Today I ate a watercress sandwich for Anna May. Well, not really. I ate it for me. But I thought of my friend who’s left this earth as I bit into the bitey green stems and leaves.
I love this simple combination of tastes and textures. Whole wheat bread stands up well next to aggressive watercress. A smooth swath of butter between the two helps hold things together.
Things go better with this sandwich if you follow these basic principles:
1. Pile the watercress high on the bottom slice of buttered bread.
2. You won’t get the cresses’ independent stems and leaves to stay within the bread’s bounds, so don’t even try.
3. Just open your mouth wide for a bite. Wider!
4. And have your dental floss nearby.
I found Anna May eating this plant, which grows best in wet soil, one day in our staff lunchroom. She grew up on a farm and had a good-sized pond on the farm where she and her husband raised their four kids. Gathering and eating watercress became part of springtime for her and her kids. Now, thanks to her, I can hardly wait for the crunchy, spikey greens on well-mannered bread as the air turns warm.
I’ve always loved eating textures. My brother would pour milk on his shredded wheat biscuit—and then go get dressed before eating it. Not me. The minute the milk hit the straw-y wheat, my spoon was in the dish. I couldn’t bear soggy cereal. Still can’t.
I chewed big square ice cubes as a kid to keep cool in the summer. Then I did it when I wrote papers and studied for an exam. Kept my stress at bay. But it drove Merle crazy if he was in the same room, so I gradually gave that up, or went to another room if I had a sudden urge.
Now I order calamari. I love when nuts turn up in soups and salads. Unpeeled apple slices are simply more interesting. I don’t mind fresh bread crusts. I think you oughta know you’re biting into something.
You already have the recipe for a watercress sandwich. If you’re after fresh and crunch, but slightly more elegant, try this irresistibly beautiful and tasty salad.
Hint: do the almonds a day or so ahead if you’ve got a moment. Then it’s just a little chopping and mostly assembling on the day you want to serve this lovely dish.
Tossed Salad with Candied Almonds
Fix-It and Forget-It Vegetarian Cookbook
Makes 6 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
1 large head Romaine lettuce
3 Tbsp. white sugar, divided
¼ cup sliced almonds
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. snipped parsley
¼ tsp. salt
2 dashes hot pepper sauce
11-oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1. Tear lettuce in bite-size pieces.
2. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. sugar into dry non-stick pan.
3. Sprinkle almonds on top.
4. Heat and stir over medium heat until sugar melts.
5. Remove from heat. Place nuts on plate and set aside to cool. Break into pieces when cooled.
6. Mix celery and green onions with lettuce.
7. Mix oil, remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar, wine vinegar, parsley, salt and hot pepper sauce in food processor.
8. Toss over salad.
9. Add mandarin oranges and almonds.
Tip: Toss dressing just before serving or salad will become soggy.