From Scratch: Fresh watercress soup starts in York County creeks


I am a devotee of the food guru Michael Pollen. When asked about what constitutes a healthy diet for humans he answered, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly fruits and vegetables."

By food he means things that are unprocessed and don't come in a package. In other words, something your grandmother or great-grandmother would recognize. The not too much part is hard for all of us.

I think this is good, simple advice. I would, however, add a fourth mantra, Eat as inexpensively as possible.

Last week I was traipsing through the woods with a mission. With the redbuds in bloom, I knew this was the peak season for one of my favorite greens: watercress. A cousin of the cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage, it contains a powerhouse of antioxidants. Supposedly Hippocrates, the father of medicine, built his first hospital near a stream so he could have a fresh source of watercress for his patients.

You don't have to go to Greece, though, to find watercress. Right now, the slow running creeks and streams of York County are loaded with it.

Pick a lot, as it will keep up to a week if it's stored in water in the refrigerator. It's also sold in supermarkets at a premium price, but it's never as fresh as the watercress you pick yourself.

Peppery and tangy, watercress perks up any salad. When I get tired of eating it in salads, one of my favorite ways to prepare it is watercress soup.

Although the soup appears rich and creamy, it contains no milk products and is low in calories. The secret is potatoes, which give the soup its velvety texture.

To prepare the soup, assemble the following ingredients:

Watercress Soup

2 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut in small pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot or 1 small onion, minced

1 bunch watercress

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Plain yogurt and watercress sprigs for garnish

Wash the watercress in several changes of water and drain.

In a medium saucepan, cook the potatoes in boiling water until softened. Drain and set aside.

In the same saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame and saute the shallot and watercress for 3-4 minutes, or until the shallot is softened and the watercress is wilted. Place the cooked potatoes, watercress mixture, stock, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve warm or chilled garnished with a dollop of yogurt and a watercress sprig.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.