Soup's On!

I love the fact that it's cooling down so nicely in the evenings because it means that I can engage in one of my favorite cooking activities, making soup.  On the menu is a soup that's an amalgam of flavors from childhood and traveling.  I was a kid when I first tasted kale, that bunch of greens which resembles swiss chard but with curls.  My Aunt made a soup with it and also creamed kale, very Danish, when we'd visit her and Grandma.  Later in life, while on vacation in Portugal, I discovered Caldo Verde.  I loved it!

When I got back home I searched all the cookbooks and cooking magazines I could find for the recipe.  I finally found one for Caldo Verde and of course had to make it immediately.  The odd thing about the recipe was that it called for 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon!  Though I had my doubts I followed the recipe.  The effect on the soup was nothing like I expected...it was delicious!  The cinnamon wove it's way through the other ingredients resembling nothing of it's baking overtones.  At the time I was experimenting with making curry and realized that it leaned more toward the savory than the sweet in this soup, much like spices in curries.

Over the years I've played around with the ingredients, using turnip or celery root instead of potatoes, but I never ever alter the cinnamon except to add a wee bit more.  I've used chicken stock instead of beef stock as well as the two together.  I think I like it best with chicken stock.  The garlic gets increased sometimes depending on my mood.  (Note:  in cutting it up tonight, I measured how much I used and it was almost 2 1/2 tablespoons, but let your palette be your guide, I love garlic.)  When I cut the onions up, I usually chop them in a 1/4 to 1/2 inch dice since I like a chowder like soup.  A recent change is deleting the garlic press and chopping the garlic into 1/8 to 1/4 inch bits which when bitten into add a mellow burst of flavor in the soup.

The sausage I use is Hillshire Farms turkey Kielbasa or the low fat version (again the Midwesterner comes out plus I don't like the spiciness of linguica) and you can use the whole rope or just half.  I've tried other generic or store brands and just haven't been happy with the taste.  When I buy it I cut the rope in half, wrap and freeze it, then I can thaw however much I'm in the mood for.  If you check your store's weekly circulars, you'll often find it 2/$5 vs. the usual $4.69 and up!

Your bunch of kale shouldn't cost more than $1.50 and should have 5-6 stems.  I usually find it for $0.99 at Ralph's.  Kale should be a nice crisp dark green, avoid yellowing or wilted kale, it can't be revived and the taste will be quite bitter.  I used to use two bunches but lately have been happy with one.  Using two really crowds out the flavors of the other ingredients.  Over the years it's become sort of a cross between Danish kale soup and the Portugeuse Caldo Verde.  Wow, I never thought I could write so much about a soup!  So without further ado, I give you the recipe!

2 T. unsalted butter or olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped (see notes above)
1/8 t. ground cinnamon
1 lb. kale, stems removed, finely chopped (see notes above)
4 c. strong beef stock (see notes above) 
2-3 white rose-type potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2” cubes  and cooked
Smoked sausage, sliced into 1/4 to /2 inch rounds (i.e. Keilbasa, Linguica, etc.)
Salt & pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat.  Add the onion, cook 5 minutes.  Do not brown.  Add the garlic, cook 2 minutes longer. Stir cinnamon into onion mixture, cook another minute.  Add the kale, tossing to coat it well.  Add the stock.  I often will add stock after the kale has cooked down, so all ingredients are just under liquid.  Heat to boiling, reduce the heat.  Simmer, covered, 20 minutes.

Take cooked potato and the sliced sausage, add to the soup mixture.  Heat until hot and then serve.  Sprinkle with parmesan if desired.  Serves 4-6 depending on whether it's accompanying a main course or it's the dinner itself.  It makes a great dinner paired with a baguette and butter.

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