Hearty Peasant Fare for Blessed Jacinta and Francisco

February 20 marks the  anniversary of the date of the death of Jacinta Marto, one of the Fatima seers. Jacinta and her brother Francisco were the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified in the history of the Church. The brother and sister, who tended to their family's sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.  We are approaching the 100th anniversary of the apparitions which will be commemorated next year, 2017. Thinking of Fatima and its upcoming centenary, I wanted share some ideas for this feast of the Bl. Jacinta and Francisco.
My husband’s family is Portuguese so I like to try to learn some of the common dishes associated with the country and culture. Portugal is known for its rustic peasant style cooking – food from the land. It is simple and doesn’t take much equipment to prepare, but it is always flavorful and comforting. As Bl. Jacinta and Francisco were shepherds the peasant foods like this would likely be common for their family.
Caldo verde, or green soup, considered by some as “Portugal's national dish” is a homey dish of potatoes, thinly sliced kale, and smoky pork sausage. Linguica is the preferred Portuguese sausage if you can find it. I was able to get it at a specialty meat market.  Readers often mention looking for healthy recipes for feast days. With kale being such a current super food, high in organosulphur compounds, vitamin A, vitamin C, B6, manganese, calcium, copper, and potassium.  I hope you find this addition one for the healthy (and hearty) category.

Caldo Verde - Portuguese Green Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
3 or 4 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 quarts water
6-8 ounces linguiça (or other sausage)
¾ - 1 pound kale, washed, trimmed of the thick stems and thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Prick the sausages with a fork and add to the boiling water. Boil for about 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the sausages to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, slice them.

In a medium soup pot, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil, add onions and garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until tender and translucent, but not browned. Add potatoes, water and salt. Cover and boil gently over medium heat for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a skillet cook sausage slices until most of the fat is rendered out. Drain and reserve.

Scoop out about 2 cups of the potatoes and mash well. Return potatoes to pan, add the sliced sausages and simmer about 5 minutes more. Add the greens, stir well and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overcook; the greens should be bright green and slightly crunchy. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and drizzle each serving evenly with extra-virgin olive oil. Serves 6

Broa - Portuguese Cornbread

2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2  t. sugar
1⁄4 c. warm water
1 1⁄2 c. cornmeal, finely ground
2  t. salt
1  c. boiling water
1⁄4 c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2  c. all-purpose flour, plus
1  T. coarse salt
Combine the yeast, sugar, and the warm water in a large bowl until the yeast is dissolved and foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal and salt with the boiling water. Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon to blend. Allow to stand for a few minutes for the cornmeal to soften and cool to room temperature. Add the melted butter and mix to incorporate. Now, pour the yeast mixture into the cornmeal mixture, stirring to combine. Gradually add the flour, mixing well after each addition. Add a couple of tablespoons of water if the dough feels dry and doesn't come together easily. Continue to mix until a dough forms into a ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Grease a large bowl with oil and place dough to the bowl, brush the top with more oil.  Cover with kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, between 1-2 hours.
Turn the dough out onto the floured surface and knead briefly, 3 or 4 times, to punch out the air. Gather the dough into a ball and shape it into a round loaf. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and place a pizza stone in the oven to heat up. Put the dough round on the pizza stone and brush the top with oil. Sprinkle the top of the bread with coarse salt. Bake in middle of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes until the bread is golden brown and bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Blessed Francisco and Jacinta, Pray for us!

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