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Kale soup, enjoyed in New Bedford, offers taste of Portugal

Going to Cape Cod?

If you are a food adventurer, it’s time to sail beyond the fried clams, lobster and stuffed quahogs.
All you have to do is take a short detour to New Bedford, Mass.

While it’s not among the most quaint or scenic places in New England, this tough old whaling town is one of America’s busiest harbors for commercial fishing.

Take a walk on one of the piers in New Bedford’s harbor, and you’ll see the fishermen’s rough, no-nonsense workboats and maybe think about the harsh reality of their occupation. These trawlers and trollers look nothing like the sanitized vessel that George Clooney captained in “The Perfect Storm.”

And did I mention the city’s sweet, sweet scallops?

Yes, I know what you’re thinking — that you can get fresh seafood at restaurants all over New England.
But can you get favas, kale soup or a cacoila sandwich?

More than 47 percent of New Bedford’s population is of Portuguese descent or from the Azores, Cape Verde and Madeira, which are island nations off the coast of Portugal and West Africa.

My husband’s family is French-Canadian, but because they have lived in and around New Bedford for three generations, Portuguese food is part of their daily life.

At their local supermarkets, linguica and other Portuguese sausages are packed into five-foot-long meat cases, and Portuguese sweet breads and rolls dominate the bakery section.

Linguica, not meatballs or Italian sausage, show up in their spaghetti. At Thanksgiving, stuffing made with Portuguese sausage is pushed inside turkeys.

Last week, while visiting New Bedford, we satisfied our cravings at M and C Cafe ( in the city’s ethnic North End. The restaurant has been operated by the Mello family since 1967 and underwent major remodeling after a fire in 2007.

For lunch, I ordered two appetizers: favas (FA-vish), large flat yellow beans in a mild brown sauce, and a stuffed clam (quahog) flecked with chourico (SURE-reese), a spicy red sausage.

My main course was a large bowl of Vao’s Kale Soup, a chopped mix of kale, cabbage, linguica and other vegetables in a golden broth.

At M and C, you can also order Squash and Chorico Fritters; Carne de’Espeto (COG nah speet), marinated beef; or Cacoila (KA-sir-la), marinated pulled pork.

And it’s all served with big, crusty Portuguese rolls.

Want to make your own Portuguese-style kale soup?

Below you’ll find a slightly altered recipe from, the web site of Gaspar’s, one of the best-known makers of Portuguese sausage since 1923.

Several years ago, when Emeril Lagasse, the garlic-crazed chef from Fall River, Mass., was a TV celeb, linguica started showing up in Capital Region supermarkets.

You’ll find it in near the hot dogs or in the deli section.

Gaspar’s Kale Soup

1 1⁄2 lbs. linguica or chourico
2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 medium onion
2 tsp. salt
2 bunches of kale
1 head of cabbage, shredded
1 to 2 cans kidney beans
6 potatoes, peeled and diced

Place linguica or chourico in pot. Add red pepper, onion and salt, cover with water. Bring water to boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add kale, cabbage and kidney beans to broth. When kale is about half-cooked, add potatoes and cook additional 30 minutes.

Serves eight.

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