I've been experimenting with Portuguese Cabbage aka 'Couve Tronchuda' in the kitchen. It's the essential ingredient in Caldo Verde and it was delicious in the version that I made using Jean Anderson's recipe from The Food of Portugal. Kale and collards seem to be the most common substitutes suggested for Portuguese Cabbage so I thought to try the reverse - use the cabbage in kale recipes. I've had varying results, none really outstanding. It was ok in a gratin with potatoes and would probably have been better if I had had the time to leave it in the oven longer. So I've returned to soup since that seems to be the raison d'être for this vegetable (see the article that Barbara Damrosch wrote about Couve Tronchuda for the Washington Post). I came up with the following soup after reading a recipe for the Spanish soup Caldo Gallego. This is not Caldo Gallego by a long stretch but it delicious and therefore worth recording so that I can make it again.
Bean and Sausage Soup with Portuguese Cabbage
1 1/2 cups dry Runner Cannellini beans, presoaked
1 smoked ham hock
3 Dittmer’s Venison Andouille sausages, about 9 to 10 ounces
2 8-inch stalks of celery
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered through the root end
2 1/2 quarts cold water (part poultry stock)
3 medium new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 large leaves portuguese cabbage, stems removed and cut into 1/4-inch by 2-inch shreds, about 6 loose cups
Salt and pepper to taste
Best quality extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Put the presoaked beans, ham hock, whole sausages, celery, carrots, onion wedges, and water into a stock pot. Bring to a boil and then turn down and simmer, partly covered, for an hour.
Remove the ham hock and sausages and set aside to cool. Remove and discard the vegetables (they are meant to just flavor the broth). Continue to simmer the beans until they are quite tender but not falling apart – this could take up to an hour longer. If you’re in a rush and the beans are still quite crunchy you can transfer them with half of the broth to a pressure cooker and cook under high pressure for 10 minutes and quick release the pressure. Transfer the beans and broth from the pressure cooker back to the stock pot. Remove the meat from the ham hock and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Slice the sausages into 1/4-inch slices.
When the beans are tender, add the cubed potatoes and shredded cabbage to the pot. Simmer about 15 minutes longer, or until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart. Add the ham and sausage to the pot and simmer a few minutes more. Season the soup with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
Serve with a generous drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil in each bowl.