Caldo Verde

Last summer we set our sights on the island of Flores, the westernmost island of the Azores in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Many years ago Toby passed this island on a ship.  Through binoculars he saw tiny villages dwarfed by lush, rugged cliffs and waterfalls and he knew it was a place he had to visit.FloresIt was everything he described, and even more beautiful than I imagined.  We hiked every day to dozens of waterfalls and calderas.  We found gardens filled with fruit trees behind ancient monasteries and stone walls.  The narrow mountain roads had no guard rails, but they were lined with hydrangeas.  At lower elevations the roadside was thick with ginger.  All of this, and we rarely saw another tourist.  hydrangeatrailThe Azores are over a thousand miles from mainland Europe, so very little food is imported.   Cows far outnumber the people.  The cheese produced around these islands is outstanding, and so is the wine. cow and agapanthusThere weren’t many restaurants, but the ones we found had great seafood. We became obsessed with limpets, or rock clams.  We took a long drive to the north side of the island, with breathtaking views the entire way, to O Pescador, a small place owned by a fisherman, known for serving the best seafood in the Azores.  We were not disappointed.  The limpets were so plump, sizzling with garlic butter, and the shells were still covered with fresh seaweed.  If you know where to get these things in the US, please tell me.limpetsWe ate so many unique and delicious things there, but I was surprised to find that caldo verde, a very humble soup, is honored as the national dish of Portugal.  greensoupIt’s a creamy, smoky broth filled with sausage and long ribbons of collard greens.  It has become the quintessential Portuguese comfort food.  You’ll find this soup at every restaurant and snack bar in the Azores, and on menus anywhere the Portuguese have made their mark, from Brazil to Massachusetts.  portuguesecollardsMost recipes for caldo verde call for kale.  What I saw growing in home gardens around Flores looked very much like collards.chiffonadecollardsIt reminded me of my own backyard.  Now, just like the Azoreans, we’ll be making this soup every winter.  It’s hearty, economical, and we’ve got everything we need for it right here. caldo verde

Caldo Verde
  1. 1 onion, diced
  2. 3 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 1-2 carrots, sliced
  4. 3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  5. 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, diced (peel them if you prefer)
  6. 1 smoked ham hock*
  7. 3 bay leaves
  8. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  9. 4 cups stock (poultry or vegetable)
  10. 12 collard leaves
  11. 2 links linguica, chorizo, or kielbasa sausage, sliced*
  12. olive oil, for serving
  1. Sauté the onion in olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Reduce the heat if they begin to brown. Once the onions are soft, add the carrots and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and potatoes and saute for 10 more minutes.
  3. Add the ham hock, bay leaves, black pepper, stock, and enough water to cover everything (about 8 cups). Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer.
  4. Once the potatoes are very soft, remove the ham hock and set it aside. Discard the bay leaves.
  5. Blend the soup with a stick blender (or transfer the soup to a regular blender in batches) until smooth and creamy. Add salt to taste
  6. Chiffonade the collard leaves: stack three leaves and roll them up, then thinly slice across, leaving you with long thin ribbons. Add them to the pot.
  7. Slice off and shred any meat from the ham hock you might like to add back to the soup.
  8. While the collards cook, sauté the sausage until it begins to brown and transfer it to a plate.
  9. Once the collards are tender, the soup is ready to serve.
  10. Add the sausage to each bowl right before serving, and drizzle olive oil over the top.
  1. *Make it vegan by omitting the ham hock and sausage and using vegetable stock. Season with a few drops of liquid smoke and/ or smoked paprika.
Suwannee Rose


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