I live near a large park, not particularly unique at first glance. The entrance is a short and narrow path with houses and trees towering above. The houses and trees quickly fall away and there is a wide open space – reminiscent of a track, similar to the one that sat adjacent to my old junior high on Petrovitsky Road. The space is bare and vast. It was previously an open reservoir but was recently covered, transformed into a massive space intended for gathering and community.
On the southeast side, near the old hospital they tore down a few weeks ago, is the mountain. It’s glorious, and stands – day in and day out – without wavering (when the clouds are cooperating). It’s the first thing you see when you step into the park and the last as you twist around for one last glimpse on your way out. The corner is characterized by concrete benches (not cement as my husband reminds me). There are several usual faces that make their nightly rounds – the British women with her shaggy-haired Goldendoodle; the lanky, curly haired boy circulating the track on his daily run; and the man with his guitar – the mellow acoustic music invading the quiet evening scene. I’ve walked this loop around the park hundreds of times, alone and in good company. It is dependable, a place of solace during difficult times or stressful days, and a place of pure joy on a sunny day. From the outside, it resembles nothing more than a barren empty space with a few young trees, a single picnic shelter, and play area down below. However, this place – this park – has been a dependable place of restitution. It’s a hidden gem with its’ magnificent views, sense of community, and bounty of space.
I think we all have these places that we turn to when needed. For me, it’s this park. I think food serves a similar purpose. There are those meals that are dependable and comforting just when you need it. Or that simply bring you joy when things are going well. Soup usually does this for me as we’ve talked about before. However, there is one particular soup that serves this purpose far better than the others.
I came across this pork and kale soup on an old blog a few years ago. It is originally from an old issue of Bon Appétit magazine, where a good number of my most reliable recipes come from. It is one of the most simple recipes while packing quite a punch of flavor. I can easily throw it together in less than 30 minutes whether it is for my husband and me, or a crowd of twelve. This is also my favorite and most requested soup and, as a result, I could quite possibly make it with my eyes closed.
While I am going to share the basic recipe below – I never use it. This is a soup that really can be adapted to your own taste preferences. The recipe is a general guideline and you can go from there. And I think of quality of ground pork really matters here; I generally buy mine from the local farmers market on Saturday morning.
Asian Pork and Kale Soup
Adapted from Eat, Live, Run
1 lb ground pork, preferably organic
1-2 tsp minced ginger
1/2 tsp ground pepper
salt, to taste
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
4 cups chicken or bone broth
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
1 large bunch curly kale, torn into bite-size pieces
2 tbsp Tamari, soy sauce, or coconut aminos
1-2 tsp fish sauce
8 oz brown rice noodles
Heat oil over medium-high in a large pot. Add the pork, pepper, cumin, red pepper flakes, ginger, and garlic. Stir until all ingredients are well incorporated. Season with salt and break up pork with a wooden spoon. Allow pork to cook for about 5 minutes, until cooked.
Add the broth to the pot along with the scallions, fish sauce and Tamari. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low. Add the kale, stir, and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Add rice noodles to the broth roughly 5 minutes before serving. Once the noodles have softened, ladle broth and noodles into a set of wide-mouthed bowls, retrieve some chopsticks and a spoon, and dive in.
While the noodles absorb a lot of the broth overnight, this soup is excellent for leftovers the next day since the flavors get to mingle and amplify in the fridge overnight.