Watercress soup

(Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
May 13, 2009

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Serves 4

You can take bright, shiny sprigs of fresh watercress and tuck them into sandwiches, which the English do, stir-fry them like Asian cooks do, or puree them in a soup, which is typically French. Watercress soup may sound healthy, but the classic preparation calls for chicken stock or water and lots of cream, which makes the bowls decidedly rich and fatty. So substitute parsnips for cream, which isn't traditional, but works well. Like cream, parsnips are sweet enough to tame the bitter bite of watercress. The soup thickens from the starch of the roots, rather than the fat of cream. The mixture is still green and springlike, not the same soup, but equally good.

2 tablespoons butter
2 slender leeks (white and light green parts only), finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 ounces (about 2 medium) parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
1 quart chicken stock or water
2 large bunches watercress, cut up

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 3 minutes.

2. Add the parsnips and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes more.

3. Pour in the stock or water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the watercress and continue simmering for 5 minutes more.

4. In a blender, puree the mixture in batches until smooth and uniform. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as needed. Return the soup to the pot, bring to a boil, and ladle into bowls.

Jill Santopietro