The Portuguese Feast (Feast of the Holy Ghost) got us thinking about “Sopa”, specifically Portuguese Kale Soup with linguica. Kale seems to be a hot ingredient these days, with everyone sharing recipes for kale chips and touting the leafy green as a superfood. In South Eastern New England kale didn’t need to be rediscovered, as it never went away. The Portuguese started immigrating to Martha’s Vineyard as early as the colonial period, mostly from the Azores, bringing their distinctive cooking style with them. Around here, a cold or flu is as likely to be treated with bowl of hearty kale soup as the standard chicken noodle. KD’s is of Azorean descent on both sides of her family, so we had no problems finding family recipes for kale soup, like this version, used by her mother.
Ingredients: 1 quart water, 1 lb. stew beef, 3 large onions (finely chopped), 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped), 3 beef bouillon cubes, salt & pepper,
1 lb. linguica, 1 can kidney Beans, 3 medium potatoes (cubed), 1 frozen 10 oz. package of kale.
Start by combining the water, stew beef, garlic, onions, beef bouillon and salt in a large pot. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour. After the hour is up, tear the linguica into bite sized chunks and add them to the pot, cooking for an additional hour and a half. According to family lore, cutting the linguica with a knife seals in the juices, while tearing by hand allows the sausage to release more of its spicy, smoky flavor into the soup.
After the soup has simmered for two and a half hours, add the beans and potatoes, and cook until the potatoes are done, yielding slightly to a fork. Next, add the kale and heat through, salt and pepper to taste. The soup is done when the kale has reached whatever level of tenderness you are looking for. We find that letting the soup sit for a couple minutes, even after the heat has been turned down, helps to integrate and soften the greens.
This recipe, calling for frozen kale and canned beans, might not be at the forefront of the localvore movement, but keep in mind that in the 1980s, finding fresh, locally grown kale was easier said than done. Currently, things are a bit different. To our knowledge, Cronig’s Market is the only store on the Island that still carries frozen kale. If you want to substitute fresh, between a pound or two of washed leaves will work nicely. Obviously, the addition of fresh kale and/or high quality dried beans will help make the soup even better, but there is something to be said for being able to whip up a filling soup from ingredients gleaned from your freezer and cupboard.
For us, this is quintessential comfort food, warm and filling, with a healthy bit of spice and good range of textures. The tender chunks of beef pull apart easily, and the linguica adds the right amount of fat and smoky flavor. The dark green kale brings a deep vegetal quality that helps round this “meat and potatoes” soup, transforming it into the well loved staple we grew up on. Like many soups, it’s even better when re-heated and sampled the next day, as the flavors get a chance to meld together. Stay tuned for future posts where we take a look at some older soup recipes from KD’s family vaults.
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