Winter Comfort (Caldo Verde)

Curly Savoy Cabbage

Cabbage, turnips, rutabagas, celery root, carrots, beets, and kale are my dear friends this time of year.  Yesterday I was writing my E-newsletter and I started with: “if you need to use up half a rutabaga and a few carrots. . . .” and then stopped and changed that to: “this recipe is a great way to enjoy rutabagas, carrots, . . .”.  It got me thinking about the semantic treatment of the less-than-sexy veggies or maybe any bits and pieces that remain in the crisper long after they’ve been purchased.

My four-year-old and I devoured the rutabaga and carrot latkes I was writing about and he requested that I make them for lunch everyday now. They were just plain delicious. So I am consciously changing my recipe writing tone to promote these winter workhorses that are packed with nutrients, endlessly adaptable and combinable, and in season in many parts of the country right now.

Today’s post features one of those winter veggies that keeps in the crisper (and stays crisp) for weeks: cabbage. Cabbage and potatoes showed up here just a few weeks ago but today’s recipe for the Portuguese Caldo Verde is completely different, quick and so satisfying.

Cabbage, potatoes, and chorizo

An early Christmas present to myself in the form of Tender, Nigel Slater’s completely absorbing book about veggies, inspired the revival of this dish in our household. . .as well as the ever-present half-head of cabbage in the fridge, and my job writing recipes for CSA Farm members.

Caldo Verde–Just as good or better the next day though a little less photogenic.

Caldo Verde (Cabbage and Potato Soup with Chorizo)
–adapted very slightly from Tender, by Nigel Slater 

Savoy cabbage is very good in this but regular ol’ green cabbage or any kind of kale works just as well. One chorizo is really plenty to flavor this soup well but if you’ve got meat lovers at the table feel free to toss in another. If you’d like to make this without the meat, I would add a teaspoon or two of smoked Spanish paprika (Pimenton) and another clove or two of garlic at the beginning.

Serves 4

Olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 -4 medium waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold, scrubbed and cut into medium dice
4-5 cups water or broth
2 bay leaves
1 chorizo sausage (about 4 oz), cut into thin rounds
4 cups Savoy cabbage (or other, see headnote), cut into thin strips
Salt and pepper
Good olive oil for drizzling

Saute the onion and garlic over medium-low heat in a large pot in a bit of olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for a few more minutes before adding the water (or broth), bay leaves and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are quite soft. Meanwhile fry the slices of chorizo in a small pan until they are crisp and the fat has been rendered.

Mash the potatoes in the pot with a fork or potato masher until partially broken down. You want the potatoes to thicken the soup but also leave plenty of lumps. Add the cabbage and cook for a few minutes until tender. Add the chorizo, adjust for salt and serve the soup drizzled with good olive oil and another grind of pepper.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

The Best Soup

I wish I managed to assemble blog posts with beautiful photos that illustrated the step-by-step process of each dish, but on second thought that’s not often how my cook-with-what-you-have nightly cooking unfolds so I might as well keep it realistic. And with a tired and hungry pre-schooler underfoot, photos often just don’t happen. So I’ll keep enjoying those beautiful blogs and offer you something else–a slightly more slap-dash account of meals I think are worthy of sharing and other stories.

best soupd with egg
Chard, leek, white bean and cilantro soup over garlicky toast, topped with a poached egg–that you poach right in the soup.

Whether this is the best soup or not, it is my current favorite soup. It’s a slightly unusual combination of things and comes together into one of the most satisfying and complete meals, warming body and soul on these cool, stormy evenings.

It is basically stewed leeks with white beans, veggie broth, chard and pureed cilantro served over toasted bread you rub with garlic and then top with a poached egg (that you poach right in the soup). The bread and the egg take this dish to its exquisite level. However, I’ve enjoyed leftovers of this soup without bread or egg and just a generous drizzle of good olive oil, very much.

Two things that make this soup especially good are good beans and homemade veggie bouillon. The former I talked about in my last post and the latter is easy to make. As you all know I’m a bit evangelical about this veggie bouillon. I’m actually considering making it in quantity to sell so stay tuned. It has made my daily cooking easier, better, more economical and definitely more fun. You can certainly  use any stock or broth or even water and beans (dry or canned) from the store to good effect. Just make it! It’s a wonderful antidote to the sweet richness of the other foods this time of year.

 

Finally, my Kitchen Fundamentals, Pantry Stocking  30-Minute Dinners series is filling up quickly so if you’re considering it for yourself or as a gift, let me know asap.

Happy Cooking and Eating and Celebrating!

Katherine

Cilantro Bread Soup (Acorda)

–loosely adapted from Tea & Cookies

serves 4 (with plenty of leftovers) or 6

1 cup dried white beans (cannelini, great northern, Ayers Creek white beans of any kind, Rancho Gordo Marrow beans . . . ) or 1 14 oz. can of cannelini or other white beans

2 tbs olive oil

2-3 leeks (about 2 cups, chopped)

5 large cloves garlic

6 cups home-made veggie bouillon or veggie or chicken stock

2 cups packed cilantro

one large bunch chard, stems removed, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)

sliced crusty bread (4 slices)

4 eggs

salt and pepper, to taste

good olive oil for drizzling

Cook the beans in water with one clove of the garlic until soft. (See bean cooking instructions here) Drain and set aside. You could also use canned beans.

Trim and clean the leeks. Cut in half, lengthwise, and slice in 1/4 inch slices.

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Sauté the leeks in olive oil until limp. Add three cloves of garlic, minced. Continue sautéing until the garlic is soft but not brown about 2 minutes, lower heat as needed. Add four cups of the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the beans and continue to simmer for a minute or two. Add the chard to the pot and cook for a few minutes. Blend the cilantro with the reserved 2 cups of bouillon in a blender. Add the cilantro mixture and season with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a rapid simmer. Crack eggs into soup, cover and let poach about 5 minutes until the yolks and whites are just set.

While eggs are cooking toast the bread slices and rub with remaining garlic cloves. You can rub one or both sides of the toast with garlic–depending on much you love garlic. Lay the bread in the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle the soup over. Top with poached egg. Drizzle with good olive oil and grind some pepper over the top.