Rarely was our daughter more annoyed than when she confused "rugelah" with "arugula." Certainly not the sweet and delicious bite-sized pastry brought home from Beth Ann Betz' booth at the Farmers' Market, the spicy green, while also found at the Farmers' Market, doesn't compliment her breakfast in quite the same way. And I suppose, who can blame her? It's a little like asking for a puppy and getting a guppy.
While I love rugelah as well, this spring, arugula is what has really been on my mind. While I have never minded its peppery taste, now I crave the bite that arugula lends, both complimenting and contrasting with other flavors.
An easy green to grow in your garden or even a pretty container outside your door, arugula, or rocket, as it is sometimes called, prefers cooler growing temperatures so it does particularly well in spring and early summer. As the temperatures rise, it is still possible to grow it under an airy tree or shade cloth, although it will probably go to seed faster. All you need to do to harvest is pick the leaves, which will continue to grow new ones for quite a while. If you make successive plantings every 20 to 30 days, you will have a lovely harvest of arugula for the duration of the season.
I've been a bit slow getting my arugula seeds in the ground this year, so have been buying my arugula from Lilac Ridge Farm on Ames Hill Road as I drive by on my way to and from work. I am finding that I am needing
Recently I found a recipe for a great hot-weather salad using a combination of some favorites -- orzo, arugula with the creamy tang of goat cheese. With a loaf of good crusty bread and a nice cold drink, this salad will be perfect for those summer nights when a hot kitchen is the last place you want to be.
Orzo and Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese adapted from "Cooking Light"
One and one-half cups uncooked orzo
One and one-half cups arugula
One cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
One-half cup red bell pepper, diced
One-quarter cup red onion, diced
Two tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Two tablespoons fresh oregano
Two tablespoons red wine vinegar
Two tablespoons good olive oil
A pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
One and one-half ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Cook orzo according to package directions until al dente. Drain well. Combine orzo, arugula, tomatoes, pepper, onion, and herbs in a large bowl and mix well. Whisk vinegar and olive oil until combined, seasoning with salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over pasta mixture and toss well. Serve at room temperature or chill. If you happen to have any leftover cooked chicken, it would be delicious tossed in.
I also found a recipe for arugula pesto that I'm going to have to try. With three simple ingredients, the only trick is blanching the arugula. It's suggested that this is served over hot pasta or even boiled potatoes. Arugula Pesto
One-quarter-pound arugula, stems removed
One-third cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Blanch arugula in salted boiling water just until water just returns to a boil. Cool immediately in an ice water bath and dry thoroughly, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Place in a food processor or blender and puree with oil, salt and pepper until thick. Use immediately or store in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator.
As for our disappointed young treat-seeker, I'm not sure that I will ever be able to convince her that a poached egg with steamed arugula and hollandaise will ever beat a sweet rugelah or two, but I would like to try. I will, however, keep her age and tastes in mind, and will probably end up having to move my focus on to more likely subjects. Fortunately, we grown-ups are really enjoying this mild obsession with my new favorite green.
Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn't have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.