Friday, July 13

Wild Arugula is Hot, Iceberg is Not

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.

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Kalyn Denny said...

Oh baby, this is something that sounds just perfect to me. I just love arugula, although now I'm not sure if I've ever purchased any that was specifically labeled wild arugula. I like everything about this combination, especially the arugula and lemon, just yum.

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

I didn't eat a big breakfast. You are killing me... That's looks great.

Pille said...

I looooove arugula, especially the 'wild' one, because it has such a great peppery & sharp flavour. Great-looking dish, and a great WHB entry!

Deborah said...

I have the hardest time finding arugula here...and when I do it is extremely expensive. I would try to grow it, but I'm guessing that our temps get too high in the summer (it's been up near 100F for the last few weeks.) Your dish sounds fabulous, though!

Alanna Kellogg said...

Wow, what a gorgeous neighborhood for 'Blush' to live! Seriously, Susan, great light in your photos, you've got a knack!!

Peter M said...

Hi Susan, my 1st time here and I love salad, boiled and now with pasta!

Have you noticed it's very easy to grow?

Scribbit said...

I'll have to look for some, I don't know that I've ever seen it before. It sounds even better than the regular stuff.

Asha said...

Arugula is my fav too but never tried with pasta! Looks delicious:))

Mishmash ! said...

Your mom is right when she says.""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." these days most of the food or ingredients are all hyped up....I liked the second pic a lot :)


Katie Zeller said...

Something new for my garden next year! I'm sure it would do well here in early spring! Or all summer if we have another one like this ;-(
I see mache all year but haven't seen this in the market.
I love Jamie's cooking, too. I try to catch his show when I'm cooking during the day.
Great recipe!

Matt said...

Where do you purchase your arugala? Every time I see it in the grocery store it's in a plastic container that costs about $3.xx. So the bowl of arugala you have would cost about $80. The dish looks fabulous and can't wait to try it!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

How cool is that! I just made lovely mini pita pizzas topped off with fresh rocket leaves. I love your description of the rocket it really hits it dead on. This pasta recipe is just incredible Susan.

Anonymous said...

I'm a huge arugula fan, so this looks marvelous to me. Beautiful picture! I like the looks of that wild arugula and I'll try to find it. Haven't ever seen any, but now it's on my "must try" list! I'll be doing my WHB recipe tomorrow! Glad your hosting!!

Anonymous said...

look at those long and sinewy leaves! i've never seen the wild variety i'd love to try it just wilted, mmmm. this pasta is so elegant, bravo, bra-VO! :)

Anonymous said...

Looks fantastic, and I love the history you've taught us about rucola, the lemon/peppery flavors...what a combination!
I've seen Blush the tomato somewhere before...

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I have a friend who's growing wild arugula in her field this year, so lucky me, I've been getting some of her harvest. Will definitely try this recipe -- it looks divine.

Anonymous said...

Darn, this is so unfair! Your pasta looks fabulous and I can't find wild arugula anywhere. I've been looking for it ever since I read about it in some cooking magazines a while back. Looks like I might be planting some next year. So I'll have to save this recipe. Thanks!

Wendy said...

I'm with you on the Jamie Oliver praise. Everything I have tried from his books has turned out well, if not amazingly well, and he is pretty much single handedly trying to turn around the awful UK diet.
Don't care if he's not very trendy anymore, I admire him greatly. And the rocket pasta is fab. :)

Chris said...

I do enjoy arugula dishes! I particularly love baby arugula - makes a darn good pesto!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Kalyn-It's wonderful with regular arugula too.

Tim-I'd happily give you a plate, but there weren't any leftovers. ;)

Pille-I've always been drawn to sharp, pungent greens too.

Deborah-Yeah, you might have trouble since it likes cool weather.

Alanna-Aw, thanks! And Blush is a pretty attractive neighbor too. ;)

Peter-I haven't planted any in years since I haven't had a garden. But I remember how plentiful it was when I did plant it; and it's low maintenance too!

Michelle-You may have some luck growing it with your climate, since it likes cool temps.

Asha-Oh, it marries beautifully with pasta!

Shn-I know!

KatieZ-I've never seen Jamie on our cable channels. Bummer.

SuburbanGourmet-I buy it at the local farmers' market where it sells for about $8-10/pound. The amount you see in the picture was actually only about $5. The good thing is since it's as light as a feather, you get a lot for your money. And after you eat it, you realize that it's worth every penny!

Meeta-Sounds delicious; I'll have to check it out!

Sher-I get it at the local farmers' market. Look forward to your entry!

Aria-Why, thank you so much!

C'Tina-I'm glad you enjoyed it. Blush has been appearing on many food blogs thanks to Alanna.

Lydia-You are lucky!

Carol-It'll still be excellent with regular arugula too if you don't want to wait until next year to try it!

Wendy-His recipes are always so simple and fresh.

Chris-I love arugula pesto too--it's great on everything from pizza and pasta to veggies and fish.

Amy said...

Hmm... I wonder what other foods are hot right now. Food trends are very interesting. I love all the info you included about arugula; I had no idea there was a wild arugula. The pasta dish sounds great!

Jacqueline Meldrum said...

I searched for arugula, each time I was shopping. For as you say, it had become popular and there were a lot of recipes out there in the blogosphere for it! Then it suddenly becomes clear and I realise I have some in the fridge! Rocket! I have been cooking with it all along, how about that!
Your pasta does look good!

bazu said...

I love arugula too, and that pasta sounds fantastic.

I know exactly what you mean about trendy foods- I too grew up eating pomegranates and not eating iceberg lettuce, so I never know what the big deal is. What also worries me is that people will think of one trendy item as a superfood, and think of it as a panacea for all that ails them, rather than eating a widely varied diet.

Trendiness and newness are really in the eye of the beholder. Case in point: romaine lettuce is considered "normal" lettuce in Iranian cuisine, so if you go into an Iranian supermarket, the romaine lettuce is really cheap, and the iceberg lettuce is somewhat more expensive. Back in southern california, I used to buy romaine lettuce for around 50 cents a head, and now in syracuse, I sigh when I see iceberg lettuce for 99 cents and romaine for 1.99/lb... then again, not being a slave to trends, I can see the place of iceberg lettuce in certain dishes...!

Anonymous said...

This sounds absolutely delicious! I'm not sure I've ever had wild arugula, but I love the tame kind, so I bet I'd be entranced by the wilder stuff.

Stella said...

Ooooouuuhh!! Love your pasta Susan!
It looks absolutely great with all the fresh arugula!
I wouldn't mind being one of your guests ;)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Oh my I do wish to be one of the guests you're awaiting. I would surely be giving you praise galore! This looks and sounds just heavenly! Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I would make a great guest, Susan. I always bring a really nice dessert!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Amy-I think people like to read about trends whether it's in food or clothes or just about anything.

Holler-That is too funny! :)

Bazu-You always offers such insight, Bazu. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

Genie-The wilder the better!

Valentina-I'd love for you to be one of my guests.:)

Tanna-You can come over with Valentina; you're both so sweet--I'm sure you'd hit it off. :)

Elizabeth-Hey, you can join the party too. And dessert? Mmmm. :)

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

This was really interesting - I didn't know much about arugula, but did know it was "hot" and wondered what I was missing! Your descriptions are great (felt like I was in the garden) and the pasta looks SUPER HOT!!!

Anonymous said...

It's known as rocket here in Australia as well, and it's a favourite of mine in any garden salad, it's pungent kick is enough to breathe some life into almost any ordinary garden mix :D Have never actually tried it anything other than raw, so I'm intruiged by this pasta!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos! Your pasta looks wonderful, Susan.

I tagged you for 7 random things, so if you'd like to participate, come visit my blog to see what it's about.

Jerry said...

I'm scared of anchoives, but most pasta dishes call for them. I guess its one of those things where you just do it!

Deb said...

I love that peppery taste, don't you? Once again, looks delish!

Anonymous said...

I did not know there was such a thing as wild I do, thank you! My hubby loves arugula, wait until he hears about this :)

christine said...

I got accustomed to calling arugula and wild arugula as rocket because I lived in London for a while, and this is where I developed a deep love for the green. I had it at least once a week at home, and like you, never thought of it as a 'hot' or fashionable item. Which I actually still find amusing to this day, when food is considered a fad or fashionable.

I love what you've done with it on the pasta especially because it has anchovies and it seems so light. I will try this! Thanks. :)

Mikaela said...

Looks great - I love how dark the wild arugula is :)

Anonymous said...

I would be a trend follower too if it meant it resulted in something this fantastic!

Anonymous said...

I love arugula, Susan, and this looks like an amazing use of it. I've not seen wild arugula around Chicago yet, but perhaps I just haven't looked hard enough for it. For a dish like this, I'll definitely start looking!

Jeanne said...

I was one of the kids who grew up on iceberg lettuce, with mabe the occasional venture into the leafy world of butter lettuce. I don't know if there was no market for other salad greens or what, but I was probably well out of my teens before I encountered my fist cos or baby gem lettuce. So as you can guess, I was a latecomer to the rocket scene!! But for me it was love at first bite, rather like cilantro. I have always preferred the wild rocket, not only because it is prettier but because of the more punchy taste. My favourite way to eat it (apart from munching it straight from the fridge!!) is on a goat's cheese and sun-dried tomato pizza, added just as the pizza comes out of the oven. Heaven!

Anonymous said...

This is so completely my kind of summer meal. I love fast, barely cooked pasta sauces, and this one sounds like an inspired combination.

Farmgirl Susan said...

A fun (and informative!) read as always. And the recipe sounds delish. I've been on a pasta binge lately, and I have a whole bunch of volunteer arugula on the verge of bolting in the greenhouse. I can't believe I never thought to combine the two. Thanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

FYI Trader Joe's sells big bags of Wild Arugula for $1.99. They also sell regular Arugula bags for $2.50 or so. I purchased some Wild Arugula yesterday and loved it! I paired an arugula salad with gnocchi for dinner last night. Today I put some arugula in my turkey sandwich for lunch. I will be buying more next time I go to Trader Joe's.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Anonymous--Thanks! I know! I have two bags in my fridge right now. They didn't carry wild arugula when I wrote this post.

Dazy said...

This would be my son's version of Heaven! I think I'd enjoy it, too!