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Today marked a pretty significant day here in Nanaimo… I finally found purchasable kale at the Farmer’s Market!!  Glee!! I still don’t understand why there hasn’t been any all summer or early fall, but I guess that’s not for me to know. Sure miss all the varieties in Victoria though. Sure miss Moss St. Market. Sigh.

Anyway, I have been wanting to cook Caldo Verde for some time now, especially ever since I started missing Kale. I guess it was a desire I hung onto, just to ensure that I had a goal to find local kale. Honestly, I could have just gone to the grocery store and picked it up there, but kale doesn’t travel well and it tastes bitter by the time we get it from California. Real kale is sweet and green tasting. It’s pretty darn good.

For those of you who don’t know this, Caldo Verde is the Official Soup of Portugal! Cool, eh? And as a side note, if you google “Official Soup of Canada” (or something along these lines), it looks like it’s a tie between French Canadian Yellow Split Pea Soup and Campbell Soup. Ugh, really? And a further just as a side, I remember one time someone from England told me that she understood muffins to be an Official Canadian Snack. First I’d heard of it. Anyho, totally got side-tracked there…

I realized quickly when I started to make this soup, that I don’t have a clue what it’s suppose to taste like. Hmmmm. Not only that, but I think you need you have damn good ingredients to make this work. I mean, usually you can make due with some ingredients being a bit less sophisticated than others, but when you are only working with 5 items, there’s no where to hide. However, I’m not knocking my ingredients, because they were all solid, but I think in the future I would make a homemade broth (to put that in perspective, that’s analogous to me saying that I would make my own bread… a true rarity in my kitchen). So I’ve concluded this would be a good soup to make after Turkey Dinner or a dinner similar to that (you know, for the bones). I think having a rich, thoughtful broth would  be amazing.

Because I have never had this soup, I don’t really know if I’ve made it correctly. In spite of it’s simplicity, I am willing to bet that I have only made a version that is sort of like the real thing. I am making it a goal right here, right now to seek out the real deal. For reals. Mark my words, I will make this happen.  I don’t usually cook things I haven’t eaten before (especially “Official” things) and actually, I found it kind of awkward to do so.  I almost felt too, that it was forbidden. Or maybe that was nervous embarrassment.  I mean, there is always that off-chance that a Portuguese Grandmother is going to come waltzing into your kitchen with her big taster-tester soup spoon.  Isn’t there?

This particular recipe (that I cut and pasted from my friend Guy’s FB wall, with permission) is in kind courtesy of Marilyn Gates and it goes a little something like this…

“Yes, Nati. The Portuguese National Soup. Mince one medium onion and six cloves garlic (or less to taste). Saute in 2 tbsp good olive oil 3 mins. Stir in 6 potatoes peeled and sliced and cook 3 mins more. Add 8 cups water and simmer 20 mins while you cook a couple of linguica (Portuguese sausage) until releases fat. Smash pots and add sausage to soup. When almost read to serve add a medium bunch of kale julienned. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve drizzled with olive oil + peasant bread.”

Mmmmmmm mmmmm. Thanks Marilyn!

PS: I didn’t have linguica, so I used Hungarian Bratwurst… so wrong I know! (But delicious nonetheless.)
PPS: I don’t eat a lot of bread, so I skipped that.
PPS: (ack, I feel like I’m in a confession both)… I added a small dash of white wine. I know I KNOW, this soup has been completely bastardized. In my defense, first I already stated that I didn’t know what I was doing (so I felt some leeway there) and second, it was too salty – something had to be done. Just thankful that that Portuguese Granny didn’t come walking in…
PPPS: I have plans to add carrots to the rest of this soup tomorrow. (Did I just write that out loud?)

Anyone who really knows me (this is a test people…) KNOWS I love kale.  I love it, because it’s green, it’s BIG, it’s waterproof, it’s wholesome, and it’s soooo so good for you.  I love how it smells when it’s fresh and how it tastes sweet when it is grown in healthy, organic soil.  When my bunny Astro was alive, we shared bundle after bundle of kale and both of us considered it to be one of our favourite vegetables (my most favourite vegetable in the world is the green bean… I think I’ve already mentioned that before though).  The farmers at Moss St. Market (in Victoria BC), used to sell several varieties of kale and would always ask how Astro was doing.  I loved that they appreciated feeding me and my bunny, and that it warmed their hearts to do so.  Actually, in truth it’s a real turn off when farmers aren’t interested in my pet or the fact that their vegetables nourish her.  Recently I was explaining excitingly to a farmer, that Glee’na loves her green beans and swiss chard, and the farmer didn’t seem much to care.  (Boooooo… wrong response.)  The woman acted as if I was explaining in excruciating detail how I fold my socks, in contrast to how I fold my towels, and I felt offended.  Geeeez,  obviously I was paying the highest compliment that one could give, since my #1 rottweiler is a happy harbour seal and any fabulous Dog Mama knows, that this is important-o. Anyhoo, the past is behind us, so back to the topic of kale!

It’s surprising how many people have never even heard of kale, let alone tried it.  For several years now, it has been a normal item in almost every supermarket and usually the stores offer both an organic and non-organic option.  (True, the organic kale is usually from California and it’s a bummer they can’t just stock a local Island variety… and on that note,  I’m still trying to figure out redundant trade deals, as I find the concept to be completely bizarre.)  Kale is still off the food-radar of most folks.  Why is that?  In Nanaimo, it’s impossible to find kale (and collard greens for that matter) at the Farmer’s Markets and I was told that “it’s not in season”.  Huh?  I have kale growing from seed in my pathetic garden and I recall getting it all year in Victoria.  I’m not sure what the story is in this city, but nonetheless I need my daily greens and these day I have been relying solely on swiss chard.  So out of teamwork and inspiration, my friend Guy passed along another yummy recipe.  This one is called:

Kale of Champions!

Ingredients:

1 bunch of kale, stems removed, leaves ripped into bite sized pieces (Swiss chard, collard greens, or broccoli also will work)
1/4 cup of soy sauce (tamari or Bragg’s is even better, but regular soy will do)
1/4 cup of rice vinegar (I’ve used other vinegars, but rice vinegar works best)
1 tsp of sesame oil
1 small piece of fresh ginger, chopped (1 tsp of powdered ginger will also do the trick)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp of chili flakes

Instructions:

Steam or sauté kale. Mix all other ingredients together. When kale is cooked and drained, pour sauce over and eat.

Done!

So again, I have the honour of sharing a solid recipe.  To my sauce, I added a tsp of miso and honey, because I’m feeling like a virus is attacking me and I wanted some killer health to combat it.  Also, I didn’t have much kale (I picked what I had from my silly plot) and so my mix was 1:1 kale to swiss chard (which I have loads of).  This is truly a delicious way to eat your leafy greens and Guy says you can do this with any vegetable (as mentioned in the recipe), because this recipe is really about the sauce.  Good sauce = good food… we all know that!  Also, I served my kale mix-up with rice and cut-up veggie breakfast patties.  Of course, you could use serve kale with lots of things, but I needed some rice and a vegetable protein to get on with this “cold” that I’m arguing with.  My supper was tasty, completely filling and totally nourishing.

I’m really trusting Guy’s taste for food, as it is very similar to mine.   When he posted this last night, I asked again for permission to blog about it and he agreed.  So this is a real treat for me, to be able to cook a recipe that a friend really, really likes, because it fills me with the positive qualities of sharing and sharing food is worthy and intelligible.  It makes good sense to eat together, even if it can’t always be at the same table.  When we live far away from one another, we can still experience meals together, by participating in recipe sharing and other such things.  My hope is that we try not to let distance stop us from eating and connecting with the people we care about (including Jamie Oliver… hahaha, hence my extensive collection of his cookbooks!).  Food is at the very basic level of needs and I think it’s paramount to our well-being.  Just like friendship.  And dogs that love green beans.

Today I am feeling “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton.  Overnight the weather turned from hot, dry, blinding sunshine to wet, drippy, cold puddles.  The reality of relocating is setting in, the stress of work continually tightens, and my back is awfully achy.  You know the mood I’m talking about?   You know when you’re in that mood and you just know that you need to take care of yourself, but you’re not sure how?  You also know that food will play some role in this healing, because it always does, doesn’t it?  Thus the term, “comfort food”.

It is very common to reach out to fill our bellies when we need comfort.  Some people turn to soft bread or rich chocolate or silky yogurt or salty chips or sugary sweets.  Some turn to water or milk or juice or shakes or tea or alcohol or pot or benzos.  Some crave cake or beef gravy or cheesy pasta or fried chicken or super salad or a fresh sandwich.  And me, I crave soup.  Not just any soup though, I want nourishing lentil soup.  I want the smooth broth, the tender lentils, the sweet and sourness, and the careful seasonings.   I want to feel the way it digests, so slow and warm in my belly.   And then I the assurance that when I’m hungry again, it awaits over-abundant in the pot, ready to be scooped out.

Truthfully, there must be hundreds of lentil soups recipes out there.  Lentils are such amazing little dots that are so versatile, inexpensive, and healthy.  Plus, they’re completely fuss free, quiet in their tiny cupboard space, non-addictive, and practically immortal.   Chicka chicka, no wonder so many people eat them!

This recipe I cut-and-pasted (with permission) from Guy Duke’s facebook page, specifically from his Notes section.   So without further ado…Ta DA!… introducing…

Guy’s Not-So-Secret-Anymore Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

1 medium yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 large bunch of cilantro
1 tbsp of grated ginger
2 limes
3 lime leaves (optional)
3 cardamom pods (optional)
3 tbsp. of curry powder
3 tbsp. of cumin
3 tbsp. of ground coriander seed
1 big can of diced tomatoes
2 cans of coconut milk
1 liter of vegetable broth
2-3 tbsp. of olive oil
3 cups of red lentils (French lentils work well, too)
½ cup of honey
2 tsp. of curry paste (I like green, but red and yellow will work just fine)
1 bottle of dark beer (optional)
salt

Instructions:

Chop onion, garlic, and grate ginger; sauté in olive oil at medium heat. Add curry paste, cook for 1 minute. Add 1tbsp. each of curry powder, coriander seed and cumin. Cook for another minute. Chop cilantro. Add vegetable broth, coconut milk, tomatoes, cilantro, honey, lime leaves, cardamom and another tbsp each of curry, coriander and cumin and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add lentils, lime juice, beer, and yet more curry, coriander and cumin (use your taste buds to decide here). Cook until lentils are mushy. Add salt to taste. Serve with bread (naan, baguette or what have you) and beer (or ginger beer for those not inclined to boozin’ it up). Feel free to adjust any amount as you see fit. For more spice, add more curry. For a creamier taste, add more coconut milk. Thicker or thinner? Adjust lentil amount.

End

This recipe was really fun to make and the prep for it took hardly anytime at all.  Just reading it over quickly, it might seem like it would take awhile to prepare, but really it’s quick and once it’s done, you just relax and let it simmer.  Your whole house (or your apartment, as in my case) will fill with the most showy smell of comfort and I bet all your cooking clothes will too.  My shirt smells delicious!

Honestly, I didn’t tweak this recipe very much, other than I added a bit more ginger (just because I was feeling the need for ginger-magic), I added a light beer (I didn’t have a dark one kicking around), and as well, I used Indian Curry Paste, just because I wanted to.  (No other reason really.)  In short, this recipe is golden.

I have a bowl of it beside me right now, as I’m typing this, and it’s totally distracting me.  It’s just so darn marvelous!  Sitting there all steamy and yellow… YUM YUM!  The flavours are absolutely brilliant and in one word (another rip-off from Guy): Huzzah!

Okay, so at my work I’m part of the social committee and every month we host a potluck, along with a birthday cake celebration.  (Honestly up until this month, I had never attended any of them before and felt somewhat bad about it, sort of.)  I think it’s fair to say that these days we are up against some serious challenges and staff morale has been touch-and-go for the last couple of months.  Because these food celebrations are voluntary and because fewer and fewer people are attending, I decided to “theme” the potluck.  Of course, I’m not genius at this, so I consulted the internet.  In fact, I googled almost word for word, “potluck themes”.

The theme that really grabbed me was the “Dish with the First Letter of Your Name” theme.  There were many more themes, but they sounded too involved and the goal was to bring us together, not make us work harder than we already are.  Plus, there was an awesome online recipe reference, as to make the whole decision process THAT MUCH easier!

Long story short, we did it and it was fun!  The dishes that were presented were really neat and we had a good laugh talking about the process.  Some folks didn’t end up making what they had intended, some folks didn’t realize there was a theme and some folks actually cooked, instead of purchased.  Hahaha… but no matter, the point was to bring us together.  Mission accomplished.

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