Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 39 Issue 2 • May 7-21, 2009
now in our 39th season


by Jenn Farmer
Sous Chef at Bartlett's Farm

I was recently asked what a pirate’s favorite food was.  Obviously the answer is “Arrrrrugula.”   Bad joke, I know, but it got me thinking about one of my favorite leafy greens.  Arugula, also known as rocket, is a rich, peppery salad green.   Arugula is related to both the radish and watercress and has a similar spicy taste. It is often used fresh in salads, but it can be sautéed or steamed.  Though it is often cooked in the same manner as spinach, the flavor is very different, so I would not recommend substituting one for the other.

When purchasing arugula, look for green leaves, do not purchase if they are yellow, wilted, or have brown spots.  It should be refrigerated, and used quickly, since it losses it’s peppery quality.  Store arugula in a clean, plastic bag, filled with air, and tightly secured. Arugula is available year round.      

In Roman times arugula was often on the menu, especially oil infused with arugula seeds.  This oil infusion was considered an aphrodisiac, and was highly touted.  Though today we don’t usually use arugula as an aphrodisiac, it can be a romantic food.  It has such a vibrant color, scent, and flavor, that it is a beautiful showcase for other ingredients.   It is also very healthy, high in vitamins C and A, folic acid, calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, manganese, and magnesium.  A feast for the senses and healthy also, what could be more romantic than that?    

Another great thing about arugula is it can stand up to most meats, fish, cheeses, and vinaigrettes.  It is also lovely with more subtle flavors like peaches and citrus fruit.  This makes it one of my favorite foods to pair with wine.  It goes great with white or red wines depending on how it is prepared.  One important thing to remember when pairing arugula with wine is not to use astringent or strong vinegar in the dish.  This will tend to make most wines taste flabby and just plain wrong.

Fresh arugula salad goes well with Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, and Riesling.  It also stands up to a buttery or lightly oaky Chardonnay.  Pinot Noir, Syrah, or Burgundy pairs nicely with arugula especially when sautéed or served with lamb, beef or smoked fish.  poached egg and a spring lettuce salad, you have a light, elegant meal.

Arugula salad with honey and lime dressing

This unusual salad recipe contains no vinegar!

1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoons honey
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 pound baby arugula
1/2 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
2 oranges, peeled and segmented
Shaved parmesan or aged Monterey Jack cheese

Mix together lime juice, olive oil, and honey.  Lightly toss dressing and arugula together, garnish it with orange segments, fennel and shaved cheese.  Top with freshly cracked pepper if desired.  For a real kick add a little finely sliced red onion to this salad, or a drizzle of truffle oil.  Serves 4

Pasta with Tuna and Arugula

Serves 4

1 pound dried fettuccine, spaghetti or linguine
Olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red chili pepper flakes
2 6-ounce cans tuna packed in olive oil (do not drain)
1 8-ounce can of white beans
Kosher salt
1/2 to 3/4 pound baby arugula
Parmesan or other hard grating cheese (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.  Cook the pasta until al dente, drain, set aside.  While the pasta is cooking, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan and cook garlic until golden brownand a little crispy.  Garlic burns quickly, it is better to undercook it a little than overcook it.  Add red chili flakes & tuna.  Break up the tuna into pieces if necessary.  Add white beans and hot pasta. Add arugula and toss together until arugula wilts.   Garnish with grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Another reason I love baby arugula is the ease of using it.   The following is a sandwich I made myself for dinner after a long day at work.  It was so easy, fast, and delicious, that I had to share it.  There are no measurements on the following recipe since it depends on the size of bread and how many people you are serving.  Like any great sandwich recipe, substitutions can be made depending on your taste.  For a veggie sandwich use fresh mozzarella slices instead of turkey.    

Arugula Sandwich

1 baguette or loaf of any good unsliced bread (I used whole grain ciabatta)
Good quality olive oil    •   Black pepper
Arugula    •   Dijon mustard
Grana Padano or any hard grating cheese
Tomato, sliced   •   Smoked Turkey, thinly sliced

Slice bread lengthwise.  Smear bottom slice of bread with a thin layer of Dijon mustard.  Add turkey slices, top with tomato slices and arugula.  Shave or grate a little grana padano over the arugula.  Grind a little black pepper over the top, and drizzle top slice of bread with olive oil.  Close the sandwich and eat immediately. 

Not everyone is a sandwich person like I am, so here is a great dish for a nice dinner party.  I recommend serving this with a crisp tomato salad, cous cous or rice, and a chocolate and citrus inspired dessert.

Lamb and Arugula Pesto

Serves 4-6

1 cup fresh mint leaves  •  1 cup arugula leaves
1/2 cup walnuts
1 fresh lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
3 lamb loins (or lamb racks, frenched)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Blend mint, arugula, walnuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender until herbs are finely chopped. Slowly add 1/3 cup olive oil, while the blender is running.  Blend until smooth.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil, or vegetable oil in a skillet until very hot.  Carefully sear each lamb loin (or rack) in the skillet until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Bake lamb in oven for about 20 minutes for medium rare or a little longer to taste.  Remove lamb from oven and let the meat rest for 8-10 minutes before slicing.  Resting the meat is important. Slicing hot meat will allow the hot juices to run out leaving the meat dry.  Letting the meat rest allows the juices cool a little, and absorb back into the meat.  Slice the lamb and garnish with arugula pesto mixture. 

I wish I could write about all my favorite arugula recipes, but this article would never end.  So, like a good, healthy, salad eating pirate (or wannabe pirate like me—and you too Uncle Noel), eat your “Arrrrrugula.”

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