“I froze down the watercress”, my husband confessed, with a mixture of sheepishness and pride.
Instead of this..
I saw this!
Ummm….for the record, he is not crazy (well, only a little). At least, I am partly to blame for this strange endeavor. Let me explain.
Each year, the dog days of summer transform our sedate Maryland garden into a gluttonous overgrowth of defiantly giant zucchinis, a battlefield of warring herbs (mint wins every time) and a littering of forlorn cherry tomatoes dropping off the vines. My naturally nurturing zeal wilts in the heat and humidity of August. While I aestivate within air conditioned suburbian comfort, my vegetable beds become food pantry for the bunnies and bugs.
Not this summer. For some reason, late summer was unseasonably mild and I could hardly ignore the prickings of my conscience as the good earth generously repaid me for all the compost and topsoil I slavishly applied in the optimistically cool days of spring. Faithful readers, you already know that I froze down curly kale. That was not all. In a fit of enthusiasm, I grated the overgrown zukes, and froze them flat on a cookie sheet, inside freezer bags, for future conversion into yummy kofta curry. I made little ice cubes of coarsely chopped cilantro which have since infused my mundane winter offerings with fragrant delight! No doubt this fleeting moment of industriousness will be engraved in my selective memory while I wallow in future laziness. Follow the logic here..when the bunch of fresh watercress procured over the weekend languished past Thursday, hubby feared the worst. Our aging refrigerator, which has an Energy Death Star rating, excels at converting the crisper contents into mush. We yearn for the arrival of the SubZero wonder this coming March, when our kitchen is remodeled..but that story surely awaits a future happy blog. For now, we have the uniquely green offering of watercress ice cubes.
Soup it is!
After some quick research, I found a satisfyingly simple recipe from the chef of Ballymaloe Cooking School. Isn’t it strange that the most ridiculous sounding names appear quixotically charming when related to Ireland? I am informed that this is the same recipe that enabled St. Brendan (the 6th century Navigator Apostle of Ireland) to live to the venerable age of 180 years! Putting aside that bit of blarney, I set to work.
Watercress Potato Soup (Cream of Watercress)
- In a heavy bottomed pot, melt about an inch of unsalted butter (2 tbs) and a spoon of olive oil. The oil keeps the butter from burning. Heat on low, until butter foams a bit.
- Add equal amounts of cubed potatoes and chopped onions. If you must measure, the recipe says 1.25 cups each. Although how one can quantify cubed potatoes, I do not know. Surely, that must depend on the cube size, which was not specified. I just used 2 large red potatoes and half of a giant Mayan sweet onion. Sprinkle coarse salt and plenty of black pepper.
- Saute on low heat until the onions sweat. This is the official, somewhat disgusting term for the onions becoming soft and translucent, but still white. 10 minutes will do.
- Add 2 cups of stock (animal or vegetable) and 2 cups of light cream (or milk). Simmer on low until potatoes are soft. Another 10 minutes or so.
- At this point you would add chopped watercress. Use the stem and leaves, one bunch (milder) or two (Soylent Green strength). I will add my bright green ice cubes, appropriately befitting an Irish recipe. Continue simmering for another 10 min at most. The watercress should stay green.
- Puree to creamy smoothness. I used a handy immersion blender. Let simmer. The soup will be a lovely light green. Taste to correct seasonings. I added a pinch more salt, lots more fresh pepper and two tsp of good balsamic vinegar. Serve with a swirl of good olive oil, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and some grated Parmesan cheese.
We had the soup with store bought rosemary focaccia bread, warmed in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil. Mmmm….warm, smooth luscious goodness with just enough of a bite to the palate, and fragrant slices of toasted bread, crunchy on the edges and chewy in the center.
Stay warm, my friends!