I’ve just returned from a weekend in Healdsburg, the heart of the Northern California wine country. My husband and I participated in the Healdsburg Harvest Century Bicycle Tour, an annual fundraising event organized by the local Chamber of Commerce. The “tour” is a scenic 60-, 37- or 23-mile bike ride along the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River valleys.
We chose the 60-mile course and while I had complete confidence in my husband to finish this ride barely breaking a sweat, I was quite nervous about how I would fare. Contrary to my old habits, I haven’t ridden more than 40 miles at a time all season. Life happens–work, travel, family, laziness–and somehow I just never put in the time. Coupled with the heat we anticipated during the course of the ride, I did not go into this very optimistic.
Fortunately, the 60-mile route we took followed almost exactly the one we rode a few years ago. It was as flat as a pancake which means that all my hill riding (though only averaging 30-40 miles) gave me enough leg strength to go the distance. Don’t get me wrong; I was still tired but it also helped that we started our ride as soon as we finished checking-in, about 6:30 am. Including two brief rest stops in between, we were done with the ride by 10:30. By then, the morning clouds had just begun to clear, so we didn’t have the additional challenge of contending with the heat. All-in-all, it was a perfect riding day.
The rest of the weekend was spent eating delicious food, drinking the local wine and taking in the lush scenery.
By the time we arrived home this afternoon, I had a house to prepare for two friends who will be arriving tomorrow, groceries to do and the cold that I tried to fight all last week finally got the better of me. So despite the warm weather, I decided that a simple bowl of soup would be perfect for dinner. What I had in mind would be easy to prepare, counter the mildly rich food we enjoyed over the weekend and hopefully help banish this cold.
I was inspired by a bowl of caldo verde (Portuguese Green Soup) that I had for lunch last week. Caldo verde’s typical ingredients include onions, potatoes, a leafy green like kale and linguica sausage. In my version, I replaced the mildly spicy Portuguese sausage with ground meat and used red chard. In effect, my soup became a hybrid of caldo verde and picadillo, a soup that my mother used to prepare when my sisters and I were children.
This hit all the right notes with me tonight. The broth was light with the ground turkey and potatoes adding just enough substance and the leafy greens satisfying a craving for something healthy. A last minute topping of ground pepper, chopped parsley, and a squeeze of citrus lends an even livelier, fresher taste to this soothing soup.
My Rustic Soup
- 1 pound ground turkey (you can use any ground meat)
- 1 large red potato, chopped, skin on
- 2 large shallots (or onion), chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 large bunch red chard (or any leafy green), chopped in small pieces, rinsed well
- Chicken stock (about 6-8 cups)
- olive oil for sautéing
- salt (or your favorite no-salt seasoning)
- Fresh Italian parsley (optional)
- Fresh lemon juice (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
Begin by sautéing the shallots in a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. After about two minutes, add the ground turkey and allow to cook for about five minutes. I like to season my turkey as it cooks with a pinch or two of kosher salt and no-salt seasoning.
Next, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Since I used store-bought chicken stock I supplemented with a little water to control the sodium a bit. I then add more no-salt seasoning to boost the flavor of the soup. Once the liquid has come to a boil, add the chopped potato and let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. A few minutes before serving, add the chopped red chard. The soup will be ready to serve as soon as the greens have wilted.
Ladle the soup into a bowl and top with chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon (I used kalamansi) and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!