It’s a wonder that we’re not all eating watercress regularly. Not only is it a fresh, peppery green akin to arugula, it also has something else going for it: Watercress is really, really good for you. Various studies like this one from the University of Southampton are exploring the effects of phenethyl isothiocyanate, a natural chemical watercress is particularly high in that may “turn off” the breast cancer signal, while others are examining its effects on prostate cancer.
In the CDC’s report on powerhouse fruits and vegetables that are associated with reduced chronic disease, watercress came out with a perfect score. In 100 calories, it contains (on average) 100% of your daily value of potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K.
Now, to be fair, 100 calories of watercress is a lot of watercress. 1 cup of the stuff, chopped, is about 4 calories, which means you should be working watercress into your meal rotation as often as possible. Luckily, these 6 recipes are here to show you how easy it can be to add this little green to your meals.
1. Gruyère and Watercress Omelet
Start off your day with some protein and a wallop of nutrients from our friend watercress by making an egg, cheese, and greens omelet like this one from Good Housekeeping. Don’t feel like you need to stop here, though, because eggs and watercress are best buds. Turn an Eggs Benedict brunch into a variation on a Florentine Benedict with watercress instead of spinach, or craft an egg sandwich with watercress on top. Throw handfuls of chopped watercress into your frittatas and scrambles. Wilt some watercress down and slide a poached egg over the tangle of greens. Where there’s an egg, there can be watercress.
- ½ tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
- 2 to 3 large eggs, seasoned and lightly beaten
- 1 handful of roughly chopped watercress
- Grated Gruyère cheese
Directions: Heat vegetable oil over low heat in a small frying pan. Add eggs and use a spatula to move them around the pan for the first 30 seconds. Next, top the egg with a handful of chopped watercress and cheese.
Continue cooking until the base of the omelet is golden and the cheese is melting. Fold in half and remove to a plate. Feel free to dress any leftover watercress in a vinaigrette and serve as a side salad with the omelet.
2. Spicy Tuna Wrap
Sandwiches are a great place to sneak in more watercress, too. There’s always the good old cucumber and watercress sandwiches served with high tea, but this green can stand up to applications a little less dainty and more filling. A pile of watercress is a great accompaniment to turkey sandwiches with chipotle mayo, roast beef with a bit of horseradish, grilled chicken and avocado, or ham and spicy mustard. In this recipe from Eating Well, it’s used to add some extra pep to a spicy tuna wrap inspired by sushi rolls.
- 2 (5- to 6-ounce) cans chunk light tuna, drained
- ⅓ cup low-fat mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Sriracha
- 1 scallion, chopped
- 2 cups cooked brown rice, cooled
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 4 (10-inch) whole-grain wraps
- 3 cups watercress leaves
- 1 ripe avocado, cut into 16 slices
- 1 small carrot, cut into matchsticks
- Reduced-sodium soy sauce for dipping, optional
Directions: Combine tuna, mayonnaise, hot sauce, and scallion in a medium bowl. Combine rice and vinegar in a small bowl.
Spread ¼ of the tuna mixture over a wrap. Top with ½ cup rice, ¾ cup watercress, 4 avocado slices, and ¼ of the carrot matchsticks. Roll up and cut the wrap in quarters or in half. Repeat with the remaining filling and wraps. Serve with soy sauce for dipping, if desired.
3. Cucumber and Watercress Salad
Toss a handful of watercress into any salad you’re eating and make it a healthy mixed greens salad. It’s great with a warm bacon vinaigrette, a bit of ranch dressing, or with some melon and prosciutto under a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Though it’s delicate, it can stand up to creaminess and the sharp tang of vinegar. In this recipe from Food Network, it pairs with cucumber and a white wine vinaigrette for a wonderfully refreshing salad best consumed outdoors in the sunshine — but it would also be a fantastic accompaniment to the spicy tuna wrap on the previous page.
- 1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
- 1 bunch of watercress, trimmed
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Splash of water
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Directions: In a bowl, combine the cucumber, watercress, and parsley.
In a separate bowl, combine the honey, vinegar, and water and season. Whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil. Drizzle the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat.
4. Watercress Pesto Pasta
We recommend tossing watercress into any pasta dish. It gives a little peppery bite to both red and cream sauces, and a roughly chopped handful is great in pasta salads. One of the best ways to really pack in plenty of raw watercress, where the phytochemicals are most potent, is to make a pesto for your pasta. If you’re going to eat pasta anyway, this peppery, garlicky pesto from Martha Stewart is a great alternative to your standby pasta sauce.
- 1 bunch watercress, about 5½ cups, tough stems removed, divided
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Coarse salt
- Pinch of red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 10 ounces farro spaghetti or whole-wheat spaghetti
Directions: Pulse 5 cups watercress, pine nuts, lemon zest, and garlic in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add oil and pulse to combine. Season with salt and red pepper flakes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water; drain pasta. Return pasta to pot and stir in pesto. Add enough reserved pasta water, a small amount at a time, to coat pasta and make a light sauce. Season with salt and top with remaining watercress.
5. Sauteed Watercress With Garlic
Watercress, being of the brassica family, loves 3 things: oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. A quick sauté in those things mellows the bite a bit and enhances the flavor of the green. It’s a dead simple side that is great beside any protein: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, tofu, fish — you name it. This recipe from Salu Salo shows that the hardest and most time-consuming part of preparing this is trimming the tough parts of the stems and washing the grit from the leaves of the watercress. Otherwise, it takes about 2 minutes to cook. Feel free to add a pinch or 2 of red pepper flakes to complete the trinity.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, minced or grated
- 2 bunches watercress, trimmed and rinsed thoroughly
- ½ teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
Directions: Heat oil in a skillet or wok over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant.
Add watercress and salt; cook, stirring constantly, for about 40 seconds.
Add 2 tablespoons water and stir. Cover and cook for 25 seconds, or until leaves are wilted.
6. Watercress and Chicken Stir Fry
A quick stir fry is a weeknight staple thanks to its speed, ease, and nutrition. Bump up the health factor by adding watercress to your next stir fry. It’s a great stand in for more traditional Chinese greens, which can be hard to find without a nearby Asian market, and it’s a really easy way to add more watercress to your diet.
Like any other green, it wilts down quite a bit — though it may seem like way too much on your cutting board, it will cook down to reasonable ratios. BBC Good Food recommends waiting until the last moment to add the watercress so it retains a bit of al dente crunch. The heat in the sauce will do a fine job of wilting it just enough.
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
- ¾ cup cashews
- 1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped into large chunks
- 1 red onion, chopped into large chunks
- 4 cups watercress
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 large knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
Directions: To make the sauce, mix together all the ingredients in a small bowl until completely blended.
Heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot. Throw in the chicken, cashew nuts, pepper, and onion, then stir fry for about 4 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and the nuts are toasted. Pour over the sauce and simmer with a splash of water.
Remove the pan from the heat, then stir through the watercress. Serve with rice.
More from Life Cheat Sheet:
- 10 of the Most Affordable Healthy Foods You Can Buy
- 7 Quick and Easy Snack Recipes That Are Fun to Make
- 7 Supremely Fresh Salads Bringing You the Best Spring Flavors
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