.

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