Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.
All About Arugula
by Sandra Bowens
Photo courtesy of the National Gardening Bureau.org.
Arugula has as many names as it does culinary applications. It's also known as rocket, rugula, roquette and rucola. You might toss the petite greens into salads or soups, pastas or poultry but you simply must give arugula a try.
The leaves of this Mediterranean annual are shaped rather like an oak leaf with hints of red in the veins. The taste is nutty and peppery at the same time. It's a pleasant sharp flavor often combined with raw ingredients but is equally tasty in cooked dishes.
Arugula is a common component of the popular "field greens" lettuce mix, mesclun. Because of the pungent flavor, some prefer to mix it with milder greens. This nutty leaf is excellent on sandwiches or added to pizza just as you pull it from the oven. Try folding arugula into an omelet with some Fontina cheese and tomato for a real breakfast treat.
You will sometimes find it with other packaged herbs at the supermarket, but arugula is quite easy to grow in a pot on your patio. It's a member of the mustard family so it is a hardy, fast growing plant.
Arugula languishes a bit in the heat of summer so cool weather is best for growing. Keep it well watered with a good dose of sunshine daily. For a constant harvest, plant seeds at 20-day intervals. You can pinch the leaves or pluck the whole plant when it comes time to use your arugula in the kitchen. Smaller leaves are more mild but if you let it go long enough to flower the tiny white buds will enhance any salad.
Arugula symbolizes deceit. Perhaps even the Ancient Romans who gathered it wondered how something that tasted so good could also be good for you. But don't be deceived, arugula is high in Vitamins A and C with only 2 calories per half cup.
Quick Garbanzo Bean Toss
1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup roasted red pepper strips, drained on paper toweling
1 cup packed arugula leaves, torn into bits if large
1/4 cup creamy bottled dressing, more or less to taste
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
Combine ingredients and serve at room temperature.
Makes 2-4 servings.
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