I can’t take credit for this amazing soup, Caldo Gallego, except for the intention. The recipe itself is from “The Cuisines of Spain,” an exquisite cookbook by Teresa Berrenechea. My aim was to make a soup to say yes to life.
It’s cold again-slash-still in Santa fe, not minus 15 degrees cold as it was last week, just snow-flurry and gray clouds cold. The only word for the morning sky today was dreary. I thought I beat the winter blues 25 years ago when I left the East Coast and rolled off the dumb-luck truck in the Sunbelt. This year, they’re back.
I spent most of Sunday morning flipping through Barrenechea’s cookbook, picking out a soup before losing myself in travel fantasies and questions about various regions of Spain. America’s diverse (though rapidly homogenizing) ethnic regions sprouted, like mushrooms, more or less simultaneously in our relatively compressed period of foreign conquest. Spain’s provinces developed as independent kingdoms over centuries, with their own languages, dialects, customs, foods and culinary traditions. A trip even through a Spanish cookbook is a geographic and historic journey.
I found Galicia on the map, the province in the northwest chunk of Spain just above Portugal. For linguistic reasons, the adjectival form of Galicia is Gallegos. There’s so much I want to learn about this world.
You can start anything with soup. This morning before starting work I walked to Ziggy’s International Market, about a half mile from our house, where I picked up a package of Spanish chorizo, chatted a bit with Maria, the cashier, then walked across the parking lot to the little Mexican-owned grocery for greens.
“Excuse me,” I said twice to the man in the grocer’s apron, who didn’t even register hearing me. “Perdoneme,” I then said hesitantly, “tengo una pregunta, por favor,” and pointed to the sign for turnip greens. They wouldn’t have any ’til tomorrow, he said, so I grabbed a bunch of kale.
I walked home under the dreary pre-snow sky with my bag of kale and chorizo, aiming to hedge the blues with a stockpot.Last Saturday I volunteered at the Souper Bowl, the Santa Fe Food Depot‘s big fundraiser, where 30-some local restaurants give tastes of their best soups. I was physically tired and just weary emotionally. There were many good soups there, but a Roasted Garlic and Winter Vegetable soup brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. Maybe someday I’ll write a book about soup as a spiritual practice.
Caldo Gallegos (White Bean Soup with Greens and Meat)
1/2 pound dried white cannellini beans
1/2 pound bacon (in one piece, if available)
1# turnip greens or green cabbage, chopped (I substituted kale)
About 6 oz. Spanish chorizo (note: this is not the same as Mexican chorizo)
1# potatoes, cut in large chunks
1 teaspoon salt
*Rinse the beans and soak them 8 hours or overnight.
*Drain the beans, put in a stock pot, and add bacon and enough water to cover by an inch. Bring to a boil; lower heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for an hour.
*Add the greens; cook another half hour, adding water as necessary to cover the beans.
*Add the chorizo, potatoes and salt; cook another 30 minutes or so until the potatoes are fork-tender.
*To serve lift the bacon and chorizo from the pot and cut into small pieces. Put the meat in warmed soup bowls, ladle the soup on top, and serve immediately.