A Soup-erior Weeknight Meal

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When it comes to cooking magazines, I am ravenous. I pore through the pages, reading every article, evaluating every recipe, putting together multi-page shopping lists in my head. By the end of the issue I am overwhelmed by ideas and I very quickly lose the will to enter my kitchen, much less commit to any one meal. In the end I usually find myself at Trader Joe’s without a list of ingredients and return home, defeated, with nothing but some romaine lettuce and carrots for an exceedingly unambitious salad. In light of this confession, you can probably imagine my wonder and admiration when my best friend arrived at work one fine morning and mentioned off-hand that she made a pork and mustard green soup the previous night: “you know, the one on the cover of Bon Appetit”. In fact, I did know, and I suspected it was just as delicious as it looked. Turns out it’s even better.

An important thing to keep in mind about said cooking dynamo/best friend/co-blogger is that she loves ginger. I was once going to suggest a tip I’d learned about preserving leftover ginger, but I don’t think a piece has ever survived in her kitchen longer than a day or so before being ruthlessly shredded and thrown into dumplings, soup, or a stir-fry. So while the original recipe in Bon Appetit is no doubt staggeringly delicious, the extra ginger added a delightfully sweet and fiery punch.

Another important thing you should know is that eating a Szechuan peppercorn straight out of the bottle is a mistake. It will taste like poison and half of your mouth will go numb. Or so I hear. Regardless of the alarming bitterness of the raw Prickly Ash, however, it imbued the soup with a subtle, acid spice. Simmered with the ginger, fish sauce, and peppery mustard greens, this ingredient deepened the flavors of the broth.

We ladled the steaming soup over perfectly-cooked noodles and topped it with sliced green onion before tucking in with a ginger-fueled enthusiasm. Savory without being overly rich, this meal was better than I could have imagined. It truly is a great weeknight meal as well since it comes together easily (and you can casually reference it in conversation the next morning to make your co-workers jealous) and packs away very simply for lunch the next day. We suggest bringing uncooked rice noodles to work along with the leftover soup and soaking them in hot water, stirring periodically, for 10 minutes or so to prepare them on the spot. A little freshly-chopped onion, tender rice noodles, and a chance to relive the previous night’s glory  will go a long way to improving your day!

Spicy Pork & Mustard Green Soup (Adapted from Bon Appetit)
Makes 4 servings

  • 1/2 lb Ground pork
  • salt & pepper for seasoning
  • 2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • 4″ piece of Ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp Sichuan Peppercorns, crushed (you can find this at your local Asian grocery store, sometimes called Prickly Ash)
  • 3/4 tsp Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable oil
  • 4 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 bunch Mustard Greens, torn into large pieces
  • 4 Scallions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp Soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Fish sauce
  • 8oz. rice noodles (we went with fresh, medium width ones, but you can choose what you like best)

Combine the pork, garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorn, red pepper flakes, and cumin in a bowl and mix until incorporated. In a heavy bottom pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pork mixture, and sprinkle some salt & pepper. Cook until browned and pork is cooked through and broken up, 8-10 minutes.

Add the broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the mustard greens, scallions, fish sauce, and soy sauce and cook until the flavors are combined and the mustard greens have wilted (about 5 minutes). In the meantime, boil a pot of water to cook your rice noodles – these typically only take a few seconds to cook but use the directions on you packet. Once the noodles have cooked, drain them and divide into bowls. Ladle the pork and mustard green soup over the noodles, garnish with some more scallions if you like, and serve.

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