Caldo Verde.  Rey Lopez for The Washington Post

Last year for my birthday, I went to Portugal for the first time. I flew into Lisbon, where I spent a few rainy days wandering around, admiring the tilework, snacking on pastéis de nata, and buying gorgeous tins of fish. Then, I took the train north to Porto to meet my friends David and Rafael. Everyone seems to love Lisbon, but I fell hard for Porto: the rocky beaches, the wine, the food.

There’s the famous riot of a sandwich known as Francesinha, a many-layered meat and cheese concoction topped with tomato gravy that is best eaten when hung over. I had to try it, though I preferred the simplicity of the bifana, a sandwich of pork braised in wine and onions.

One day, for a late lunch, David took me to Casa Guedes on the Praça dos Poveiros. “We’re going to eat my favorite soup in the world,” he said. My expectations were high. When we sat down, he ordered in Portuguese, so I had no idea what was coming. “You’ll see,” he said, a twinkle in his eye.

A little while later, a server brought us two small bowls of a creamy golden broth, marbled with green. David stuck his spoon in and gave the soup a stir. A bright red round of Portuguese chouriço floated to the surface. “See the texture of the broth, see how it’s creamy but runny?” he pointed out. “It’s not fancy, it’s not supposed to be. It’s just comforting.”

Caldo verde is often called Portugal’s national dish. In “My Portugal,” chef and author George Mendes wrote that the soup “defines the culture and the people: warm, soulful, and easy to love.” The dish originated in the north of the country, but is now made all over, with each cook adapting it to his or her tastes. The key ingredients are onions, garlic, potatoes, Portuguese chouriço and couve tronchuda, a type of Portuguese cabbage or kale. The finished soup can be chunky with hunks of potato, or it can be smooth.

Mendes prefers creamy Yukon Gold potatoes. Other cooks like the density that russet potatoes offer. I like using a combination of the two, but feel free to experiment with other types, including red or baby potatoes.

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Because it can be difficult to find Portuguese chouriço and kale, I adapted this recipe to honor the spirit of the original. Look for Portuguese chouriço at specialty shops, but if you can’t find it, use any kind of chorizo-flavored sausage. Any type of kale or collard greens will work here, too.

Pay attention to how you cut the kale. “In Portugal, this is called the ‘caldo verde cut,'” Mendes wrote. After stripping away the tough center stem from each leaf, cut the kale into very thin strips, and then cut those into approximately 1-inch pieces. You can also chop the kale and then slice it thinly – the goal is to have thin strips that don’t dangle from the edge of your spoon.

Caldo verde

4 servings (makes about 10 cups)

Active time: 20 mins; Total time: 45 mins

The recipe includes instructions for both a chunky soup or a smooth one.

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Where to buy: Portuguese sausage can be found in specialty markets and butcher shops.

Storage: Refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces cooked Portuguese chouriço, linguiça or other chorizo-flavored sausage, sliced

1 medium yellow onion (10 ounces), thinly sliced

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4 cloves garlic, sliced

Fine salt

8 cups no-salt-added chicken or vegetable broth

1 1/2 pounds potatoes, preferably a mix of russets and yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

8 ounces Portuguese green kale or curly kale, thick stems removed, thinly sliced and roughly chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

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Directions

In a large Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed, lidded pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate. Add the onions, garlic and a pinch of salt to the pot and cook, stirring, until the onion softens and starts to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add a little of the broth and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the remaining broth and the potatoes along with another pinch of salt. Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a steady simmer. Reduce the heat to keep it at a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender and starting to fall apart.

At this point, if you would like a chunky soup, you can add the kale and cook it until it softens and turns deep green, 5 to 10 minutes.

If you prefer a smooth soup, remove the pot from the heat and use an immersion blender to blend the soup just until it is as smooth as you’d like. (Alternatively, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender: To prevent splatters, be careful to not fill it more than halfway, remove the center ring from the lid, and hold a kitchen towel over the lid as you blend.) Don’t blend the soup for too long, or it may become gluey.

Return the pot to medium-high heat, add the kale, and cook until silky and deep green, 5 to 10 minutes.

Return the browned sausage to the pot, and simmer for another 5 minutes. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, top with more black pepper, if desired, and serve hot.

Nutrition | Per serving (2 1/2 cups): 537 calories, 49g carbohydrates, 40mg cholesterol, 29g fat, 7g fiber, 24g protein, 7g saturated fat, 646mg sodium, 6g sugar

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