Tag Archives: Watercress

Instant Gratification: Roasted Fingerling & Watercress Salad

It’s funny how things come together in the kitchen. This week I’ve had lots of fingerling potatoes lying around, as I’ve been developing recipes with them for Vegetarian Times magazine. As it happens, I also treated myself yesterday to a watercress gathering excursion. Nice to be out in the quiet of the early morning under clearing skies, walking along a damp compost-y path beneath a gradually thickening canopy of budding branches. (Buds—finally.) I had my little scissors, a bag, and my camera. Sadly, I couldn’t linger long—lots of recipe testing scheduled for the day. But I crouched low in the black mud, hung over the stream, and snipped enough crisp clusters of Leprechaun-green watercress to fill my bag. And then reluctantly carried on my way. Retreating out of the cool forest, I heard the buzz of cars on the roadway calling me out of my reverie.

Back home at lunch time (after another recipe test—Asian slaw), I looked at the fingerlings and the watercress and thought: Warm salad. It’s no secret that my favorite way to cook fingerlings is brown-braising. But right then, I wanted instant gratification, and I looked at the little knobby potatoes and thought slicing them into coins and quick-roasting them would get me my hit. Sure enough, the little coins were golden on the outside, moist on the inside after 20 minutes at 450 degrees. I scrunched up some handfuls of washed watercress and scattered them on white plates. On went the roasted potatoes and a super-quick warm dressing I made in the skillet with sautéed garlic, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. I happened to have some toasted hazelnuts around, so I scattered a few of those on, too. Simple and lovely. Nothing I like better than a warm salad, especially with something so crazy delightful as freshly picked watercress. Now, I can’t wait ‘til I can harvest our own greens. (Just a few weeks away, maybe—the first arugula seeds I sowed in the garden last week sprouted today—yippee!)

One little suggestion: If you decide to whip yourself up a warm fingerling salad like this (which you could certainly do with arugula or any other assertive green), the dressing would be even better if you cooked a slice of bacon in the skillet first! Course you could skip the greens altogether, too, if you liked. Those little roasted fingerling coins tasted pretty yummy straight off the sheet pan.

Roasted Fingerling Potato & Watercress Salad

Printable Version of Recipe

All the amounts in this recipe are flexible, and you could vary the dressing or add garnishes as you like. This is really more like a serving suggestion, simply meant to inspire you to pair warm vegetables with cool greens. Just be sure your potato pieces are well-coated in oil for the best roasting. I find slicing the potatoes a little thicker than 1/4-inch, but not quite 1/2-inch (voila, 3/8-inch!) is just about right for cooking through and browning up at the same time in a hot oven.


12 oz. fingerling potatoes, unpeeled, sliced crosswise into “coins” about 3/8-inch thick

2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

kosher salt

4 to 5 ounces stemmed watercress, washed (or other assertive greens in small pieces)

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon maple syrup

2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted hazelnuts or almonds (optional)

1 tablespoon crumbled good-quality blue cheese (optional)


Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Cover a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Toss the fingerling pieces with 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Spread them out in one layer on the parchment paper. Roast under tender all the way through and golden brown on the bottom, about 20 minutes. (Don’t worry if the coins aren’t very brown on the tops—they will be quite golden on the bottom, so just flip them.)

Meanwhile, distribute the watercress on three salad plates (or two for bigger salads). In a small skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the minced garlic over medium-low heat. Stir gently and cook until the garlic begins to sizzle, about 3 to 5 minutes (don’t let the garlic brown.) Add the red wine vinegar, the maple syrup, and a pinch of salt and stir. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Arrange the warm potatoes amongst the watercress and drizzle or spoon the warm dressing over the salads. Sprinkle a tiny bit more salt on each salad, and garnish with the nuts and/or cheese if desired. Serve right away.

Serves 2 or 3

Stalking Wild Watercress for Salads & Sautés

Sneaking around is so much fun. Like heisting those leeks a few weeks ago, we had the best time on Friday clandestinely gathering wild watercress from a fresh-water stream deep in the woods. Scissors in hand, we scurried down a path of pine needles, all the while looking over our shoulders, hoping no one would see us through the mist and fog and tangled brush. Soon we could hear the gentle burbling of the stream, and then the green mirage appeared–a carpet of a million leprechaun-green petals, so shiny and inviting you’d almost want to walk across it. But unless you’re wearing waders, it’s best to snip wild watercress by draping yourself over a fallen tree branch. Which is exactly what we did. Snacking as we snipped, we filled up a big bowlful of the freshest, zippiest taste of spring you could ever hope for.

Gathering wild watercress is a time-honored Spring tradition on the Vineyard. But don’t ask an old-timer where his favorite patch is, like I did when I was just a new “wash-ashore.” He looked at me, only half-smiling, and said, “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.”  Like stands of wild blueberry bushes and sandy beach-plum covered dunes, the location of a good watercress patch is a highly guarded secret. And I think I finally understand why. Unlike the summer berry  hunt, where you’ll definitely lose out if you don’t get there first, it’s not that there isn’t enough watercress to go around. As long as you snip sprigs (and don’t pull up roots), this wild green will flourish.

No, I think the appeal of watercress picking is the ritual–the walk through the peaceful woods that are just starting to green-up, the crouching by the edge of a cool stream. It’s so calming and rejuvenating after a long winter that you’d hate to disturb the experience by sharing it with hoards of people all at once. Funny thing is, on our way back to the car, we saw a lone watercress sprig dropped by the side of the road. Someone had been to “our” spot before us, but had kindly given us our space.

I can’t say that foraging for your own greens doesn’t somehow make them tastier and more exciting. So I won’t blame you if you are now saying, “Why should I bother with watercress if I’m just foraging for it at the grocery store? Because I think watercress is a highly underappreciated green, pushed out of the limelight by the likes of arugula and mizuna, when in fact it has all of their zip and less of their bite. And it is truly simple to prepare. I love it raw in salads–alone or with other greens–and wilted in a sauté pan, always with plenty of garlic. (Below are two favorite “recipe-lets” for you to try.) I also love to toss watercress in with steamed mussels, I love it with a juicy hamburger, and I love it in a very simple Asian soup of chicken broth, scallions, ginger, and garlic. And, oh yeah, it’s really good for you too. This relative of the nasturtium has traditionally been used as an herbal remedy for hot flashes, headaches, canker sores, and even gout. And it’s a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, phosphorous, iron and calcium. Touché, arugula!

Simple Watercress Salad with Lime-Honey Dressing & Toasted Almonds: Combine 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 teaspoon honey, a hefty pinch of salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper in a small bowl. Whisk the dressing together until creamy. Toast whole almonds in a 375°  oven until deeply browned; cool and chop coarsely. Coarsely grate a few tablespoons of Parmigianno Regianno cheese.

For each portion of salad, wash and dry 2 good handfuls of watercress, trimming away any thick lower stems first. If you have mint around, pick out a few small leaves or finely slice a few bigger ones. Put the watercress (and the mint if you’re using) in a bowl, season it with a big pinch of sea salt, and toss it with just enough of the dressing to coat. Add a generous amount of the chopped almonds and the grated Parmigianno and toss again. Arrange each portion on a salad plate and garnish with more almonds and cheese if desired.

Wilted Watercress with Garlic Chips: In a small nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil over medium-low heat. Add 1 large garlic clove, very thinly sliced crosswise, and saute until the garlic is just golden. Add 2 cups (packed) of trimmed watercress and a good pinch of kosher salt. Sauté until the watercress has just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Serves 2.

This post has also been published at Oneforthetable