Something Different
Week of: August 4, 2014
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Watercress Is the New Superstar

By Dana Jacobi
for the American Institute for Cancer Research

Kale has had its power food moment. Now watercress deserves the spotlight, or so declared The Washington Post recently, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent list of 41 fruits and vegetables ranking watercress Number One based on its nutrient content. Here is the full list and CDC’s definition of Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables.

Eating what experts recommend requires that you like it. We have known about kale’s health benefits for ages, for example, but getting it onto everyone’s plate succeeded only when chefs served it deliciously sautéed with garlic and olive oil and in alluring salads. Finally, crunchy kale chips put this crucifer’s popularity over the top.

Can peppery watercress become as ubiquitous? Perhaps. Especially now that at least one produce company is marketing its tender leafy sprigs in a bag, eliminating the tedious task of plucking them from watercress’s tough, woody stems. Bagged watercress stays fresh longer as well as being ready to use. An alternative that costs less, but where you still have to do the prep work, is buying watercress at Asian markets, where rapid turnover favors freshness, and you may get two bunches for what one costs at a supermarket.

This cold soup is one of my favorite watercress dishes. On hot days, its color looks as refreshing as this dairy-free soup tastes. Making it requires just four ingredients and the work is easy. Also, combining watercress with sweet green peas mellows its bite, making this a good introduction to family members who might find its heat startling.

After making this soup, next try stir-fried watercress. Stir-frying it, stems and all, with ginger slices, smashed garlic and a splash of chicken broth makes a simply delicious side dish. Finally, if you like watercress’s pungency in salads, serve it paired with sliced endive and dressed with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette. Once a way to prove that you set an elegant table and appreciated fine dining, this classic combination of watercress and endive is still one of the best ways to enjoy watercress.

pea soup

Chilled Green Pea and Watercress Soup

  • 2 cups frozen petit green peas
  • 1½ cups watercress sprigs, with as little stem as possible, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tsp. snipped chives, for garnish


In large, heavy saucepan, combine peas, watercress, onion and broth. Add 1 cup water. Bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat, cover and simmer until peas are tender, about 10 minutes. Let soup sit, uncovered, for 10 minutes to cool slightly.

Purée soup using immersion blender or transfer soup to blender; whirl until soup is smooth or leave a bit of texture, as you wish. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Cool soup to room temperature.

Chill soup, covered, in refrigerator until very cold, 6-24 hours.

Adjust seasoning and serve cold soup in wide, shallow bowls, garnishing each bowl with 1 teaspoon of chives.

This soup can be frozen. Defrost in refrigerator. If defrosted soup is grainy, whirl it briefly in blender.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 67 calories, <1 g total fat, (0 g saturated fat), 12 g carbohydrate,
5 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 225 mg sodium.

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

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