Fun with Gourmet Greens: Arugula

The produce selection in Michigan these days is a dismal affair: it’s in that in-between stage where boxes brimming with bright berries can only be consumed with longing gazes, but sturdier alternatives like hard winter squashes are nowhere to be found. Perhaps I’m not going to the right places or perhaps I’m just too picky. I am a fairly picky eater, even more so when it comes to produce…I don’t like apples…or oranges…or bananas…or carrots or….

*awkward silence*

And I certainly don’t like  spending a lot of money on fruits and vegetables (all the less for other, more gourmet foods, like nuts!).

Given this, it should come as no surprise that I rarely consume leafy greens other than “standard salad blend,” which, once you’ve had a taste of anything else, becomes boring, mundane and tasteless. This probably explains why it’s the cheapest.

Arugula–is the exact opposite: sharp-cornered, intense green leaves textured with a pattern of small dots that warn of the peppery blast to come. With personality like that, it is no wonder this sharp leaf costs 5X as much (per ounce) as the hospital-wall white bargain in a bag. You may hear from other (less discerning) foodies that spinach and pepper is an acceptable substitute, but this is akin to swapping green peas with lima beans and sugar. I suppose it depends how you define acceptable.

My first experience with arugula was actually in England a few years ago, where I fell in love with the sandwiches sold at the chain pharmacy, Boot’s (not with a z like my cat). The sandwich, which featured a simple paring of carrots, hummus and the accurately named “rocket,” quickly became one of my favorites. It wasn’t until I tried to mimic the arugula-spiced sandwich upon my return that I learned “rocket’s” U.S. translation was “expensive”. I tried the recommended spinach and pepper substitute but found the result so distasteful I preferred to do without. And so ended my affair with arugula….

Until yesterday at Kroger where, out of some inexplicable cosmic irony, I happened upon a (perfectly healthy-looking) box with two labels: one proclaiming the box contained USDA-certified organic baby arugula (a.k.a. rocket, eruca, or “the peppery-est thing your tongue will ever encounter outside of a tiny glass bottle), and the other proclaiming it was 70% off ($1.29).

I’m sure you can figure out the rest of the story….

salad

Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad with Balsamic Peppers and Mushrooms
makes 1 salad

  • Soft goat cheese (typically sold in a log or crumbles)
  • Frozen 3 pepper and onion blend
  • Sliced mini bella mushrooms (or portabella mushrooms you slice yourself)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Minced garlic (or its lazier cousin, garlic powder)
  • A few pinches each sage and dried rosemary leaves (optional)
  • and, of course…..arugula

→In a small/medium saute pan greased with nonstick spray, “saute” the mushrooms, 3 pepper blend and garlic (if using minced). Near the end of cooking, add the vinegar and spices. Set aside.

Put the arugula in a salad bowl. Top with crumbled goat cheese. Toss on the (still slightly warm) peppers and mushrooms. If you want, drizzle with a little extra balsamic to create a “dressing” (for those that don’t like the idea of “dry” salad).

Eat slowly, savoring each peppery bite.


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