Is spring really here?
Should I wear Bean boots or Birkenstocks?
Prepare hot soup or an icy Vichyssoise?
Signs of spring abound, but warmth comes slowly to the towns and cities surrounding Casco Bay and I’ll keep my Bean boots in the back hall in memory of the surprise blizzard we had on April 7, 1982, and will cook some spicy, tangy Portuguese kale soup to keep people warm during the blustery cold spring days.
Whether you’re shoveling or raking, wearing Bean boots or Birkenstocks, you’ll be glad to have a pot of this soup stashed in your refrigerator. Like other soups and stews, it improves with age and you can add to it or substitute ingredients, if necessary.
The recipe calls for linguica, which I couldn’t find at the local grocery store, so I substituted a pound of pork tenderloin. Linguica (pronounced lin-gwee-sah), is a Portuguese cured pork sausage seasoned with onions, garlic, paprika and other herbs and spices.
I mixed some flour, thyme, and smoked paprika on a sheet of waxed paper and dredged the pork in it. After browning the pork in olive oil and butter, I removed it from the pan and added half a cup of red wine (merlot is good), stirring the crusty bits left from the browning pork into the simmering wine. When the wine had thickened, I stirred in a fourth of a cup of beef stock (true, the recipe calls for chicken stock, but I had beef stock, so I used that), boiled it for a few minutes, added the pork tenderloin and simmered it, partly covered, for about 30 minutes, so it would be completely cooked when I added it to the soup.
Meanwhile, I was making the soup in another pot. When the pork was cooked and slightly cooled, I poured its broth into the soup pot, cut the very tender tenderloin into bite-sized pieces and added them to the soup.
There was no fresh kale in the store that day, so I used half a pound of baby arugula, a peppery green, in its place. Really, I made Portuguese baby arugula soup with pork tenderloin and smoked paprika. It was delicious.
To be fancier, I could have put a spoonful of sour cream on each serving and sprinkled a bit of smoked paprika on the sour cream.
The dessert — sliced oranges and chopped walnuts drizzled with an orange-flavored syrup — is the perfect ending to this meal.
Portuguese Kale Soup
The recipe is from “American Cooking: New England” published by Time Life Books, 1970.
1/2 pound fresh kale, or substitute collard greens
1 pound linguica or chorizo, or substitute any other garlic-seasoned smoked pork sausage
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
4 medium-sized boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 quarts chicken stock, fresh or canned
9 medium-sized tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped, or substitute 3 cups chopped, drained, canned tomatoes
1 cup freshly cooked kidney beans, or substitute 1 cup canned kidney beans, thoroughly rinsed in a sieve under cold running water
Wash the greens under cold running water. With a sharp knife, trim away any bruised or blemished spots and strip the leaves from their stems. Bunch the leaves together and with a knife cut them into strips about 1/4 inch wide. Set aside.
Place the sausages in a small skillet and prick them in two or three places with the point of a knife. Add enough water to cover them completely and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Drain the sausages on paper towels, slice them into 1/4-inch thick rounds and set aside.
In a heavy 6- to 8-quart casserole, warm the oil over moderate heat. Add the onions and garlic and, stirring frequently, cook for about 5 minutes until they are soft and translucent but not brown.
Add the potatoes and stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the casserole partially and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a bowl and mash them into a smooth puree with the back of a table fork, or puree them through a food mill or ricer into a bowl. Return the potatoes to the casserole, add the tomatoes and kidney beans, and stir until the ingredients are well mixed. Bring to a boil again, reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered for 15 minutes.
Stir in the greens and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes longer. Then drop in the reserved sausages and cook for a minute or two to heat them through. Taste for seasoning and serve at once from heated soup plates.
Makes 8 servings.
Oranges in Liqueur
The recipe is from “Northern Italian Cooking” by Biba Caggiano, published by HP Books in 1992.
After a robust meal, this fresh, light dessert of oranges, walnuts and orange liqueur is perfect.
Zest of 1 orange, thinly sliced
6 large oranges
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup Cointreau (orange liqueur) or brandy
Juice of 1 orange
Fill a small saucepan one-third full with water. Bring to a boil. Add orange zest and boil 3 to 5 minutes to reduce bitterness. Drain and dry well with paper towels. Cut the ends off oranges. Set each orange on the cutting board and slice off peel, making sure to remove all white skin. Cut oranges into slices about 1/3 inch thick. Remove seeds. Arrange orange slices slightly overlapping on a large platter or in individual dishes. Sprinkle oranges with walnuts and set aside.
Melt butter in a small saucepan. Stir in sugar, orange zest and Cointreau or brandy. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add orange juice. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is a medium-thick consistency. Spoon over oranges and serve.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Variation: Arrange sliced oranges on a platter or on individual dishes and sprinkle with walnuts. Squeeze the juice of 1 large lemon over oranges and sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar. Chill 20 to 30 minutes and serve.