Today’s Soup & Stories post is sure to make you smile. And by the time you’re finished reading, your tummy may be growling for this Spanish soup, too!
The recipe comes from María Morera Johnson whom we’ve had the pleasure of meeting at the Catholic New Media Conferences. At the first conference Joel and I attended, there were several “Lisas” in attendance. Maria joked about taking on Lisa as her alias for that weekend, but really, the Lisas might have fared better to take on Maria. (You know, a form of Mary and all, as in our Blessed Mother!) Maria has a great story behind her birth name, María Begoña. Her mother is Basque and Our Lady of Begoña is the patroness of Guipozcoa (Spain), the province, incidentally, of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Most Hispanics are named María and go by their middle names. Maria’s is Begoña and goes by Bego for short. I like it. A lot! Her personal blog is aptly titled begojohnson.com, and it’s novel, fresh, and fun — just like Maria. And my oh my, I’m so excited to this soup! Check it out.
* * *
I’m always one to look for the comical or redeemable side of things. That’s probably a healthy habit to cultivate since I’ve had a number of dramatic kitchen disasters in the almost thirty years I’ve been married to a man who not only earns the bacon, but can cook the heck out of it.
I have learned how to make a few things very well — well enough to have my dear husband request that I be the one to prepare it. Caldo Gallego, a hearty soup from Galicia, Spain, is one of those.
The secret to its success is patience. It needs to simmer a long time. The meat, usually ham hocks, needs to cook a long time in order to be tender and fall off the bone. The white beans, too, should melt. And the collard greens need time to absorb all the flavors in the pot.
It is a labor of love to make this soup.
Boy do I love my family, and labor to make it for them.
Many years ago, when the kids were in middle school and younger, I decided to make a big pot of Caldo Gallego. There was leftover ham from some Sunday event, and I thought it would be perfect.
Did I share I’m not very spectacular in the kitchen? It was a glazed ham. Brown sugar and maple syrup have no place in a hearty stew. Ever.
Let me just say, the result was revolting. I remember all the anguished faces as the children took their first big spoonfuls and grossed out. To their credit, they followed their dad’s lead, who had taken his own large spoonful and struggled to swallow it. I knew something was up, so when I had a taste and spit it out, everyone was relieved.
My husband, trying to avert a crying jag from me, folded his napkin, looked around the table, and announced, “Well. That settles it! Who wants banana splits for dinner?”
God bless him. He knew the right thing to do in the moment, and turned around a stressful situation and made it fun. To this day, we call that soup Ew Stew, though I hope it’s tastier than the name implies.
It was a great family moment. Much more than a fun run for ice cream, it was a great lesson for the kids — to learn how to be gentle with each other, as they had been to me when mom’s cooking wasn’t quite up to par. It was an act of kindness and charity from my husband, who knew the work that had gone into the soup, and also recognized that on a school night, scrambling to create a new meal would be the height of stress for me.
And he knew, too, that laughter in the face of some adversity can go a long way in developing a healthy relationship with failure.
I wasn’t afraid to try again, and in those years have perfected the soup. Here’s my recipe. Give it a try, and if it doesn’t come out as tasty as you’d like the first time, be gentle with yourself. And go out for ice cream.
* * *
Caldo Gallego (download recipe here)
2 cups dried white beans
1 large onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 ham hock (or smoked ham of your liking)
Salt, pepper, and garlic
1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 lb greens (I like collard greens, but you can use turnip greens)
2 chorizos, cut into pieces (I cut into rounds)
- Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water. Rinse.
- The next day, bring the beans and the ham to a boil in 10 cups of water.
- Add salt and pepper to taste (you might like to play with other spices to your liking)
- Simmer for about 1 hour.
- In a skillet or pan, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic. Add a ladle of beans and mash them to absorb the oil, onions and garlic. Add the mixture to the bean soup.
- Add the potatoes, vegetables, and chorizo.
- Continue cooking on medium heat, covered, for at least an hour. Potatoes should be done.
* * *
Read all Soup & Stories entries here.