The Green Flood

What to do with all those greens filling the CSA baskets this time of year?  Does it feel as though you need to build yourself a boat to stay afloat on the lake of greens gathering in your crisper?  Of course there are stir-fries, but what if you’re stir-fried out?  If you’re not in the mood to pickle them, ferment them, tear them fresh into salads, wrap a cold slice of pork roast in a tender leaf of napa cabbage with some chili sauce or fold chopped and cooked chard leaves into pasta with butter, Parmesan, lemon zest, salt, pepper and perhaps a pinch of nutmeg, well, there’s always soup.

One of my favorite things to do with Chinese greens and mustards is to make a simple pork and mustard greens soup from The Hakka Cookbook, by Linda Lau Anusasananan.  The Hakka people are Han Chinese who are thought to have originated in Henan province and are now in diaspora throughout southern China, Taiwan and many other countries.  They share a dialect and an outstanding cuisine.  I first made this soup just to try a new way of using up some greens.  I thought it’d be pretty good but maybe a little lackluster.  I couldn’t have guessed how delicious and satisfying it is.  Now it’s an old standby.

The recipe calls specifically for mustard greens, but pretty much any of the Chinese greens will work just fine (bok choy, napa cabbage, chinese broccoli, even kale).  Like most soups, this one starts with a stock- chicken stock to be precise.  Store bought works well, and, if you have the time and materials, a homemade stock performs wonderfully.  I happened to have a lazy Saturday afternoon and a tough, old laying hen in the freezer so I boiled her for four hours with a few cloves of crushed garlic, three scallions and 8 thin slices of ginger.

Pork and Mustard Greens Soup

serves 6 to 8 as side dish, 4 as main course

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3 thin slices of fresh ginger
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 12 to 14 oz greens (bok choy, Chinese broccoli, mustards)

I like to get everything prepped and chopped before I actually start cooking.  First, I minced my 2 tsp of garlic and added it to a big bowl with the ground pork, corn starch, salt and pepper.  Mix all together with a couple of forks or your hands and form the pork mixture into 1/2 inch lumps- being careful not to overwork.

Trim and discard the tough parts of your greens (I used a head of bok choy in this case).  Cut the rest into 2 to 3 inch pieces and rinse or soak in cold water to get the dirt off.

Peel two large garlic cloves and smash them lightly with the side of a knife.  Bring the stock to a boil on high heat in a large pot with the smashed garlic and ginger.  Once the stock is boiling, add the lumps of pork.  Return to a boil, reduce heat and cover.  Simmer until a tested lump is no longer pink in the center, 3-5 minutes.  Add the greens, return to a boil and cook 3-5 minutes until bright green and tender, but not limp.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Ladle into bowls.

I made a mixture of 1 tablespoon of dark sesame oil, 1 tsp of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar and a half tsp of Korean red chili powder.  I spooned a couple of dollops of this mix into each bowl.

Slurp hot on a cool evening or afternoon.

And remember:  enjoy those greens because they will be gone before you know it!