Vegetarian Caldo Gallego is something of an oxymoron. A true caldo gallego is a smokey, super rich pork broth in which various vegetables, and still more pork and sausages, are simmered. I have never had a truly great caldo gallego outside of Galicia. This is probably because of the special quality of the smoked and cured pork in Galicia.
So instead of trying--and inevitably failing--to recreate a true caldo gallego, I set a different goal: a hearty, vegetarian-vegan dish that relies on the key vegetables of caldo gallego--kale, navy beans, potatoes--along with pimentón de la Vera (please read my post on pimentón de la Vera) which adds a smoky depth of flavor.
It's a great everyday dish, especially for the fall and winter months, when kale is sweetest.
Here's the recipe:
1 cup of dried navy beans, or other small white beans
1 small bunch of kale
1 large potato (I often use Idaho potatoes, because they thicken the broth nicely) peeled and cut into big chunks.
7 or 8 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
1 large onion, chopped
salt to taste
1/2 cup (total) virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of pimentón de la Vera
The day before you plan to cook the caldo, pour the navy beans in a pot and pick over them, removing any stones or twigs. Wash them. Put them in a large pot with a generous amount of water (at least 3 inches over the beans). Let them sit overnight.
The next day put the pot of beans on the burner. Bring them to a boil. Turn the heat down to a fast simmer. Add salt. (I put about one teaspoon). Cook the beans until they're tender (but not too soft). This may take up to two hours, or it may take much less. It all depends on the quality of the beans. Test them now and then so you'll know when they're ready.
In a frying pan, saute the onion in 1/4 cup of the olive oil. When the onion turns translucent, add the garlic cloves. When the garlic turns slightly gold, remove the pan from the heat.
Let the onion-oil mixture cool some. Add the pimentón. Stir. Add this to the pot of beans. Stir.
Add the potatoes to the beans. Keep them simmering.
Wash the kale. Remove the coarse stems. Cut it into slivers.
In a frying pan (the same one in which you cooked the onions will do) saute the kale over medium-high heat in 1/4 cup of olive oil. It should turn dark green and lose some water. It will begin to make popping sounds. Now add the kale to the caldo.
Let it simmer until the potatoes are tender. Taste. Add salt if it needs it, and it's ready, but like so many soups, it will be even better the next day. Serve it with red wine and good bread. A pan de cea--a rustic Galician country bread--or a pan de centeno--a Galician rye bread--would be especially nice. I will post recipes for these breads soon.