Saturday, July 2, 2011

RECIPE - Caldo Verde, Take Two (Caldo Verde Cearense)

Yesterday's post extolling the winter charms of Portugal's (and now Brazil's) famous kale, potato and sausage soup caldo verde highlighted the meteorological similarities between the cold, damp winter temperatures in the soup's homeland and it's new home in the New World. But it's not only the weather that allows the more temperate regions of Brazil to offer up  such delicious caldo verde, it's the fact that the ingredients which are the backbone of caldo verde can be cultivated most successfully in precisely those parts of Brazil that are most similar in weather and soil conditions to Portugal.

The weather in great areas of Brazil, however, is worlds away from what Portugal experiences. There aren't any winter foods in Brazil's north and northeast for the simple reason there is no winter. Just like with winter clothes - people in those regions just don't need them.

Caldo verde as it's served in Europe really has no place in tropical climates. And what is more, some of the ingredients of the soup, particularly potatoes don't find the tropics to be friendly environments. But the culinary influence of Portugal is just as strong in these hot climes as it is further south. So what happens? Caldo verde mutates in these regions to something lighter, less rich and which substitutes locally available ingredients - potato makes way for manioc and the fatty Portuguese sausage chouriço is replaced by small quantities of sun-dried carne de sol and bacon.

You might just call it a tropical tribute to the Portuguese original. And a suitable tribute it is - delicious and substantial without being heavy, caldo verde cearense (caldo verde from Ceará) shows its European lineage with pride, and exhibits its tropical reinventiveness with equal pride.
RECIPE - Caldo Verde, Take Two (Caldo Verde Cearense)
2 servings

1 lb (400 gr) manioc tubers, peeled and cubed
4 cups (1 liter) cold water
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp cubed bacon
2 Tbsp cooked and shredded carne de sol
1/3 cup kale, cut into this strips and lightly packed
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped
salt to taste
In a heavy saucepan saute the onion and bacon until the onion is transparent and the bacon has rendered most of its fat. Add the cubed manioc and the cold water, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until the manioc is fully tender. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Blend all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Pour into a saucepan, add the strips of kale and the shredded carne de sol and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the kale is softened and has a bright green color. Check for salt and season if required - which will depend on the saltiness of the bacon.

Pour into two serving bowls. Drizzle each with half of the olive oil, then sprinkle parsley on top. Serve immediately. Caldo verde cearense is traditionally served with corn bread.


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