Monday, April 20, 2009

Wild Watercress & Potato Salad

On a recent unseasonably warm spring morning in the City by the Bay, I made a quick stop at the neighborhood ATM, then headed to my local watercress patch to gather greens for dinner. The fact that the ATM and the watercress exist only minutes from each other gives me particular pleasure, as does the act of foraging for wild food in a hidden green oasis in the middle of this high-tech city.

Watercress (nasturtium officinale) is a highly nutritious semi- aquatic plant which was one of the earliest leafy greens eaten by humans. It grows prolifically in the wild in fresh water streams and is now cultivated for commercial use. Watercress has recently gained a reputation as a "super food" high in anti- oxidants and a wide range of vitamins and minerals. If you gather your own watercress, make sure to wash it very thoroughly before eating.

In hot weather, this salad makes a healthy light meal which can be prepared ahead of time in the cool hours of the day. If there's no watercress available, arugula will work just as well. Steam a pot of small Yukon Gold or other thin skinned potatoes and set aside to cool until you're ready to assemble the salad, which takes only a few minutes. This recipe makes about 2 servings, depending on the size of the potatoes.

5 or 6 small Yukon Gold potatoes, steamed, peeled, & quartered
1 medium bunch fresh watercress or arugula, roughly chopped
1 0r 2 tablespoons leek or green onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 2 or more lemons or limes
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss lightly. Taste and correct seasoning, adding more lemon/ lime juice or sea salt if needed. Serve at room temperature or chilled.