One of my earliest memories as a kid was my father taking the family out on excursions to Antelope Valley, about an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles where we lived. We used to go out there to pick pears, look at the jack rabbits, and just wander around the rugged terrain. There was a creek that ran along where we would hike, and in this creek grew watercress. It was rather miraculous to my six year old brain that we could find what we often ate for salad, growing over boulders, in and around tumbling and churning creek water. “Well that’s why they call it ‘water’ cress,” explained my dad.
We loved it then, and still do now, though it seems to be more difficult to find in the market these days. Have you ever had watercress? The real kind with thick stems and a spicy bite? They sell some aquaculture baby watercress at Whole Foods, but I refuse to buy it because to me it’s not the real stuff. Watercress shouldn’t be delicate, it should pack a punch. It’s great in a salad with a hot bacon dressing. It also makes a terrific soup. This watercress soup has a potato base and is topped with just a little sour cream.
Watercress can often be found, when in season, in the herb section of the grocery store. The bunches should be thick-stemmed, and the leaves should have a strong, peppery bite to them. The delicate, thin-stemmed baby watercress that some markets carry is not appropriate for this soup.
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 cups white or yellow onion, chopped
- 1 cup white wine, chicken stock, or vegetable stock (wine or veg stock for vegetarian version)
- 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 6 cups water
- 6 cups fresh watercress, about 1/2 pound, chopped, stems included
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- About 6 Tbsp sour cream, stirred in, or for garnish
1 In a large pot, heat the butter until frothy, then cook the onions over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Salt the onions as they cook. Add the wine or stock, potatoes and water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.
2 Add the watercress to the pot. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and purée the soup with an immersion blender. If you don't have an immersion blender, pour the soup in batches into a blender and transfer the blended soup to a clean pot. Be careful when blending hot liquids to only fill the bowl a third of the way, and to hold down the blender's lid while you purée the soup.
3 Add salt to taste, then add the black pepper. You can either stir the sour cream into the whole batch of soup, or serve a tablespoon in the center of each person's bowl.