Saturday, July 23, 2011

Serendipity – or Maybe Cooking Karma?
What’s cooking? Watercress Soup

Chance or fate? I’ve long believed in karma of various sorts. Shopping karma (finding that just-so item in a tiny, hidden corner of Manhattan) and parking karma (snagging the spot right in front of the restaurant) come to mind most readily. But I’m starting to consider the concept of cooking karma. Can that be what you call it when you come across a recipe that sounds interesting and it turns out you already have ALL of the ingredients, including the leeks?

This line of thought started when my friend Gusty, a children’s book writer, sent me to a site that promised a free cookbook to the first 100 bloggers to try out a recipe from Richard Grausman’s new book, French Classics Made Easy. Never one to turn down such an opportunity, I went to the site and – voilá! – the proposed menu contained a cold soup recipe, another of my weaknesses. In truth, the recipe says you can serve it cold or hot; but with the outside temperatures this week breaking the 100° mark, no one in her right mind would make hot soup.

As I read down the list of ingredients, the excitement increased. I had everything I needed, even the leeks and the watercress. I’d bought the watercress for a salad, but would happily sacrifice it for the soup. No one knows why I already had leeks.(Though maybe it was the cooking gods.)

The biggest change I made to Mr. Grausman’s recipe was to leave the skins on the zucchini. (I also used light sour cream instead of heavy cream.) He says he always peels them so that the color is more in line with the classic French watercress soup. I get that. But I still can hear my mother’s admonition that the vitamins are all in the skin. I have no idea if that’s true – she was anything but a scientist, and she said that about most fruits and vegetables. (She even told me the vitamins in toast were in the crust, so that I wouldn’t throw it away. This I believed for an embarrassing number of years.)

It’s a delicious soup – smooth, mellow, and so full of vitamins you want to run around the block when you’re done. And while my soup has a much greener look – more like spinach soup than watercress – you know, I’ve always been partial to green. Maybe that’s part of the karma.

Watercress Soup (Potage au Cresson) from Richard Grausman’s French Classics Made Easy

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
3 leeks (white part only*), washed and diced
1½ pounds zucchini, peeled* and diced
4 cup chicken stock
1 bunch watercress, thick stems trimmed
¼  tsp salt
⅛  tsp freshly ground pepper
⅓  c heavy cream [Kitchen Goddess note: Grausman also recommends yogurt. I used light sour cream, but creme fraiche should also work.]

*Note: Grausman uses only the white part of the leeks and peels the zucchini so the color of the soup will be pale green like the classic version. If he’s less concerned about the color, he uses the pale green parts of the leeks. But he always peels the zucchini.

1. In a 4-quart pot, heat the butter or oil over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and gently sauté until softened, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the zucchini and sauté for 2 minutes without browning. Add the stock and simmer until the zucchini is just tender, 3-4 minutes.

3. Bring the soup to a boil and add the watercress. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 minute.

4. In a food processor or blender, blend the soup well until smooth. Season with the salt and pepper. (The soup can be prepared ahead to this point. Let cool to room temp, and refrigerate. If serving the soup hot, bring back to a simmer before proceeding.)

5. Just before serving, stir in the cream.


  1. This looks delish! Glad the karma worked out. Now sit back and wait for the cookbook to arrive. Did you post the link to his site/ blog? You must!

  2. Sounds yummy. Wish I had all the ingredients in my kitchen but will get them!

  3. aha! i will file this under 'possibilities for my st. patrick's day party,' and toast you if you can't be there!

  4. Hen, I will always be there in spirit!

  5. It's not too late! You can take the Challenge too:

    Cook and post by July 31

  6. Hi Lee,

    Thanks for the coverage of my book and recipe. It looks great! One question: Was the color of the soup accurate in the photo, or was it a brighter green in person?

    A service I offer my readers is called "House Calls". My father was a doctor and I learned the value of his house calls. If you ever have a problem with any of my recipes, send me an e-mail with a photo if possible, and I will will aid you from my home to yours. Just write to me at