5 Ways to Make Arugula Shine and Mouths Water
By Radha Marcum
For two summers I taught writing in Rome near the Campo dei Fiori, a small piazza with an exquisite daily farmers’ market. Tucked in a nearby alley, restaurant Insalata Ricca (“rich salad”) lured us in with its abundant plates of fresh produce. I fell in love with their arugula and pear salad drizzled with olive oil and lemon, and topped with walnuts and shaved Parmesan. Every time we sat down I would consider some other salad, but I couldn’t resist that tangle of crisp, tangy arugula leaves. It was heaven.
These days, fresh bags of baby arugula sit happily next to the mixed lettuces at nearly any supermarket in the US. But back then, I returned home to find only small bunches near the fresh spinach, often bedraggled from their long journey by truck. I began growing my own (arugula is ridiculously easy to cultivate, even in the mountainous, high-desert climate where I live) and experimenting in the kitchen with other arugula dishes.
Arugula’s bright taste is delightfully versatile and stands up in almost any combo. Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy the green beyond salad (though I still adore that salad!).
Arugula, white beans, and poached or fried egg. As beautiful as it is tasty, this makes an impressive savory brunch. And it’s simple: Place several handfuls of fresh arugula on a large plate. Spoon approximately ½ cup warmed (not piping hot) white beans such as cannellini or navy beans over the greens. Drizzle with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Top with one or two poached or fried eggs and a fresh dusting of black pepper, salt, and/or Parmesan or Romano cheese.
Arugula pesto. Substitute arugula for basil in your favorite pesto recipe. Arugula pairs nicely with almost any nut, but especially walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, or cashews.
Arugula frittata or quiche. For an elegant egg dish, substitute arugula for spinach in your recipe. For a more robust flavor, choose mature leaves (in bunches, near the fresh spinach) rather than bagged baby arugula leaves, which have a milder, sweeter flavor.
Wilted arugula. A lovely accompaniment to chicken, fish, or vegan or vegetarian protein dishes. In a large sauté pan, heat 1–2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add 1–2 cloves chopped fresh garlic and sauté for 15 seconds. Immediately remove the pan from heat, add one bag of arugula, stir to coat, and cover with a lid. Let wilt for 1–2 minutes.
Arugula, pecorino, and fresh lemon pizza. The pizza version of Insalata Ricca’s salad, the arugula-lemon combination brightens and complements thin-crust pies. First bake the pizza crust brushed with olive oil and crushed garlic. Add dollops of fresh ricotta if you want a richer pizza. After the crust is done, top with arugula and shaved pecorino and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Serve with wedges of fresh lemon.