I've never really been one for following the latest trend. Although I just HAD to have a pair of GUESS jeans in the eighth grade (which, thankfully, my mom bought for me, allowing me to survive junior high with minimal permanent damage to my self esteem).
Like clothing, food can be fashionable. For example, last year was apparently the year of the pomegranate. From POM juice to pomegranate molasses, suddenly everybody had to have pomegranate. I still remember my mom's mystification at this craze: "We've been eating pomegranates for as long as I can remember. And now they want to charge an arm and a leg for them because they have antioxidants."
I think a similar infatuation with unusual salad greens has taken hold. Gone are the days of iceberg; now it's chic to eat hip greens like Mache or wild arugula. I grew up eating arugula because we grew it in our garden; therefore, I never considered it special. It was just that spicy lettuce we added to our salads in summertime. Yet, over the last few years arugula, along with the wild and baby arugula varieties, have become hot. It’s been featured in numerous cooking magazines, and many chefs laud its uses in everything from salads to pasta dishes and pizzas.
So, what's so "wild" about wild arugula? It's a slightly darker shade of green than regular arugula, has delicate fluted leaves, and packs a more intense flavor. Most chefs suggest eating wild arugula raw or just wilted to truly appreciate its flavor.
Eating freshly picked wild arugula is quite a sensory experience. First, you detect a spicy fragrance. Then, when you place a leaf in your mouth, you taste the slightest bitterness and heat. It's when you bite it though that things really get fun: it releases an explosion of flavor that can be best described as pungent or peppery. It’s no wonder that most Europeans call it rocket (from the German Rauke).
We don't call it rocket in The States apparently because the Italians who immigrated to America called it rucola, which became Americanized as arugula. Indeed, arugula is typically associated with Italian cuisine, as it has been cultivated in that area since Roman antiquity.
The best part about cooking with wild arugula, however, is the praise you will receive from your guests. Whenever I have company, I almost always make Jamie Oliver’s wild rocket pasta. Like everything Jamie cooks, it's delightfully easy to make and delicious to savor. In fact, both my mom and brother-in-law Jason have requested that I post about Jamie’s wild rocket pasta, so here it is.
Wild arugula is most commonly found at farmers' markets and speciality organic markets. If it's not available to you and you've got a green thumb, you can grow some pretty easily. It likes cooler temps and apparently thrives in the Midwest region of the country. If all else fails, then use regular arugula; I promise that it will still be flavorful. Just be sure to use all of the freshest ingredients you can find for this pasta, and it will shine. Oh, and by the way, arugula is also high in antioxidants, so I guess you can expect to start paying a lot more for it; sorry Mom.
This is my submission for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging, the fantastically successful food blogging event created by the talented Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, and hosted by me.
Wild Rocket (Wild Arugula) Pasta
The measurements may not be exactly the same as Jamie's, but I know he wouldn't mind, since he's all about a "handful of this" and a "dollop of that." So, adjust the amounts below to satisfy your taste. Also, simply omit the anchovies for a vegetarian version. I can attest that it's fabulous without them too.
Print recipe only here.
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 small cans of anchovies packed in olive oil
1-2 whole chilies, finely chopped (or as much heat as you can take!)
3 handfuls of wild arugula (or regular)
The zest and juice of 2 small lemons (or less if that is too tart for you)
8 ounces fettucine or thick spaghetti
About ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Additional wild arugula to add on top
2-3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the wild arugula. Sauté the garlic in olive oil over medium heat. Just as it begins to turn golden, add the chili and anchovies. Lower the heat, and gently give it a couple of stirs. After a couple of minutes, the anchovies will start to melt; add the wild arugula, lemon juice and lemon zest at this point. Stir a couple of times, then turn off heat, so the arugula wilts but does not cook.
Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the pan with the arugula and toss. Add the Parmesan cheese, and toss to coat.
Divide the pasta among 4 plates; top each with a little more wild arugula, some good Parmesan cheese, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Await praise from your guests!
Do you like the darling tomato pictured above? Her name is Blush, and I'd like to thank my friend Alanna for creating her to promote farmers' markets.