Watercress has always been a staple in healthy salad mixes, an ingredient in sandwiches, and often a garnish for more substantial entrees. A recent William Paterson University study named it “the No.1 Powerhouse Vegetable”, based on the amount of 17 crucial nutrients that can be found in this close cousin to mustard greens (as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables surveyed). Considered possibly the first “fast food”, due to the fact that it grew wild and free throughout the waterways of the US and Europe, it was often consumed by the masses in rolled up bunches and nicknamed “poor man’s bread.” In honor of this leafy green powerhouse, we looked around for some interesting recipes to share in good health.
Creamy Watercress Soup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth or vegetable broth, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 cups chopped watercress, any tough stems removed, plus 1/2 cup leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons shredded fresh horseradish (see Note) or prepared horseradish, or to taste
1/2 cup half-and-half
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 slices day-old sourdough bread, crusts removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese (optional)
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables start to soften and brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk 1 cup broth and flour in a small bowl until completely smooth. Set aside. Add the remaining 3 cups broth and salt to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the onion is very tender, about 5 minutes.
Stir chopped watercress into the pot and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stirring constantly, add the flour mixture and horseradish. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 1 to 3 minutes.
Puree the soup in a blender in batches until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.) Return to the pot, stir in half-and-half and season with pepper; keep warm.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, until golden and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes.
Ladle soup into 4 bowls. Garnish with the breadcrumbs, watercress leaves and blue cheese, if desired.
Note: Watercress pairs nicely with beef, which is why the recipe calls for beef broth, but you can use vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian soup. Also, look for fresh horseradish root in the produce section of well-stocked supermarkets. Peel with a paring knife or vegetable peeler before grating.
Cucumber and Watercress Salad
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
1 bunch of watercress, trimmed
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Splash of water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a bowl, combine the cucumber, watercress and parsley.
In a separate bowl, combine the honey, vinegar, water and season. Whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil. Drizzle the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat.
125 g unsalted butter, softened
25 g watercress leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
16 slices thinly cut white bread
32 sprigs watercress, plus extra for garnish
The Watercress Butter: In a food processor, blend the butter, watercress leaves, lemon juice, black pepper and cayenne pepper until the mixture is very smooth. Let the mixture stand for about 30 minutes at room temperature or chill it, but bring it back to room temperature before using.
Watercress Sandwiches: Spread each slice of bread with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the watercress butter, and cut 4 rounds from each slice with a 4-cm (11/2 inch) round or fluted cutter.
Arrange a watercress sprig on half the rounds, leaving a little extending over the edge of each and invert the remaining rounds on top to complete the sandwiches.
Serve the sandwiches on a tray decorated with the extra watercress sprigs.
What’s your favorite Watercress recipe? Tell us about it!