When you find wild watercress growing beside a stream, you know that spring has arrived and it is time to celebrate.
Watercress is filled with antioxidant Beta-carotene and Vitamins C and E. It is a natural antibiotic that speeds up the body’s natural detoxification processes, and an excellent spring tonic.
Wild watercress has some possibly toxic properties; some natural, others the result of pollution. Most are negated by careful cleaning and cooking, but even healthy foragers should not eat wild watercress in excess.
* The freshest and most crisp watercress, foraged either from the wild or the local market, and piled high on a plate is a feast for the eyes and spirit.
* This dressing from New York City’s Natori is almost unbelievably delicious. Grated apple extends the richness of the avocado without introducing an unwanted sweetness.
1/4 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1 Tbsp grated sweet yellow onion, use large holes on a box grater
1/4 cup finely grated peeled Gala apple, use small holes on grater
4 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
6 cups watercress, small stems and leaves
1 firm-ripe avocado
Stir together all ingredients except oil and avocado. When sugar is dissolved, stir in oil.
Just before serving, toss watercress with just enough dressing to coat. Quarter, pit, and peel avocado, then cut into 1/4-inch slices. Gently toss with watercress.
A grilled filet of Dover sole, or other delicate white fish, completes the meal.
* This is a classic recipe for watercress and lettuce salad. Combine equal amounts of watercress (use the leaves, chop stems into about 2-inch lengths and include in salad.) Dress with your favorite French dressing. Sprinkle with chopped red onion and a generous portion of toasted walnuts or hazelnuts.
* Instead of assorted lettuces, use torn spinach leaves with the watercress salad.
To make the dressing, combine ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, shake the jar vigorously until mixed. Make ahead and store in refrigerator, give one final shake before serving.
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thin
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Just before serving, top with orange slices and toasted almonds.
* A traditional hot bacon vinaigrette as used in classic spinach salad creates another variation.
Combine any of these salads with generous hunks of brown bread and fresh creamery butter for an introduction to spring and its pleasures.