Caldo Verde Soup
Long before kale salads became the ubiquitous option for healthy eating across the United States, kale was a common product used in Mediterranean cooking. In Fall River MA where I grew up, there is a large population of Portuguese immigrants. As a result, just about every restaurant there offers Caldo Verde - Portuguese Kale Soup - on the menu. In every market you’ll find packages of kale already cut into delicate chiffonade, ready for the soup.
Caldo Verde is their version of comfort food. It’s quick and easy to make and packs a lot of flavor from just a few ingredients. When you’ve grown tired of kale salads and sautéed kale side dishes, in less than a half an hour you can feast on this authentic Portuguese soup. There are as many recipes for this soup as there are Portuguese grandmothers, so feel free to add your own special twist. I especially love the dark green color and heady flavor of Portuguese olive oil, so I use it first to sauté the chouriço, onions and kale, then drizzle some extra on top of the soup for serving.
Notice that I use the Portuguese spelling for the chouriço sausage, but you can often find it labeled as “chorizo.” Just be sure to select a fresh chouriço which releases a lot of juicy flavor as it cooks, not a dried Spanish-style chorizo. I especially like Gaspar’s brand, which is readily available throughout the Berkshires.
1 fresh chouriço sausage, thinly sliced or peeled and crumbled
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 lb. kale, stemmed and cut into bite sized pieces, or as chiffonade
Portuguese olive oil
2 russet potatoes
7 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes
In a soup pot, sauté the chouriço in a little olive oil until the meat begins to lightly brown. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside in a medium bowl, leaving all of the oil and any drippings in the pot.
Adding more olive oil if necessary, sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic is soft, but not browned. Place the onion and garlic in the same bowl as the chouriço.
Now that the soup pot is infused with a lot of delicious flavor, briefly sauté the kale until it softens a bit. Taking this step will add a lot more flavor to the finished product. Once again, if necessary, add a bit more olive oil to the pot. Transfer the kale to the bowl with the chouriço and vegetables and set aside. Let any residual oil remain in the soup pot.
Peel and thinly slice the potatoes. Put the chicken stock and potatoes into the soup pot. Cover, and simmer until the potatoes are very soft, about 20 minutes. When the potatoes can be easily pierced with a knife, use a fork or potato masher to coarsely crush them, which will thicken the soup. You can adjust the seasoning by adding some salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you want to add some more zip to the soup, add a ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.
Put the chouriço and vegetables back to the soup pot and simmer until everything is heated through. To serve, ladle the Caldo Verde into shallow bowls and drizzle on some additional Portuguese olive oil.