Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cape-Cod Style Portuguese Kale Soup, farkashert

Aunt Birdie (my wife's mother's sister) was a force of nature. For those readers of this blog who didn't know her, she was the type of person who could tell an airport security guard to "take your f**king hands off my kinishes" and still get through security. She was also the type of person who could be found basting a brisket (or was it brushing a pie crust) stark naked in the kitchen, wearing only a bathing cap, when her teenage granddaughter walked in. She passed away just over two years ago and left a great void in the cosmos. Since I am blessed that all of my immediate relatives are alive, she is the person for whom I say Yiskor. She also was a wonderful, excessive cook, who thought vegetables were mostly irrelevant, that hard salami was low in calories because all the fat dripped out when you hung it up to dry, and that almost any dish could be fixed with a stick of butter. And she made wonderful kale soup, in style of the Portuguese of Cape Cod, and of course, it was full of treyf.

Last year when we were swamped with kale from our CSA I tried out this soup, using the dried kosher turkey sausages rather than linguica and chourico, the Portuguese-style sausages sold in much of coastal New England. (If Sarah is reading, I ask her to chime in as to whether or not I got the word "varkashert" right.) Not quite as good, but not bad either and well worth the effort. Here is the recipe:

Kale Soup

  • 4-6 ounces dried turkey kubano sausage, sliced (if small) or diced (if large)
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 or 2 bunches of kale, about 2-3 quarts washed well and cut into 1 inch shreds
  • 16 ounce can of kidney or cannellini beans, well rinsed, or about 1/3 pound cooked kidney or white beans (navy or cannellini) -- (see below)
  • 2 quarts liquid (chicken or vegetable broth, bean broth if you cook the beans fresh, or a combination, or use water with 1-2 bouillon cubes -- see below)
  • 1 medium turnip, peeled and diced, or about 1/2 to 1 cup tender young turnips, scrubbed and diced.
  • 1 large russet or yukon gold potato, diced (see below)

  1. Saute the sausage in 1-3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat in a 4-5 quart pot until brown and a bit crisp, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the onion and saute until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and saute another minute.
  4. Add the paprika and stir a few times.
  5. Add the kale, a very little salt, and black pepper, and stir well. Cover the pot and cook until wilted. You may need to add a bit of the liquid now to move this along.
  6. Add the beans and the liquid, bring to a boil, and simmer about 20 minutes.
  7. Add the turnip and potato and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  8. Taste for salt and serve hot.
  9. This freezes well, but only if you leave out the potato. Add a finely diced potato when you reheat to serve and cook until tender.
On beans and life expectancy: This has nothing to due with the health benefits of beans, bur rather that I often debate to myself whether life is to short to cook your own beans (rather than using them from a can), preserve your own lemons, or make your own chicken broth if you are just going to use it in a soup. I tend to cook my own beans, buy preserved lemons now that a number of brands are available (no, they are not as good, but they are easy), and save the home-made broths for when they are served by themselves and not one of many ingredients in a thick soup. However, there are times when I just reach for a can of beans. But cooking your own is easy, and the results are superior, and you do get the bean broth, whereas the liquid in the bean can is one of the most disgusting substances known to humankind (with the possible exception of black beans). You can also freeze beans that have been soaked but not cooked, as well as cooked beans. However, you have to be able to tell the difference. When I made this soup most recently, I reached for a bag of beans in the freezer which I though was labeled pre-soaked. Not being able to read my own handwriting (this will come as no surprise to those who have actually seen it) the bag must have said pre-cooked, because when I checked on them after 20 minutes of cooking, far less time than it should take, they had turned into a liquidy puree. So I just opened a can. By the way, for this soup, red kidney beans are the classic, but it is just fine with white beans, which is what I had in the house.


  1. Farkashert, with an f. but good work, otherwise!

  2. I tend to yekke-fy the "var" and pronounce the v as and f, hence the orthographical mistake. I will try to remember next time. I also thought the rest of the world deserved to know more about Birdie.

  3. love you Alan..... big smiles on my face this morning! See you soon

  4. Love this, too! Two minor corrections, for the record: (1) She was wearing a shower cap (and nothing else). No big deal, just multitasking... Not sure Molly has ever gotten over the experience. (2) Hard salami loses it's fat through evaporation, not dripping, and is thus a perfectly healthy food. Even more crazily far-fetched than the notion of dripping, but I swear, she said it, in all seriousness, straight to my face. A great void in the cosmos, indeed.