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Arugula, also known as rocket, rucola, and roquette, is a spicy, bitter, and peppery salad green with diverse culinary uses. Arugula originated in the Mediterranean and has been a long time favorite in Italian cooking. The ancient Romans ate it for good luck. It was also an ingredient in various aphrodisiac potions throughout the ages.
Arugula is available year round with a peak season between June and December. Baby arugula leaves, from immature plants, are oval in shape while mature arugula leaves display pronounced lobes on each side. Mature arugula is darker green and spicier than it’s younger counterpart.
Choose leaves that are bright green with no sign of wilting. Arugula is highly perishable and should be used within two days of purchase. Store it in a plastic bag in the coldest part of your fridge. Arugula is a good source of iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C.
Arugula is a gritty green and must be washed thoroughly. Some say to wash it just before use while others recommend washing it even if you plan to store it. I favor washing it just before use. Unless you dry it well, washed arugula can wilt somewhat from the left over water.
Arugula is most commonly employed in salads as in the famous tricolor salad. However, it can be used in sauces, soups, pasta dishes, and as a sautéed accompaniment. Generally, young arugula is used for salads and the spicier older arugula for cooking. Below are two recipes featuring both types of arugula. If you can’t find one or the other you can definitely substitute.
Half pound angel hair pasta
6 scallions, whites and greens, chopped
Pinch of hot pepper flakes
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 eight oz. bottle clam juice (or substitute chicken broth)
3 oz mature arugula
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons chopped basil
2 teaspoons chopped oregano
Salt and black pepper to taste
Try to time the pasta so it is almost done by the time the sauce is complete. Remove the pasta when it is a little too hard. It will be finished in the sauce. Sauté the scallions and hot pepper flakes in the olive oil in a large sauté pan until the scallions start to get soft. Add the garlic and sauté one minute. Add the tomatoes and sauté one more minute. Add clam juice, bring to a boil, and then simmer for two minutes. Add the arugula and simmer until the arugula wilts. Add salt and pepper. If the pasta hasn’t cooked yet, cover the pan and turn the heat to low. Add the pasta and herbs and simmer one more minute. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.
SAUTEED SHRIMP OVER ARUGULA WITH AVOCADO VINAIGRETTE
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons avocado oil plus extra for cooking
Salt and pepper to taste
8 12/15 shrimp
Paprika, as needed
3 oz baby arugula
Mince the shallots and mix with the lemon juice in a stainless steel bowl. Slowly drizzle in the avocado oil while constantly whisking. Add salt and pepper. Set the dressing aside. Peel, clean, and rinse the shrimp and then pat them dry. Start heating up a skillet. Toss the shrimp in a bowl with one tablespoon of the vinaigrette, salt, pepper and paprika. Sauté the shrimp in some avocado oil until just browned on each side. Set aside two spoonfuls of the vinaigrette and then mix the larger amount with the arugula. Place half of the arugula in the center of two plates, forming a round mound. Place four shrimp around each mound. Drizzle the reserved vinaigrette over each shrimp. A few points here:
* Avocado oil can be found in gourmet food stores such as Whole Foods or on the Internet. It is a monosaturated fat, (like olive oil), and rich in vitamins A, D, E, lecithin and potassium. Make an effort to find it. It makes a very tasty dressing. If not, substitute olive oil.
* To drizzle in the oil with one hand and whisk with the other, wrap a wet dishtowel around the bowl. It will hold it in place while both your hands are busy.
* Always heat your skillet first before adding the oil
* Shrimp are identified by the number of them in a pound. Thus, 12/15 shrimp means there are 12 to 15 shrimp per pound. The lower the number the larger the shrimp but you can use any size for this recipe.
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