Caldo Verde (Portuguese Potato & Spinach Soup)
In the far north of Portugal, the landscape is green and mountainous with deep valleys dotted with red-tile roofed villages. Beautiful rivers weave through the valleys and terraced vineyards and olive groves are abundant. Life is simple and centers around farming. You still see oxen plowing the fields and people in their donkey carts and sheep and goats wandering the villages - like from a different era. A very traditional food of Northern Portugal is Caldo Verde, which means 'green soup'. This is my adaptation of it:
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 large potatoes, peeled and diced
8 cups vegetable stock or broth
1 bunch spinach, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large kettle, saute garlic and onion in olive oil until softened. Add potatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 25 minutes (uncovered) until potatoes are soft. (The potatoes will start to break down and make the soup creamy). Add spinach and simmer 5 more minutes until wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Note: A trick from the Portuguese - stir a splash of white wine vinegar in the soup and it will bring up the flavor kind of like salt does.
If you really want to be Portuguese for a night, serve the soup with a side of crusty peasant-style bread, hunks of smoked cheese (Gouda-type) and thin slices of ham or proscuitto. Oh, and a dish of black olives.