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Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Crema de canónigos y yogur / Watercress and yogurt soup
L. Nasturtium officinale, Eng. watercress. It is symbolic of the coming of spring and suggests the perpetual renewal of life and everlasting hope of human redemption. Ancient Greeks gave students in military academies watercress as a reconstitute during military marches. Hippocrates, Dioscorides and Pliny recommended it medicinally. Romans labeled it as “shameless” for the erotic stimulating powers in the small leaves not for their innocent appearance but for the sharp taste due to mustard glycosides and all the vitamins contained in it. Ibn Massouih claimed that watercress eliminates viscous humors. It is good for the respiratory system and used as a remedy for asthma or mixed with honey to relieve coughing. It was given to diabetics and was chewed for sore gums. Avenoar explained that watercress is eaten in the same way as celery. It is hot and dries and fortifies digestion. Those having stomach gases should not eat it any of the pickles he cites except Christ’s thorn. Further, it has been used as a purgative, an aphrodisiac and a contraceptive. It was a typical home remedy for scurvy, fevers and kidney problems. Hebrews served it as a side dish at banquets, especially during the Passover feast. In Al-Andalus, as vegetables were in style, watercress was very important. It was added to dishes composed of fennel and salads, served with roasts and cooked as garnish for fish. Frequently, it was added as flavoring for their sauces. It gives a zip to salads and makes a refreshing cold soup in summer. The taste is like bland mustard and it is somewhat sweet. The Latin name is derived from nasus (nose) and tortus (tormented) for the gesture made when smelling the leaves, which are a little hot. [Font. Plantas. 1999:164:273-275; Ibn Zuhr/García Sánchez. 1992:92; Jobes. 1962:2:1668; Simonetti. 1991 :96; and Stuart 1987:228]

Gitlitz explains that she was found guilty of Judaizing because among other things she observed the Sabbath by serving this salad to Jewish friends who she invited to her home on the afternoon of the Sabbath. She was placed under house arrest, was forced to wear a penitential San Benito robe, could not wear jewelry or any adornment, and had to confess at least three times annually. Ten months later, at her petition, these sentences were withdrawn.


1 - 2 oz watercress
½ head iceburg lettuce
2 c torn up other greens, such as a combination of radiccio, red lettuce, romaine, endive or fennel
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
3 - 4 radishes, sliced
1 - 2 oz hard cheese such as
1 - 2 tsp coarsely ground salt

Radish and watercress salad
Photo by Golden Pig

1-2 tsp balsamic, red wine or cider vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil


The Salad:
Remove the stems from the watercress. Chop the leaves into bite-size pieces.
Tear the lettuce into bite size pieces. Toss all the greens together in a large bowl.
Top with the radishes and the cheese.
Sprinkle with the salt.

The Dressing:
Pour the vinegar into a jar; add the olive oil. Cover and shake vigorously
Pour over the salad and toss before serving or pass a cruet at the table.

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