Friday, September 23, 2011

Cajun-Portuguese Fusion: Bouillon Verde

The Autumnal Equinox is here, so's soup time!  I'm pretty sure Soup Peddler David Ansel titled his hilarious and fun-to-read cookbook Slow and Difficult Soups in response to the overused "Quick and Easy" that dozens of cookbooks seem to use these days.  Most of David's soups, though, actually are quite simple and speedy to prepare. 

Every year about this time I start thinking about Caldo Verde, a Portuguese soup made with linguica sausage and kale.  That's why I picked up a package of AmyLu's andouille sausage at Costco the other day.

Yes, I know  andouille is Cajun, but Costco didn't have linguica.  Come to find out, I didn't have enough of my delectable Schreiber and Sons kale, either, so I subbed in some of their Brussels sprouts.  Then I decided to add carrots, and some smoked paprika.  Really, it became rather a soup free-for-all, which, I am happy to report, turned out splendidly.

So, herewith my Cajun-Portugese fusion soup.  Caldo Verde is Spanish for green broth, which in French is bouillon vert, so we're calling this Bouillon Verde.  Fair enough?

Adapted from The Soup Peddler's Slow and Difficult Soups by David Ansel

The book calls for browning the sausages first, then sauteeing the veggies in the fat in the pan.  My sausage was, unfortunately, rather low fat, so I couldn't do that.  But if you have fatty sausage, browning it first is the way to go!

3 tablespoons ghee, butter or olive oil

2 onions, quartered and sliced into crescents
1/2 bunch kale, thick stems removed, leaves chopped
2 cups trimmed Brussels sprouts, coarsely chopped

8 andouille sausages, cut in about 1-1/2 pieces, at an angle for jauntiness
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
a few grinds of black pepper

2 quarts chicken broth or stock

2 or 3 potatoes, peeled (or just well scrubbed, if they're organic), cut into 3/4-inch dice
6 fat carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and then into 3/4-inch dice.

1 head garlic (about 8 fat cloves), peeled and coarsely chopped

Salt as needed

Start off by heating the ghee in at least a 6-quart soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onions, kale and Brussels sprouts as you prepare them, stirring occasionally.  The veggies should begin to soften and perhaps even brown a bit.

Add the sausage pieces and stir, then stir in the paprika, crushed red pepper and black pepper, and cook a few more minutes.

Add the broth, potatoes and carrots, and half the garlic, and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 15 minutes or so, then stir in the remaining garlic.

Cook 5 to 10 more minutes, or until the potatoes and carrots are tender. Taste for salt; whether to add any or not depends on the broth you use.  I added 3/4 teaspoon and found it to be just right.

Makes about 8 servings

Costco is now selling this organic chicken "stock" as opposed to the "broth they formerly offered.  The label says "More versatile than broth."  My opinion?  The stock is exactly the same as the former "broth." 

Don't be afraid to buy these lovely branches of Brussels sprouts at Schreiber and Sons' booth at the farmers' markets.  The sprouts pop off by hand quite easily.  Just snap and twist.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Ritual Nectarine

You know how it is ... well, maybe I'm unique, but I doubt it.

Glorious weather.  A spectacular hike experience.  Sweltering and thirsty, you reach the hike midpoint, and pull up to the nearest log or rock to rest a spell and enjoy a magnificent view (which you have EARNED!).

You rummage around in your pack for that ripe-to-perfection Gilmore Farms nectarine you have wrapped carefully in a paper towel.  One sweet, juicy, flavorful bite later, and you know that this is an experience you will never forget:  endorphins high from being outdoors and hiking, nourishment and hydration flowing into you from one of the tastiest, juiciest fruits known to man.  You want to have this experience again and again.

That happened to me several years ago on the hike to Upper Crystal Lake from Chinook Pass, and because we take this hike every year, I've made sure to repeat this ambrosial experience each time by packing a Gilmore Farms nectarine to look forward to. These photos are from this year's hike on September 4.

This hike is spectacular and perfect in every way.  There are open hillsides, rocky shale, shady forests, cool lakeside resting spots, several great viewpoints, a high pass, flower-filled glades, and finally, views of Mount Rainier above Upper Crystal Lake.

Looking back at Chinook Pass from the trail.

Sheep Lake lunch stop.  Sourdough Gap is in the indention in the center of the photo, in the mountain ridge.

A sampling of the flowery glades we passed by.

Tiger lilies ... a rare sight.  They're native to Washington State (a knowledgeable-looking hiker told me) and don't bloom for very long.

And finally:  The Nectarine View

Logistics:  Link to a map here.  We like to start the hike by parking at Tipsoo Lake, just inside the (no-fee) entrance to Mount Rainier National Park.  There are restrooms.  Follow the trail shown on the map to Sheep Lake.  There's another trail up to Sourdough Gap, through which you can proceed, taking the left-hand trail at the fork, to a small ridge, passing over which you will see Upper Crystal Lake and Mount Rainier.

And don't forget to pick up your Gilmore Farms nectarine (they're at Pasco, Richland and Kennewick Farmers' markets) before leaving home!