Day 284: Watercress Soup ♥

Watercress Soup, another healthy soup ♥ A Veggie Venture
graphic button small size size 10 Today's recipe: A classic watercress soup, slightly peppery thanks to the bright green leaves of watercress. Naturally Gluten Free. graphic button small size size 10

~recipe updated, first published way back in 2006~
~more recently updated recipes~

BACK IN 2006 A Turkish food blogger commented, "Seems it was watercress week over here ;-)." It was! But no more, that whole case of watercress I purchased for a whole dollar is gone. It's been quite an odyssey! Three salads, the very favorite with watercress, tangerines and blue cheese; the colorful crunch of daikon and bell peppers; plus another less-favorite that mixes watercress with iceberg lettuce. But a case of watercress goes a long way! I also made a spicy cucumber and watercress relish and a watercress sandwich and a wonderful turkey and tortellini soup plus, well, a a mistake and a few others hidden behind the screen.

But there's no experimenting with watercress without returning to an old favorite, watercress soup. Some years ago, I served it for a childhood friend and her toddler who came for lunch one day. She is a nutritionist and was galled that her son would usually touch nothing remotely green – and so was amazed when he lapped up a bowl of Watercress Soup and then asked for more!

Mostly, I keep this a simple soup, tasty and flavorful and nutritious and perfect middle-of-winter or cool-spring-day comfort food. That said, the inspiring recipe calls for sour cream and whole milk and suggests sautéed scallops: yum, over-the-top delicious!

UPDATE 2017 Trader Joe's is carrying watercress, the peppery greens are packaged with their root balls for freshness. It's got me revisiting watercress recipes! I'm also much grateful for Trader Joe's bags of frozen leeks: soooo convenient. This soup got a thumbs up from my male eaters!


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 60 minutes
Makes 8 cups

8 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 leeks, white and pale green parts, about 6 cups (How to Clean Leeks)
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and diced
8 ounces watercress, coarse stems trimmed, chopped
1 cup whole milk
Salt & pepper to taste

Bring the broth to a boil in the microwave. (This is a time-saving tip that can be skipped if you're in no rush.)

In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter on MEDIUM and sauté the leeks until soft. Stir in the potato to coat with fat. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover and let simmer until the potatoes are cooked, about 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the watercress, cover and let stand for about 5 minutes or until the watercress wilts. Puree with an immersion blender until the soup reaches the preferred consistency.

MAKE-AHEAD Like many soups, this one definitely improves when the flavors have a chance to meld.

VARIATIONS The inspiring recipe calls for 2/3 cup sour cream. Once the soup is warm, it's topped with lightly cooked sea scallops. When serving the soup plain, to my taste the sour cream adds little.

CULINARY REVELATION #1 Leek recipes always read "white and green parts only". So for years, I've cut the leek where the light green part stopped and thrown away everything else. But here's the revelation: if you peel away the outer tough outer leaves, the stuff that you're ready to throw away, inside there's tons more sweet and tender "light green" stuff!
CULINARY REVELATION #2 Frozen leeks! No doubt, cleaning leeks is fussy and takes time. But their gentle flavor is wonderful. I was more than pleased to see bags of frozen leeks at Trader Joe's and now keep a bag or two in the freezer. The chunks are a little big, no problem if the soup/whatever will be puréed. But otherwise, you'll want to slice the bigger chunks once the leeks have softened a bit, I do it right in the skillet/saucepan.
WHERE TO BUY WATERCRESS? I rarely if ever see watercress for sale. But once again, Trader Joe's to the rescue! In 2017, I started to see small bags in the produce section. It doesn't have quite the same peppery bite that I remember.
NO WATERCRESS? Try arugula. (Again, the stuff from Trader Joe's is wonderful.) Or use spinach. Or leave out the green stuff entirely. This is a lovely leek and potato soup, the French call it "Vichyssoise".

Note to Vegetarians

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.