Cooking Chapbook

Notes from my kitchen in the D.C. area & beyond

Month: October, 2013

Caldo Verde Soup

Caldo Verde Soup

Caldo Verde Soup

Caldo Verde, what a nice name you have. Mysterious, exotic, European, warm.

Rather charming for a soup, I’d say.

(It might be too opaque for some, I grant you. We could flip-flop to English and adopt “Green broth.” Yes, go ahead, make a face. Or we could go literal: Portuguese Sausage Soup with Kale and Potatoes. But please, let’s not.)

In its mysterious linguistic cloak, Caldo Verde alludes to a party, a celebration like that of feasts of various saints honored in Portugal in June, when this soup is a requisite menu item. (As are sardines. A party with sardines is my kind of party.)

But forgive me, Saint John, for I can’t wait till June. My dear friend Judy told me about Caldo Verde this weekend, and October is prime soup season.

At first, when I read your recipe, I thought you might be too dull.

But soups are stovetop alchemy.

Think of French onion soup or chicken noodle soup or miso soup. Unfussy ingredients somehow meld together to create a tastebud quilt. Even the limp vegetables become savory pillows. Broth transforms into a magical foundation for dinner.

Stone soup isn’t just for kids.

Caldo Verde has its own entry in the alchemic textbook. Sausage. Potatoes. Kale. Onions. Garlic. Broth. Salt. Pepper.

Done.

I resisted the lure of the paprika, the cayenne, the tumeric, all eyeing me from the cabinet.

This simple sausage soup, filling and delicious, sent my sweetheart back for thirds.

Caldo Verde Soup

adapted from the Joy of Cooking

  • 1 pound chorizo sausage (Tip for Charlottesvillians: We were happy with Timbercreek Organics chorizo from Relay Foods.)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves (or more!), minced
  • 4 medium potatoes, sliced thinly
  • 1 big bunch kale, washed and torn up into pieces
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced, deseeded, and ready to squeeze

Cook the sausage, sliced or broken up into chunks, in a Dutch oven or other big soup pan on medium heat until browned and cooked through.

Remove the sausage onto a plate or bowl. Leave the luscious fat drippings in the pot, unless the quantity is bordering on obscene, in which case, you may want to drain a little until you get a tablespoon or two covering the bottom of the pot.

Now sauté the chopped onions and minced garlic on medium heat in the sausage drippings for 5 minutes or so, unless softened but not browned.

Add the 3 cups of chicken broth and 3 cups of water, plus the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Joy of Cooking advises 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, but I only did a half-dozen cranks each of the black pepper grinder and salt grinder. We’re not in the excessive salt fan club here.)

Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

If you have a potato masher, mash up the potatoes. If you don’t, as I didn’t, you could use the back of a metal spatula to mush them up a bit. Don’t worry if the potatoes don’t crumble into bits. Potatoes are potatoes are potatoes, and the soup will still be delicious.

Add back in the sausages and the torn chunks of kale.

Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Squirt in lemon, to taste.

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BBQ lasagna

I’ve found myself neglecting this blog, believing that each post must be epic and detailed, loaded with carefully cropped photographs, the recipes triple-checked.

And while my favorite food blog excels at that level of output, I miss out sharing with you the little discoveries in my daily food life.

Like BBQ lasagna.

bbq lasagna

BBQ lasagna at Beer Run

Beer Run, a beer store and restaurant in Charlottesville, stocks an unbelievable array of brews (and wine). It’s not one of those sprawling alcohol warehouses, but more of a carefully curated  collection of beers from around the United States and the world. The beers on tap are always an interesting assortment. The staff is friendly and more than willing to share their encyclopedic knowledge of breweries. We recently found a mini keg of Munich Hofbrau Oktoberfest beer for $22, the sweet, freshly brewed fest beer we love, delivered all the way from Germany.

Beer Run also offers a delicious brunch, lunch, and dinner – fresh, creative fare with an organic and local bent. Think scallion cheddar biscuits, or local Polyface sausage links for breakfast. Or a Madison County burger on a pretzel bun with house-made chipotle ranch.

The menu also features a lasagna of the day.  On the weekend we stopped by, lucky us, that was BBQ lasagna. I did a split-second double-take and then immediately knew what I would order.

The dish comes pipping hot, creamy and dreamy – soft pasta layered with pulled pork, tangy barbecue sauce, and luscious threads of cheese. The marriage of lasagna noodles and barbecue sauce is brilliant. Heavy and rich, the combination is pure comfort food.

The meal reminded me that so many familiar dishes can be viewed as templates more than fixed recipes, vehicles for new or beloved flavors and quirky ingredients. Pizza, with its endless array of toppings. Muffins, with so many potential fillings. Quiche, enchiladas, grilled cheese, rice, beans, noodles – they all cry out for new formulations. They all want their own version du jour.