Hail the mighty kale: Caldo Verde transforms lowly garnish

20 Jan


When I was in college, I worked summers as a waitress at the nearby Friendly’s. The wait staff often needed to “dress” the plates that the line cooks handed to us. You know, by adding that twisty orange slice (you’re never quite sure if it’s for garnish or consumption), and that flourish of kale (with its coarse, raw curliness, surely that is just for show!). No one ever ate the kale. Tons of it got thrown away. After all, this was the same expendable stuff that provided the soft, decorative bedding for everything from jumbo shrimp to melon slices and Jell-O desserts at banquet buffets; you never saw anyone pick past the good eats and pile their plates with kale! Then kale got better billing when it started popping up in flower beds and container gardens in the autumn, alongside frost-hardy mums, because Better Homes & Gardens told us its foliage provided “added dimension and interest” to the fall yard. And now? Kale has burst onto the culinary scene as a compelling cabbage. The most lauded of the leafy greens. An edible A-lister. A rock star.

What a difference a few years, Dr. Oz, and an overhaul of the “food pyramid” make, I guess. No longer a lowly garnish, kale is now being branded as the new “superfood”. Toronto has a restaurant named after it. A registered dietician/cancer survivor has a blog devoted to it. Earlier this week, The Houston Chronicle even published an article calling kale “the new restaurant darling”. All this hype can mean only one thing: Kale is already teetering on the verge of being uncool. Just as quickly as it rocketed to fame from its sideline obscurity, kale, I fear, will soon fall. Food, like fashion, seems increasingly subject to the fickle fancies of the masses. Eggs…are they “in” or “out” right now? Brazil nuts are way more hip than almonds, with all their sensational selenium. Merlot? So outmoded…Tempranillo for today!

So before kale falls back into the shadows, and is replaced by the next flash-in-the-pan, hotshot comestible (I hear it’s going to be rutabaga), I pay homage with this recipe. I had Caldo Verde for the first time several years ago at Caravela, a homey, old-school Portuguese restaurant in Tarrytown, New York, where all the wait staff are old men in tuxedos. Literally translated, caldo verde means “green soup” or “green broth”. This Portuguese staple combines the good-for-you kale with potatoes, and throws in the not-so-good-for-you chorizo or linguica to make the mixture palatable, even downright delicious. The recipe below is my modification of one I found online from Williams-Sonoma.  


Caldo Verde


Save time and effort with packaged kale and ready-to-heat diced potatoes!

  • 3/4 lb. smoked, fully cooked chorizo, sliced (got mine at Oscar’s Smoke House last Sunday while rambling)
  • 16 oz. bag kale greens, stems removed, torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 16-18 oz. bag ready-to-heat diced potatoes
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6-7 cups chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for serving


In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the potatoes and garlic and sauté, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are very soft, about 20 minutes.

Ladle about half of the potato mixture (2-3 cups) into blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Return potato puree to the pot, add the sliced sausages, and simmer until the sausages are heated through, about 5 minutes. Add the greens, stir well, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes. Do not overcook; the greens should be bright green and slightly crunchy. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with additional olive oil drizzle, if desired.

Adapted from the adaptation from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Soup for Supper, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 1998), and as appears at http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/caldo-verde.html. (I hope this credit pleases the SOPA-PIPA police and my blog doesn’t get blacked out for copyright infringement.) The photos, however, are mine all mine.


2 Responses to “Hail the mighty kale: Caldo Verde transforms lowly garnish”

  1. Sarah January 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    You’re such a great writer…

    I am embarrassed to say I’ve never tried the stylish kale. I can’t believe it. This does look very good. Hubby’s all over it because of the chorizo, so, another one added to the list of recipes to try!

    • ramblings&roasts January 25, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      Belated thanks, Sarah! I am definitely a newer kale convert because of recipes like this. While I am sure the health benefits of it are cancelled out by the fatty, spicy sausages in this recipe, at least we can say we are getting our dynamo veggies 🙂

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