arugula salad

Fresh washed arugula is almost as ubiquitous as spinach in supermarkets these days but let's face it, the stuff in the supermarkets is not quite the real thing. The leaves are often rounded or mildly ruffled instead of the deeply indented sharp  ("jagged") spikes symmetrically aligned on each side of the leaf reminiscent of a wilder version of holly or pin oak (bob was a leaf collector as a kid). We are fortunate in recent times to have our small artisan suppliers deliver us regularly "pretty good arugula" that we have included as a standard staple in our diet.

Arugula is one of those Italian food items that has taken a long time to cross the Atlantic in any appreciable way, at least from our vantage point on the mid-Atlantic coast. A salad green with a bite, it makes a great ingredient in simple fresh pasta sauces, which is where it finally lodged into bob's foreground food awareness after the summer of 1997 when a tasty lunch pasta at the Bar delle Scienze near the university of rome grabbed bob's attention. Unfortunately this preceded the days of "pretty good arugula", so we had to make do with what we found available when trying pasta sauces with this ingredient. With the maturing of the American arugula age, we began doing more experimenting, but the advent of "pretty good arugula" captured our hearts as a very simple salad that we make over and over again without tiring of it, after first experiencing it in some local restaurant.

Arugula is called "rughetta" in Roman dialect ("rocket" in the British dialect of English), and since dr bob is a part time Roman, this is the name that used to come to mind for this item until years of American use of the term arugula drowned out the association except when immersed in Italy during a visit.

ingredients

mandatory
one bunch of arugula
extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
shaved parmigiano
optional
toasted walnuts

instructions

  1. Ingredient amounts are all to taste, depending on how much arugula you start with.
  2. Rinse and let sit in cold water a few minutes before using to crisp it up a bit, a lesson we learned from a small but expensive cooking class at our nearby Viking store.
  3. Meanwhile squeeze some fresh lemon juice (or squeeze the yellow plastic bottle if you must, we have occasionally) and mix with the olive oil in a 1:2 ratio approximately since lemon juice packs more flavor power than olive oil. Add in salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Toast some whole walnuts, but be careful not to set off any smoke detectors.
  5. Shave some parmigiano with a cheese slicer, estimating a generous sprinkling as a topping ingredient.
  6. When ready to serve, toss the arugula in an extra wide shallow salad bowl so as to barely coat all the leaves with the dressing without too much excess. Sprinkle the shaved parmigiano evenly over the top and then the toasted walnuts. You don't want to add the dressing too much in advance of serving, so that it retains its fresh crisp feel.

notes

  1. We are thankful to both Sook Hee Produce at the Ardmore Farmer's Market (next to Trader Joe's!) and Carlino's Markets only minutes away, both of which in recent years seem to have discovered "pretty good arugula" producers and enough people like us to be able to supply it as a regular item, and to Marisa of the Bar delle Scienze for awakening us to the pasta possibilities of "rughetta".
  2. The United States of Arugula, a book by David Kamp.
  3. Illustrations mandatory!

2008 update

A Gourmet Magazine e-newsletter awakened us to a new variation of our arugula salad: zucchini carpaccio salad! Basically you clean a couple smallish in diameter zucchini and cut paper-thin disks using a mandoline (which we recently bought), then salt them in layers and squeeze in a colander for 20 minutes with a dish on top, then rinse them and squeeze dry in a paper towel, and add to the arugula salad, with or without walnuts. We do this so often, variations help freshen it a bit. Contemporarily another Gourmet suggestion was with grilled mushrooms, which we also tried and liked. We used a package of mixed wild mushrooms from Trader Joe's as the additive to our usual recipe. As long as Sook Hee Produce keeps supplying us every weekend with arugula, we'll continue exercising the habit.

arugulasld.htm: 26-may-2008 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]