Friday, July 1, 2011

RECIPE - Caldo Verde, Take One (Caldo Verde Tradicional)

One of Portugal's most well-known traditional dishes is a hearty, rich and warming soup called caldo verde, which simply means green soup. On a cold, damp day on Portugal's windswept Atlantic shore, or in one of its charming mountain villages, a large bowl of caldo verde accompanied by thick slices cut from a rustic loaf of bread fills the body and sustains the soul like nothing else.

The green in caldo verdo comes from kale, a member of the cabbage family. Kale's leaves, dark green sometimes tinged with purple, can be curly or flat, but unlike many varieties of cabbage don't form a head. According to many sources of nutritional information kale has good claim to being the world's most nutritious food - low in calories, with no fat, and packed full of vitamins, calcium and chemicals with powerful antioxidant properties. Caldo verdo combines kale with potatoes, onions, garlic and chunks of the typical Portuguese sausage chouriço in a rich broth.

Caldo verde is well-known in Brazil, particularly in those parts of the country in which a large segment of the population has Portuguese ancestry, and where winter temperatures can be chilly if not downright cold. For example, one is likely to encounter caldo verde in the mountainous interior state of Minas Gerais, or in the higher elevations of Santa Catarina or Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil's south.

Now (the month of June) is a perfect time for Flavors of Brazil to publish a caldo verde recipe for its readers in Brazil, if not for North American or European readers who may be sweltering in a summer heat wave. This is the coldest time of the year in Brazil, and this morning's national TV news was full of stories of the cold snap which has hit the south of the country in recent days. In Santa Catarina minimum overnight temperatures reached -4C (about 24F) and even in relative temperate São Paulo the thermometer reached 2C (35F). Perfect weather for a steaming bowl of caldo verde.
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RECIPE - Caldo Verde, Take One (Caldo Verde Tradicional)
 Serves 2

1/2 lb (250 gr) kale, washed and cut into thin strips
4 cups (1 liter) water
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb (250 gr) Portuguese chouriço or other garlic sausage, thinly sliced
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Put the chopped potatoes, onion and garlic in a large saucepan or stockpot and cover with 4 cups (1 liter) water. Bring to the boil rapidly, then reduce heat and cook until the vegetables are very tender and the potatoes begin to fall apart. Remove from the heat and reserve, keeping warm.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan bring a good quantity of water to the boil, then add the strips of kale. Boil for 3 to 4 minutes, until the kale develops a bright green color. Immediately drain into a colander or sieve then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process and set the color.

Using a wooden spoon or potato masher, coarsely mash the potatoes and onion in the broth until it is thickened. Do not overmash - you do not want a completely homogenized mixture. Return it to the stove, and bring once more to a low boil. Add the kale, the sausage and one Tbsp of the olive oil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, divide between two large soup bowls, drizzle the remaining Tbsp of olive oil over and serve immediately accompanied by crusty rustic bread and a green salad if desired.

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