Everywhere you go these days people are touting the benefits of greens. Labeled a super food, you will find them dressed as a salad, sautéed as a side, simmering in stews, topping bruschetta, crisped for guilt free snacks (not that I feel guilty eating a chip of any kind), enhancing your favorite pasta and of course swimming happily in your favorite soup concoction. Collards and mustard greens have a long been a popular soul food found in Southern cuisines but now they must move over as the popularity of their cousins, kale. Swiss chard, beet and turnip greens and spinach is soaring. They are transitioning from the reputation as a dull bite, eaten only because they are healthy, to a level of glamour as they appear on restaurant menus elevated with great finesse to fine dining.
Why the sudden attention to this once lowly vegetable family? My theory is trending. Just like fashion, where styles come and go in popularity, so are there food trends. With the current emphasis on fitness and healthy eating, vegetables have been raised from the boring side to the star of the meal. Dark leafy greens, being an excellent source of vitamins A and C and rich in calcium, folic acid and iron, have become leaders in the healthy food movement. Swiss chard ice cream? Just kidding, but I imagine it has been made by someone in the food world.
I have been a lover of greens for as long as I remember. As a child my favorite vegetable was spinach, raw or cooked. I also inherited my mother’s love of the bitter salad greens like radicchio and curly endive and looked forward to their Summer presence on our dinner table. Happily, the hearty greens are available now throughout the Winter months and make a great addition to many of the comfort foods of the season.
As you have probably noticed, I love preparing and eating warm, comforting soups. The creativity of layering all those flavors and ingredients to achieve the perfect balance feeds my spirit and consuming each spoonful soothes my soul. That said, and in the spirit of honoring leafy greens, I share this recipe with you and hope you find it as satisfying as I do.
Here it goes!
RICE NOODLE SOUP w/ GREENS & SPICY PORK 4 Servings
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2014
This soup was featured on the cover of Bon Appetit’s first issue of 2014. It looked so delicious I couldn’t wait to make it. It did not disappoint. Staying true to my nature, I changed it up a bit to suit my tastes and urge you to do the same. It can be made with mustard greens, beet greens, kale, spinach or turnip greens.
½ lb. ground pork (ground chicken or turkey would also work well)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 t finely grated fresh ginger
1 t Sichuan peppercorns, finely ground
¾ t crushed red pepper flakes
½ t cumin seeds, finely ground
1T neutral cooking oil, such as grape seed or canola
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
4c chicken broth
1 bunch greens, torn, about 4c
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2T soy sauce
1 t fish sauce (such as, nam pla or nuoc nam)
8 oz. medium rice noodles
- Mix pork, garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, red pepper flakes and cumin in a medium bowl. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add pork mixture; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring and breaking up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add broth and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until flavors meld, 8-10 minutes.
- Add the greens, scallions, soy sauce and fish sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender, 5-8 minutes (adjust cooking time to suit the variety of greens you choose); taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile cook noodles according to package directions; drain.
- Divide noodles among bowls and ladle the soup over the top.
I made this with baby kale but whatever you like is a great choice. Keep in mind some greens like collards take longer to cook than say, spinach that just needs to be wilted, so adjust the process accordingly. Remember collards, kale and mustard greens have a woody spine that should be removed before cooking. Swiss chard stems can be eaten if cut into bite-sized pieces. Spinach, beet and turnip greens can have tough stems that need to be trimmed.
This is now on regular rotation in this household and I think you may adopt it as such in yours. Winter may be gray and gloomy but you can spread the love and make it seem sunny, one dish at a time. Simmering on my stove is a dish so fragrant and comforting, it must be love. Sending it your way, Jeanne