After ten luxurious days lounging on the beach in sunny San Clemente, California, I returned to my garden with bronzed skin and renewed interest in dirt, weeds, and all God’s plants. Early that first morning back home I padded in my slippers out to my rock garden boxes (low-lying Stonehenge set in grass) to discover the arugula fairy had definitely stopped at my house. This sweet/peppery green had grown to the size of giant cabbage leaves. In my absence the cold and rain encouraged the arugula to show off like I have never seen—and to do so with tender sweetness. As I harvested, baskets were full to overflowing. I grazed the whole time. There are Billy goats that could not eat as much arugula as I ate. And then, like the Little Red Hen, I went inside carrying my treasure and made myself a giant salad out of the beautiful oak-shaped green.
With its assertive flavor and tenderness, arugula likes to partner with fruity, sweet flavors. Strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and almonds are a classic combo. As is oranges, feta, and arugula. Arugula also makes a great appearance on a ham and cheese grilled sandwich as well as in a chorizo sausage omelet. Getting hungry? I know I am. The following recipe got cut at the last minute from my book Miracle Pill 10 Truths to Healthy, Thin, & Sexy, through no fault of its own. Which is a real shame because this lemon-garlic-caper dressing over freshly shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, pine nuts, and arugula is a home run—help me I’m swooning. Enjoy.
When you can find beautiful fresh arugula in the market (known as “rocket” in England), enjoy this no-nonsense salad inspired by the flavors of Tuscany. Alternately, grow it yourself in a pot outside your door. Every spring this peppery green volunteers to sprout up in my garden amid more reluctant vegetables that have the sense to wait until the snow melts. Arugula loves cool weather and develops sweetness in early spring. Harvest it young for the mildest and most tender leaves. The bold flavors of this salad pair well with an entrée of roast lamb, tomato and zucchini ragout, or garlic-rubbed steaks.
1 small clove garlic
2 tablespoons flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 teaspoon capers, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups baby spinach, washed and dried
2 cups arugula, washed and dried
1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Parmigiano Reggiano or Asiago cheese for grating
In a small processor or blender, puree garlic, parsley, capers and lemon juice. Drizzle in olive oil and blend until emulsified. In a large bowl toss spinach and arugula with dressing. Divide between four plates. Sprinkle salads with pine nuts. Using a vegetable peeler or hand grater, top salads with cheese and a grind of fresh black pepper, and serve.
Tres Hatch is the author of Miracle Pill 10 Truths to Healthy, Thin, & Sexy.