When I'm longing for comfort food, I reach for dal and rice, macaroni and cheese or rice and beans. Luis, like any typical Portuguese, longs for caldo verde. This legendary soup made with potatoes and the Portuguese green known as couve galega originated in Portugal's Minho region in the north (the same region where vinho verde - Portuguese green wine - comes from), but over the centuries it has become a national dish, truly food of the people. Though a piece or two of chorizo typically garnishes a bowl of caldo verde, the soup isn't cooked with it, making it a perfect vegetarian starter. Caldo verde can be eaten at any time of day, so don't be surprised if you go to Portugal and have breakfast at the counter in a neighborhood tasca (little bar) and see your fellow customers ordering a bowl of caldo verde to go with their bica (espresso) and breakfast pastry of choice. Actually whenever Luis makes caldo verde I am instantly transported back to Lisboa, one of my favorite places in the world.
In Thailand, Luis was delighted to discover that a type of collard green very similar to couve galega is available, which recently featured in his delicious Azorean sopa de feijão (bean soup). Collard greens are of course plentiful in North America, and he used some of the big bunch that we picked up at the Dekalb Farmers Market to make a big batch of caldo verde for my family. All you need for this simple soup are really the collard greens (or kale) and potatoes...so nothing could be easier!
1-2 bunches couve galega, collard greens or kale (see step 1 for clarification)
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 14-ounce cans vegetable broth
2 14-ounce cans water
2 bay leaves
10 thin slices chorizo or 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped (optional)
Salt, to taste (optional)
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste (optional)
1. Wash your greens well. Chiffonade them (roll and chop into long, thin strips). You want 8 cups of strips. Set aside.
2. In a large pot, make your refogado (the sauce/paste that forms the basis for most Portuguese cooking): warm the olive oil and add the onions. Saute until translucent and then add the garlic and stir well, cooking for a couple of minutes more.
3. Add the potatoes, mix and saute for a couple of minutes.
4. Add the broth and the water and cook covered on high heat for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
5. Remove from heat and puree into a soup using an immersion blender. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender and puree in batches and return to the pot.
6. Add your greens, stir well and cook to your liking. Some people cook at this point for only 5 minutes to keep a good bit of bite in the greens, while others prefer softer greens and cook up to 10 minutes. Luis usually does 5-6 minutes.
7. Add the bay leaves and either your chorizo or the chipotle pepper (if desired). Mix well and add a bit of salt and pepper if desired, to taste.
P.S. To get you even more into a Portuguese food, check out this video of the amazing fadista (fado singer) Mariza performing live in Lisbon: