Ah, the salad. The dish for waifs and finicky eaters. The grunt work of a dinner out, ordered and picked over as penance for the main course. On menus it arrives in one of these forms: a “tossed” meal laden with dairy and other “fixings” on a 12” dinner plate, 12 dead leaves of lettuce unceremoniously carried to the table, or a few beautiful twigs dressed with a tablespoon of oil and a slice of cheese that sets you back $12. Thanks for the upsell, but I will definitely PASS.
Watercress has been a staple ingredient of salads since they were liberated from their existence as a hot pickled winter dish in the 15th century. In the time of Louis XIV, salad was said to “moisten and refresh, liberate the stomach, promote sleep and appetite, temper the ardours of Venus and quench thirst.” Brillat-Savarin remarked that salad “refreshes without weakening, and soothes without irritating: I often call it the rejuvenator.”
The below recipe is honor of the age-old tradition of dressing a salad. Some foods are best made at home. Your duty with this one is to visit the grocery store yourself and select the freshest bunch of watercress you can find. Even in cold weather, we all need a refresher.
1 bunch watercress, washed, dried, and thick stems removed
1/2 red pepper, washed, stemmed, and cut thinly
A handful of salt-cured black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
A handful of cherry or plum tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup sharp English cheddar, sliced with a vegetable peeler
Combine ingredients into a bowl. Toss with salad dressing and serve.
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 shallot, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Combine ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Taste. Adjust. Mmmm.