Watercress is a treat I had come to associate with spring and the return of farmers markets - that is, until I came across vibrant bunches of it recently at the local grocer.
It was so fresh and crisp that instead of figuring how to incorporate it into dinner, I made it dinner accompanied by ingredients to complement, not overpower, its peppery bite - cooling and zesty oranges, mild sauteed chicken, briny olives and rich, tangy feta.
So was born a watercress-centric salad that makes a light dinner.
For a heartier version, you certainly could make the meal chicken-centric, grilling larger portions and serving the rest of the salad alongside. (Shrimp would be good as well.) A milder cheese, such as queso fresco, could sub for the feta.
Since that dinner, I've come to find out that watercress is common at many grocers. Apparently, everyone knew this but me. I'm still enjoying the freshly picked wild watercress from the farmers market, but I'm so glad to have a supply at the grocer when that harvest is done.
Tip: Watercress is edible from stem to leaves. If the stems are thick, you can snap or cut them off, separating the clusters into smaller sprigs. (Nibble on the thick stems for a snack.)
WATERCRESS, CHICKEN AND CITRUS SALAD
Prep: 20 minutes; cook: 8 minutes; servings: 2
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound chicken tenders or 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large bunches watercress, about 6 ounces
2 tangerines, peeled, segmented (or 1 orange)
1/2 medium jicama, peeled, cut in 1/4-inch matchsticks, about 1 cup
1/4 cup quartered green olives
2 ounces feta, crumbled, about 1/2 cup
1. For the vinaigrette, whisk the orange juice, vinegar, olive oil and salt together in a small bowl. Set aside for flavors to marry.
2. For the salad, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken; sprinkle with salt. Cook, turning, until lightly browned and cooked through, 8 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
3. Place the watercress, tangerine segments, jicama, olives and feta in a bowl. Shred the chicken into long pieces with your fingers (or slice or cube it with a knife). Add to the salad.
Pour the vinaigrette over the salad; toss gently with your hands to lightly coat all the ingredients.
Nutrition per serving: 494 calories, 34 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 88 mg cholesterol, 21 g carbohydrates, 30 g protein, 1,307 mg sodium, 5 g fiber.