Soup is the meal by which a marriage is made.
No, this is not an ancient proverb; it’s the actual one-sentence account of how my marriage came to be. You know — a big pot on the stove, a simmering of more than just stock and beans, the fragrance of garlic and love in the air. If there isn’t a Harlequin romance with this beginning, then someone should write one.
How many stories of mine begin with a variation on the words, “Flashback: Knoxville, Tennessee, late 90’s?” This tale is no different; I was living in a fantastic apartment on 17th Street with another grad student. We had started an unofficial tradition of having soup on Sunday nights in the winter; someone in our or a neighboring apartment would make a large pot, and everyone would partake. Tim started showing up at the door, alongside a guy I was sort of dating. I assumed he was there to get to know my lovely roommate; turns out (I found out later) he was just there for the soup.
When things didn’t really go anywhere with the guy I was sort of dating, I wondered a bit when Tim showed up the next Sunday, all by his lonesome. Still thinking he was there for the roommate, I let my curiosity wane. (It never really struck me as odd that after we all ate soup, Tim and I would usually be the ones sitting and talking for the next hour or two.) When spring came, and he’d never gotten around to asking my roommate out, and the warm weather brought with it an end to simmering stews, he was still there. Sometime in April, I put two and two together, and after an initial rejection of his advances due to a minor age discrepancy (let’s just say he was an undergrad when I was a grad) I finally (and yes, still thankfully) gave in.
And you know? I’m still making soup for that man. God willing, I’ll be doing it until we are old, gray, and no longer able to chew much other than soup. These one-pot meals comprise our dinners about twice weekly in the winter months. There are the almost-weekly-standby’s, like The Best Tomato Soup (as easy as it gets). Then there are those I make only once or twice the entire season, like Mulligatawny (never eat it without thinking of the Soup Nazi). I enjoy using my own chicken stock, almost exclusively, because it is so economical, so much tastier, and so much better for you. But there are those times when the stock stock (sorry about that one) has run dry, and when that happens I rely on recipes where only water is needed.
Like caldo verde — a Portuguese greens soup. This is a hearty, comforting, flavorful soup if there ever was one, and is so without the use of stock. If you tend, like me, to have bunches of kale on hand throughout the winter, you’re most of the way there. It calls for half a pound of chorizo, but you can use linquica or andouille — any of the hard, red-seasoned, spicy sausages sold pre-wrapped in the meat section. When it’s on sale, I buy a few packs, and split them into half-pound (2-link) portions before freezing them — this way I always have some on hand. This soup is perfect if you are starting to feel congested; the spicy sausage will clear your passages while you eat (a bit embarrassing if you have company). It holds up well as leftovers, and even tastes delicious after being frozen — the potatoes will break down more, making a thicker soup the second go-around.
I can’t say enough good about it. While not a weekly menu item for us, suffice it to say it gets us through winter. A thick, buttered slice of bread on the side is the perfect accompaniment.
My recipe is adapted from one in The Joy of Cooking — the original suggests using partial chicken stock, but I have made it many times with just water and it still tastes wonderful (though, by all means, use it if you have it). I can’t remember what soups I made for Tim, ten years ago, that helped win his heart without my even trying. But if I were writing an instruction book on man-snagging-via-soup-making (and who’s to say I’m not?), this one would be in it. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but also his cleared sinuses.
Caldo Verde (Portuguese Greens Soup)
adapted from The Joy of Cooking
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil, divided
- 8 cups water
- 4 medium (or 2 large) potatoes (any kind), peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper (more or less to taste)
- 6-8 oz chorizo sausage (substitutes: linquica or andouille), thinly sliced
- 4 cups well-washed and thinly-sliced kale (from a half-pound bunch)
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a soup pot or dutch oven, over med-low heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring, until translucent but not brown (about 5 minutes). Stir in water, potatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes in the liquid, thickening the texture of the soup.
Heat remaining 2 tsp oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add the sausage. Sauté, stirring, until brown. Add the sausage to the soup pot, then ladle a little of the soup into the now-empty hot skillet and scrape up any browned bits. Pour this mixture back into the soup pot. Simmer another five minutes, then stir in the kale. Cook another five minutes, until the kale is bright green, then stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.