Add Spice with Arugula
We love arugula! Available fall and early winter, it is also known as rocket, rugula, roquette and rucola. The leaves of this lovely green are shaped rather like an oak leaf with hints of red in the veins. It is of the same botanical family as watercress, cabbage and broccoli. Native to the Mediterranean region, arugula has been grown as a vegetable since the Roman era. The Romans ate the leaves, used the seeds to flavor oil, and made medicinal compounds from the plant.
Smaller arugula leaves are a bit milder, while larger leaves tend to have a more pungent, peppery kick. Larger arugula leaves with their stronger flavor are great when lightly sauteed (wilted) and mixed with cooked spinach or added to soups and stir-fry dishes. It will have a more fibrous texture than other greens.
It can give your recipe a pleasantly spicy, bold kick. Its peppery flavor pairs well with mild butter and bibb lettuces. The characteristic sword-shaped, deeply notched leaves are usually 2 to 3 inches long. You'll also see it in salad mixes that include frizee, radicchio, mesclun, and baby leaf greens. You'll find fresh arugula in the markets through early winter.
It makes a nice fresh topping or garnish on top of fish or cooked vegetable dishes. Just remember to handle the leaves with care because they can bruise easliy. Wash well when ready to use because the leaves can trap soil and grit. Dry thoroughly with paper towels. Store in dry paper towels in an open plastic bag in the refrigerator for only about two days.
Sprinkle a handful on soups or pasta for a colorful peppery finish to your dishes. Here are some not-so-ordinary ways to add arugula to your recipes:
- Use instead of basil for pesto with a kick! Use walnuts or pine nuts, oil and parmesan cheese.
- Fold directly into your pasta sauces toward the end of cooking to add texture and flavor.
- Add to the hot pasta itself with light olive oil, garlic, and parmesan cheese finish.
- Sauté arugula lightly along with spinach, olive oil, crushed garlic, and salt and pepper.
- Add color and boldness to your ordinary potato salad. Works well with red potatoes and a vinegar-based salad.
- Use as a bed for roasted beef, poultry, fish, or pork.
- Use as a topping on homemade pizza for crispness and kick!
Arugula is very low in calories and is a good source of vitamins A and C, folate, calcium, and magnesium. Just remember to pair arugula with milder ingredients because this delightful green can be a bit overpowering - unless you want a strong flavor to your recipe. Get spicy with arugula this fall!