Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Aroooogala lalala

This summer I have discovered the perfect compliment to summer heat- that leafy Italian green ‘arugula'. It’s the first year I’ve grown it in the garden and I’m hooked- the flavour, the texture, its versatility.

Arugula is an extremely spicy green, without hint of bitterness. The young leaves have the texture of soft cheese and like spinach, you can eat it fresh or steamed.

Across our alley, an Italian family has lived for the past 40 years. The Mrs. is a wealth of information on the Italian culinary arts. She has  maintained a large garden up until this year when she decided it was time to  let it go to seed.  Odd looking weeds took root. When I asked her about these she said, “It is Aroooogala.” Apparently, if allowed to, it self seeds copiously and successfully overwinters.

Even now in the heat of summer, it’s not too late to plant. Sow the seeds in a partly shady spot (under a tree could  work if there is dappled sun.) Mine is planted to the north side of my neighbour’s garage and after only four weeks its ready to harvest.  Because it bolts quickly, you should succession plant every few weeks starting in May and into the fall. If it does bolt, collect the seed to re-sow or use the seed to flavour oils or sauces.  In fact, according to Cambridge World History of Food, the seed (AKA Rocket Seed!) has been used as an aphrodisiac since the first century. Is there a better reason than that to eat it up?

Here are some recipes to savour while soaking in the sunshine.

Arugula and Parmesan Pasta
This recipe comes from my neighbour; it’s exceptional cold or hot.
1.     Cook up some pasta and in the last 2 minutes of cooking add available arugula leaves to the pot.
2.     Drain both pasta and arugula. 
3.     Pour into a large serving bowl and mix in your favorite oil (flavoured or plain).
4.     Add grated parmesan.
5.     Add chopped fresh or sun dried tomatoes.
6.     Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste.

Arugula and Tomato Salad
If you cut everything very small, this makes a great bruschetta and is good fresh or broiled on toast or crackers.
1.     Dice tomatoes.
2.     Add chopped arugula, mild purple onion and bocconcini (the fresh mozza balls from the Italian Centre).
3.     Mix dressing: 2 parts oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar, squirt of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
4.     Pour dressing over veggies and cheese and toss to coat.  
NOTE: If you let it refrigerate for an hour or two, the flavour is even better.

Arugula Veggie Pizza
1.     Roll out pizza dough.
2.     Cover with tomato sauce and sprinkle with basil, salt, and garlic powder.
3.     Cover sauce completely with arugula.
4.     Sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
5.     Top with favourite  veggies (olives and onions recommended)
6.     Bake at 425 F for 18- 20 minutes until dough is golden and cheese is bubbling.
7.     Add fresh tomatoes.

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