In Praise of Arugula

The Italians know something we Americans often don’t. That is, that sometimes the most wonderful dishes are the most basic. If you’ve got fresh, great quality produce and make the right flavor combinations, the simplest things will be the most delicious. And here I share with you one of my favorites.

Arugula may be the best of all herbs. It grows wild in places like Greece and Italy, where old toothless guys with walking sticks and baskets and faithful hound dogs named Pirot forage for it on barren hillsides. It’s easy to grow, at least in California. Let it go to seed, and you’ll have little wild arugulas popping up all over your yard. And you and your kids can get a basket and pretend you’re foraging, too.

Peppery, floral and complex, its flavors become even more sublime when it is combined with five additional ingredients — fresh lemon juice, best-quality extra virgin olive oil, shaved aged parmesan, freshly cracked pepper and flaky sea salt such as Maldon. As beautiful and sophisticated as it is simple.

My 7-year-old son who is suspect of anything green will devour as much of this salad as I will serve him, he loves it so. You will too:

Italian Arugula Salad
serves 4

1  cup arugula per person
fresh lemon
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup thinly shaved aged parmesan reggiano
flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Choose nice looking plates. Spread a cup of arugula artfully around each plate. Squeeze lemon juice over the top, one or two good squeezes per plate should do it. (You should be able to drizzle all four salads with a single lemon.) Then drizzle each salad with your best olive oil. Sprinkle some salt over the top, and a twist or two of freshly ground pepper. Top each with some shaved parmesan. Serve immediately, perhaps as the first course in an Italian dinner.

Wine suggestion: A nice, light pinot grigio or floral sauvignon blanc.

Coolest pepper mills on earth:

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. paul
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 15:45:37

    My arugula is growing crazy right now Sean. Florida is a great place to have buckets of it all year round. I just pick it fresh and eat it raw for a snack while sitting outside reading. It goes on all my sandwiches and I especially love it with roasted beets and honeyed goat cheese . . .There is a feed store nearby that I can buy bulk seeds from and just toss around the yard about every month or so plus I keep it growing in pots around the pool which makes foraging pretty easy. My all time favorite–delicious Roquette. On the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples, a digestive alcohol called rucolino is made from Arugula, a drink often enjoyed in small quantities following a meal enjoyed in the same way as a limoncello or grappa and has a sweet peppery taste that washes down easily. Never tried it but it is on my radar.


  2. mom
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 17:25:33

    //What a coincidence. I made an arugula pesto last night, spread it on pounded turkey breast, wrapped it all in prosciutto and baked it. I served it with chantarelle risotto and brussels rubbed with garlic, coarse sea sale and OO paste. Nice dinner.


  3. Andrea Thompson
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 20:12:43

    I happen to have some locally grown, organic arugula in my fridge. I am going to make that salad tonight. You don’t mention the parmesan in the instructions but I will “sprinkle with the parmesan”.


  4. Andrea Thompson
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 01:32:26

    I am eating mine right now and it is DELICIOUS! Steve LOVES it, too! He just said, “Hmmm, I really love arugula!”


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