Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Week 24 - Portuguese

Skipping over the Week 23 post for now since I haven't finished writing it yet, but here's Week 24!

Week 24 was devoted to Portuguese cuisine, and after some searching and wondering whether this would finally be the time that I would tackle salt cod, I decided to make caldo verde, a Portuguese sausage, potato, and kale soup that is sometimes mentioned as the national dish or national soup. Since it was the middle of summer, soup wasn't the obvious choice, but it sounded so healthy and tasty that I couldn't resist. I'm glad I didn't.

I started with this recipe for caldo verde on Allrecipes and then made some adjustments. The ingredients for this simple soup were:

- olive oil for sauteing ($0.30)
- 1 onion, minced ($0.60)
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced ($0.10)
- 7 small to medium sized Russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced ($0.80)
- 12 oz package of smoked linguica sausage, sliced thin ($6.89)
- 2 quarts of water ($0)
- 2 heaping tablespoons of chicken bouillon ($0.60)
- freshly ground black pepper ($0.05)
- 10 oz bag of kale, finely chopped ($1.99)

The linguica, which I picked up from Whole Foods, was not cheap but it was a really good quality product. Even though most of the ingredients were relatively inexpensive, the linguica pushed the total for this soup up to $11.33. (It was over 60% of the cost!) For that price though, it made enough for each of us to have multiple bowls of soup for dinner, and I had enough left for lunch the next day too. So even though it broke the $10 mark that I like to measure our meals by (more of a curiosity measurement than a strict budgetary guideline), it was still fairly economical compared to going out for a filling Portuguese dinner.

As I said, making this soup was really simple, and it's perfect for a weeknight. It takes a bit of time to prep everything, but it was quite manageable. The steps were:

1. Prep - mince onion and garlic, peel and slice potatoes. (It's not required to soak them in a bowl of cold water, but I did it because I prepped them first and didn't want them all to turn brown.)

2. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and saute until onions are softer and translucent. Add the potatoes and saute for a few minutes.

At this point, I forgot to take more step by step pictures (sorry).

3. Add the water, chicken bouillon, and black pepper, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, let it simmer on medium low for at least 20 minutes so that the potatoes soften.

4. While the potatoes are softening, in a separate pan, brown the linguica sausage so that a lot of the fat gets released, and then put the sausage in a towel-lined bowl to drain.

(As a side note, that was some really good linguica. I wish I had taken a picture of the sliced up linguica so you could see what it looked like inside. Since it was fully cooked, we ate some slices right out of the package (good), and then some after they cooked a bit (even better). It didn't stay in whole slices after we cooked it, which is probably because I cut the slices too thin, but I think it was even better that way. When I bought it, I said I hoped it was worth the price. It was.)

5. After the potatoes have softened, use the spoon to mash the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the soup and also just break the potatoes up a bit. (The original recipe suggested a food processor, but I really like it partially mashed to add great texture to the soup. Also, if you miss some potato slices in the mashing, who cares? It works just fine.)

6. Add the linguica, put the temp back to medium, and cook for another 5-10 minutes or so.

7. Chop up the kale into small pieces (especially any ribs/stems). Add to the simmering soup and cook for another 5-10 minutes or so. Adjust any seasonings to taste (I didn't do anything). The original recipe also said to add a tablespoon of olive oil here to finish it, but I forgot to do it because I really wanted to start eating. Maybe I'll remember next time.

This caldo verde was great. During the first few spoonfuls, I didn't think it had as much flavor as I was expecting that it would with how seasoned the linguica was, but it really grew on me by the end of the first bowl. I think it's probably one of the best soups we've made at home, and outside of the sausage, it's so healthy. Loading this soup up with so much kale made it taste light and fresh even though it was simultaneously hearty and comforting.

The leftovers tasted even better the next day, and I was so happy that I made this fantastic soup. The key really is the smoky and salty flavoring that comes from the linguica, and I think having smaller, more crumbled pieces really worked well to distribute that flavor even more throughout the soup bowl. Although we might not make this again until the weather gets a little cooler, this will be a great dish to add to our rotation when that time comes.

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