Rejoice in these once-wild little leaves that bite back

COOKING FOR TWO

Peppery watercress and juicy radishes contrast with creamy linguine

August 04, 2002|By Bev Bennett | Bev Bennett,Special to the Sun

My introduction to watercress came years ago when my family went hiking through Kettle Moraine in eastern Wisconsin. This stunningly beautiful range of ridges and ponds came alive with thatches of green growing in the fast-running brooks. Naturally, I had to discover for myself what this thriving vegetation was. One taste of the peppery leaf was a giveaway. It had to be watercress. I became an instant fan but had to wait for years until supermarkets caught up with my appetite. Now watercress, a harvested crop, is widely available in supermarkets and farmers' markets.

The batch in my refrigerator comes from a farmer, not a Midwestern land formation that dates back to the last Ice Age. But every time I see watercress in the market, I'm compelled to buy it, recalling what a natural gift it is. And I try to play on its natural flavor by pairing it with hot, crisp-textured radishes and delicate greens. I also use a light dressing so the leaves don't get weighed down.

This Watercress and Radish Salad is good any time in the summer, but especially nice when you can make it with juicy and milder-tasting radishes. To expand the vegetable theme, serve linguine with peas and creamy ricotta cheese as the entree. If you prefer a vegetarian meal, omit the prosciutto.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.

Watercress and Radish Salad

Makes 2 servings

1 cup baby romaine lettuce

1 cup watercress leaves

1 cup sliced radishes

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

salt, pepper

In salad bowl, toss together romaine lettuce, watercress and radishes. In cup, stir together oil, lemon juice, mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over salad and toss gently but well.

Linguine With Peas and Ricotta Cheese

Makes 2 servings

salt

6 ounces linguine

1/2 cup shelled fresh peas (see note)

1/2 cup full-fat ricotta cheese

1/4 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 ounces prosciutto, cut into strips, optional

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add linguine and cook 3 minutes. Stir in peas and continue to cook until linguine and peas are both tender, about 8 minutes. Drain well and return to pot.

Stir in ricotta cheese, cream, tarragon and pepper. Toss well to coat pasta with sauce. Spoon into serving dish and garnish with prosciutto strips. Serve immediately.

Note: If desired, substitute 1/2 cup frozen baby peas, but add 1 to 2 minutes before pasta is done.

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