A few weeks ago, a reader suggested I try my hand at Caldo Verde (“green broth”), a traditional Portuguese soup that is often considered their national dish. It was the perfect recommendation – the soup’s use of simple, satisfying ingredients, plus the addition of slightly-spicy sausage, make it an ideal late spring / early summer meal.
Initially, the soup’s use of kale might seem out of place for a country that is geographically closer to Africa than the rest of Europe. But when you take into context the fact that the soup originates from Portugal’s northern Minho region, which was once under Roman and Celtic occupation and still retains some of that influence today, the culinary presence of a hearty cabbage like collard greens (or kale like in this recipe) makes sense. One of my favorite aspects of this dish is that it’s a perfect pauper’s meal: combine some very basic and always-available ingredients (water, onion, potatoes, cabbage) and add other items if and when they are available (broth, sausage).
With our extended winter this year (spring is finally springing in our neck of the woods this week!), I found myself craving comfort foods to help me get over the cold-weather blues. And for that very same reason, I decided to focus on an American classic for this week’s recipe – one that some might consider a quintessential comfort food. Believe it or not, it’s very hard to find any sort of origin or history around the combination of sausage, peppers and onion. It’s a staple food of Fenway Park, so it must be a Boston thing, right? But others associate it with NYC, and still more with Chicago. All I can say with certainty is that it’s of Italian-American descent, with fairly deep roots, and an easy way to make a quick delicious meal.
The word “sausage” originally comes from the Latin word salsus, which means “salted.” There is evidence of it being enjoyed in Italy as much as 2,000 years ago. That it has a long culinary existence isn’t so surprising; sausage is a perfect way of making sure every bit of the animal is used, and deliciously so. Here in the US, the words “Italian sausage” imply a seasoning based on fennel seeds and anise, and can be sold as either mild or spicy.
Ah, bratwurst. The German sausage has been around for a long time – the oldest recorded recipe is from the 15th Century, but it is mentioned in earlier texts. Germany (and Eastern Europe) in particular happened to be the perfect place to develop the sausages over time, because the cold winters and Northern winds were perfect conditions for testing out this cured meat. Historically, it’s also an excellent way to get nutrients into your system, as the sausages were full of parts that would have otherwise gone to waste (including some organ meats!).
Chowders made with bratwurst are popular in the United States, particularly in the Upper Midwest, but they are often full of beer and cheddar. Those aren’t bad things, mind you! But still, I wanted to make a recipe that captured the spirit and richness of those delicious chowders, but with some cleaner ingredients. Turns out a combination of chicken broth, cream, and a little aged cheddar did the trick nicely. I love this chowder in particular because it doesn’t take long to cook – about 45 minutes from start to finish – another benefit of cooking with sausage!
Shirred eggs, more commonly known as baked eggs, are eggs that are baked in a flat-bottom dish. Although they are traditionally prepared with minimal ingredients, my variation is a little different in that I like to use cupcake pans and layer a host of ingredients into a cup lined with ham or other form of cured meat. I like the idea of building your whole breakfast at once.
These baked eggs are a great way to treat guests that come over for brunch, or everybody’s favorite meal, “breakfast for dinner.”
To start off the New Year, I’ll be posting only Whole30-compliant recipes this month. What is the Whole30 Program? It’s very similar to what I eat already, but with a few more restrictions: no dairy (except ghee), no white potatoes, no rice, no alcohol, no sugars or sweeteners of any kind. It’s a great way to jump headfirst into an ancestral diet (although easing into a Paleo diet is just fine, too) and see some dramatic changes in your health.
For my first January recipe I wanted to share one of my go-to comfort foods: sausage and sauerkraut. It can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes and always hits the spot! Sauerkraut is a superfood thanks to its healthy bacteria; Genghis Kahn took it with him as he conquered Eurasia, and Germans brought it with them on ships as they traveled to America, in order to fight off disease. Admittedly, many of its healthy bacteria are destroyed in the cooking process of this dish, but don’t let it deter you from chowing down on this tasty recipe! When shopping for sauerkraut, be sure to buy some that only has water, salt and cabbage as its ingredients. You can always make it yourself, too; it’s one of the easiest pickling endeavors you could undertake.
My buddies at US Wellness Meats recently sent me a box of goodies to cook with, so for the next few weeks you’ll see some of their products popping up in my recipes. I couldn’t be happier – everything I’ve tried from this place is downright awesome.
When eyeing their Alaskan scallops, I knew some sort of pork needed to be paired with it, but I couldn’t decide. Bacon-wrapped scallops? Done to death. Sausage? Maybe. Both? Now we’re talking. So I whipped up one of my rare “thin-air” recipes – which are actually pretty hard for me to do, since I love recreating traditional recipes more than anything.
This dish only uses a few ingredients and seasonings on purpose – to hone in on the natural taste of the scallops, sausage, bacon, and kale. I also kept the portions a little small, so this dish is perfect for a light, tasty, and slightly messy lunch.