Arugula is a deservedly popular leafy green native to the Mediterranean. Sometimes called rocket or roquette, it is a nutrient-dense Brassica, along with family members cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. It has an unmistakable flavor and aroma, earthy and peppery, and is used both raw and cooked. Easy to grow, it does best in cool weather, so plant in early spring and fall for best results in the home garden. In hot summer temperatures, it tends to bolt quickly.
Arugula is a good source of protein, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamins B5 and 6, and trace minerals zinc and copper. And it’s a very good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, plus folate, and the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. And the minerals in arugula are more bio-available than those in spinach. The Livestrong website tells us that arugula has 8 times the calcium, 5 times the vitamins A, C, and K, and 4 times the iron of iceberg lettuce. Raw or cooked, which is better? Raw seems to be better for the compounds effective against cancer, while cooked is better for other nutrients, and more easily absorbed. My policy is to enjoy it both ways.
Arugula doesn’t get lost with stronger ingredients like lamb, beef, or cheeses like blue, feta, and Spanish Manchego. Very popular in Italian cuisine, arugula is substituted for basil to make pesto, added as a topping for pizza. For salads, arugula is fine alone or mixed with other greens to balance its stronger flavor. Romaine, butter or leaf lettuce, and Belgian endive all combine well with arugula. A nice main dish salad for spring features smoked or grilled salmon, blanched snow peas, new potatoes, and arugula. Use arugula now with the last of the Navel oranges, roasted golden and red beets, some red onion slices and feta cheese crumbles. Arugula is wonderful wilted with garlic and tossed with hot pasta, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, and a scatter of grated Parmesan cheese.
Cooked new potatoes and green beans tossed with arugula make a nice accompaniment to roast chicken, lamb or pork.
Arugula with Potatoes and Green Beans
1 bunch arugula, washed and stems trimmed
2 lbs. new red or fingerling potatoes
1 lb. green beans, trimmed
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onions
½ cup toasted walnuts
Salt and pepper
Place the scrubbed potatoes, unpeeled and chopped to 1 ½ inch pieces, in a large saucepan with cold water to cover by 2-3 inches. Bring to a boil, and add salt. Cook for 10-15 minutes, add the trimmed green beans, and cook until both are tender. Drain, and toss immediately with the washed arugula and sliced onions. Drizzle with enough olive oil to moisten, about ¼ cup, about 2 tbsp. cider vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Let stand.
Meanwhile, toast chopped walnuts and serve the dish at room temperature garnished with the walnuts. Optional: add freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese with the walnuts.