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Welcoming local chef and culinary educator Gracie Schatz to our blog roll. Gracie founded Heart of Willamette Cooking School after 12 years in the food industry.
Gracie shares three favorite "cressipes"
by Gracie Shatz
Five years ago, I was the chef at an artist residency in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. About three miles down the road, I found a farm where I could purchase the staple crops of the area: tomatoes, potatoes and corn. I yearned for fresh salad greens and on an afternoon walk, in the thick muggy heat, I saw perky, crisp, lush watercress growing abundantly by the creekside. After running back to the house to grab an enormous bowl and a pair of kitchen scissors, I harvested the peppery greens and made a simple salad, tossing the cress with lemon, olive oil and flakey salt and watched as all of the artists enjoyed this leafy green for the first time.
Watercress is one of the oldest known leafy vegetables consumed by humans. Cress is native to Europe and Asia but has made its way to our continent where it grows in abundance wherever there are fresh streams or rivers. Similar in shape and flavor to arugula, it makes a lovely salad and it’s bright peppery flavor is well balanced by earthy ingredients like beets, nuts and soft cheeses. You can blend it into a pesto, or “cresto” as I like to call it, you can saute it into a pureed soup with potatoes and leeks to add a vibrant green color and unique piquant flavor. In stir fries the stems of the cress make an amazing substitute for pea shoots and retain their crunch. My favorite way to eat it is dressed in a lemony vinaigrette accompanying a rich, fatty food like a pork chop, potpie or buttery fish. It is so full of life- the hollow stems of the leaf are crisp, juicy and crunchy. Watercress is a refreshing, flavorful green that you should certainly know about!
Watercress is currently available from Groundwork Organic's Farm.
Watercress makes a wonderful substitution for basil in pesto. Its vibrant flavor and color make this pesto perfect for topping freshly baked or poached fish. This pesto will also be delicious in a grilled cheese with a rich, nutty cheese like gruyere.
3 cups loosely packed, roughly chopped watercress
½ cup good olive oil
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Juice and zest from one lemon
2 Tbsp roughly chopped, toasted walnuts
Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until they form a smooth paste. If you are having trouble blending, feel free to add a bit of water to get things moving.
1 large bunch of watercress, cleaned and spun
6 golf ball sized beets, roasted, peeled (I like to do this a day ahead and toss them with a little oil and vinegar to marinate in overnight)
1 cara cara orange, rind removed, cut into segments
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp good olive oil
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375F. Cut the greens and tails off of the beets and sit them in a baking pan, fill the baking pan with ½“ of water, cover tightly and roast for 25 minutes or until tender. Once the beets are tender, allow them to cool and their skins should peel off easily with a spoon. Toss them in a little olive oil, salt and a splash of good vinegar and set them in the fridge to cool completely. They are best done a day ahead of time as they develop a sweeter flavor as they marinate.
Toss the cress with lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt to your liking. Plate in a large salad bowl and sprinkle the marinated beets and orange segments throughout. This simple salad is great as a side dish with roasted chicken or as a light lunch with a crusty piece of sourdough bread topped with goat cheese and crushed walnuts.
Cress makes a wonderful substitution for basil in pesto. It’s vibrant flavor and color make this pesto perfect for topping freshly baked or poached fish. This pesto will also be delicious in a grilled cheese with a rich, nutty cheese like gruyere.
By adding watercress to soup right before you puree, you give it a peppery, verdant flavor and a glorious, bright green color.
3 cups roughly chopped, loosely packed, clean watercress
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 leek, cleaned and diced
1 stalk celery, cleaned and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
2 medium sized russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
1 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp butter
Salt to taste
Olive oil and lemon juice to finish
In a medium sized soup pot over high heat, melt the butter. Add diced onions, leeks and celery and a large pinch of salt. Cook until they are tender and translucent, stirring regularly, about 8 minutes. Add coriander and garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Add diced potatoes and broth, make sure there is enough broth to fully submerge all of the vegetables, add a bit more or a splash of water or white wine. Cook the soup until the potatoes are tender and fall apart when pushed against the side of the soup pot with a wood spoon. Add the cress, one cup at a time until it wilts and turns a vibrant, bright green color. Once all of the cress has been added use an immersion blender and blend until completely smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. When you are ready to serve, drizzle olive oil and a squeeze of lemon over the top of the soup. Enjoy with warm toasted walnut bread or garlic bread.
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