Thursday, February 19, 2009

Creecy Greens, Two Ways*

Watercress is a bitter green, like mustard greens, or nasturtium leaves, but they're also thick, like collards or kale. And they're spindly, like arugula. Does this sound good? Well, it is. You just gotta be brave and you gotta work. Today was my first time cooking with the stuff, so feel free to throw out my preliminary conclusions. For instance, another drawback is the preparation. For my purposes, I took the leaves off the stems - a real pain since they're small, and there's not a lot of leaf on each stem, and the stems are all tangled up in this spiderweb of tendrills that connect at a knot that sends the root down. No wonder they were $1.50/lb at the 17th Street Farmers Market.

So, you've got to rinse them good, since all their intricacies tend to mingle around in the dirt before you buy them (actually, they're kinda water-dwelling plants). Then, I spent about an hour de-stemming the things. It took so long largely because I was watching Jasper, singing/dancing for him, trying to get him to eat his dinner. As for the adult food, I had to use up some watercress that I came across by accident (see the previous post). A commenter, "M," gave me a link to watercress soup and watercress hummus from a Scottish food blog. I made both, and I still have some of the greens left over.

This is what was going on at my feet while I prepped the greens. He doesn't walk yet, but he's all about pulling himself up and "cruising." While I cooked, Jasper fussed and tore sh*t up, but he didn't bonk his head once. Instead, he's learning to carefully lower himself down. Who taught him that?

"Is somebody talking about me?"
Does this even look like the same baby as the picture above?. We couldn't pick between the two pictures. That's why you've got both of'em here... Jasper, two ways? Okay, back to the "greens party."

While I simmered some (previously sauteed) celery, onions, and potatoes in stock, I pulsed my watercress in the foodpro. After tossing it in the soup, I hit the pot with the immersion blender to smooth out the veggies. It's a really easy soup, except for the de-stemming and the baby juggling. It reminds me of the "Gumbo Z" at The Black Sheep, another soup chock-ful-o-greens (and really tasty).

The color doesn't pop in this picture. I wanted it to be green on white and more vibrant, but the base here is kinda yellow. I peeled my potatoes (not my usual style), but the onions might have browned a little and fond probably developed on the bottom of the pan. I'm thinking the color might come from my veggie stock (I always use this "better than bouillon" stuff from Kroger). Or maybe it's that I blended the greens into the soup base (duh). Getting past the looks of the soup, the flavor is surprisingly LOUD. I didn't use much salt (the bouillon, again?), so it had to be the greens. You could taste the watercress - kinda sour and bitter and because it had diffused into the broth and pureed potatoes, the flavor mellows and fills your mouth. The greens don't really cook a whole lot when you stir them in fresh and then simmer for only five minutes. Another reason for their pungency. Karen and I both scraped the bowl clean.

With some of the remaining raw, food processed watercress I made watercress hummus. Basically, all you have to do is stir it into the hummus and it's done (yes, this some store-bought stuff). My thought? Watercress ruins some perfectly good hummus. But, if you stop thinking about the dip as hummus, and think of it as a tart, spreadable multi-vitamin, then I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. That piece of bread came from a fresh loaf purchased from Williams Bakery (the one way out on Chamberlayne in Mechanicsville, where I picked up some used Britax carseats from a Craigslister). Karen got a variety box of their sweets on Valentine's Day. Ya see? Plenty of good came out of that holiday for the foodies.

Update: I forgot to pour out some truffle oil for Fabio, the most recent Top Chef to get sacked. He fought valiantly... for his mama, for his country, and for the loot. But, you just can't fake the southern style, especially if you're a Euro.

Update #2: It seems that my "watercress" may actually be "creecy greens", a weedy version of the refined product that is at somewhat related to watercress.


  1. That's not traditional watercress. I think what you have is known locally as "creesy greens" (Barbarea vulgaris). I tried them several times when I moved here 20 years ago and they can be pretty damn rank. I think they have a lot of oxalic acid in them..

    Traditional watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is quite delicate compared to "creasy greens" (also known as yellow rocket).

  2. This may be a stretch, but I wonder if the vendor calls the stuff watercress or creecy greens depending on the customer. I just went and changed the title of this post, so it's now more accurate and less "gourmet."

  3. A guy I know in King and Queen says dairymen there don't want creesy greens in the pastures because they make the milk taste off.

  4. Anonymous9:20 PM

    We used to call this 'creecy salad'; it's also called garden cress. It's only in season (and even remotely edible) in late winter and very early spring. It's not related to watercress, which is nothing like you described in the first sentence. Real watercress in your soup sounds like it would be delicious. Creecy greens are best boiled and served with hot chili vinegar to cut the bitterness.


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