Vegetarian Cooking: A Different Kind of Cress

I’ve technically lived in the South for nearly 15 years now, but still didn’t know anything about field cress (AKA creasy greens, AKA pepper cress, AKA garden cress, AKA pepperwort, AKA upland watercress, AKA wild watercress) until yesterday, when my wife picked up what looked to be about a pound of it at the IGA in Marshall,VA. (I saw a sign for it and was tempted.) It looks like a pumped-up version of watercress and turns out to be an annual related to it, best grown in the spring and fall–and it’ll blow your mouth off eaten raw. (Somebody at calls the taste a mixture of arugula, mustard, watercress and horseradish — heavy on the pepperiness of the arugula and the lingering heat of horseradish, from my experience.)

Most recipes I saw online had it as a green slow boiled with forms of pork, so we were puzzled for a while about what to do with it — then decided to use it like broccoli rabe for pasta, trimming the tough stems away and leaving the leaves for a sauté. Boiled for 7 minutes and then sautéed lightly with 4 cloves garlic and red pepper flakes, it’s delicious with farfalle and 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese along with 1/2 of the pasta water (cook the pasta in the water you used to boil the cress). It cooks down drastically and retains little of its raw bite, instead soaking up the rich garlickiness of the sautée. Great stuff. (Also see these recipes for creasy confetti eggs and creasy quiche as well as creasy greens with sweet potato cakes.)

(Image: Field cress. Image credit: gmayfield10/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.)

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