Rocket (Arugula) in My Pockets
For the brunch-y spinach-chickpea pie I made over the weekend, I needed three bunches of spinach. (When cooked, the shrinkage is amazing.) Boy was I surprised while prepping my pie on Sunday to discover that I had purchased three bunches of arugula instead.
Don't get me wrong; I'm a lover of the peppery green with a name for every day of the week (eruca, jirjir, rocket, roqueta, roquette, ruchetta, rucola) -- but three bunches? That's a lot of perishable greens on my hands. You know the rule: Use it or lose it -- and fast.
To get the arugula party started, I used about half of one bunch in a salad of mixed greens and smoked trout, and that turned out great. But I could hardly rest, with those 2.5 bunches staring right at me.
What to do, I ask you? Should I try my hand at a risotto-style barley with citrus and arugula from Heidi Swanson's "Supernatural Cooking or a rustic onion tart with goat cheese from Deborah Madison's "Local Flavors"?
I pored over a small mountain of cookbooks, which offered rocket-y salad ideas galore (nah, I want something hot), more and more pizza ideas, goat cheese and pecorino pairings, but nothing was really hitting the spot.
Meanwhile, I've learned that arugula is a member of the cruciferous family, it's rich in beta-carotene and vitamins A and C, and it even dates to Biblical times. According to Clifford A. Wright in his "Mediterranean Vegetables," "Both the Mishna and Talmud, Jewish holy writings that date from the first to fifth centures A.D., mention arugula's uses as a food and medicine." It was also considered a veritable aphrodisiac by ancient Greek physicians: "Both Galen and Dioscorides recommended eating arugula seeds to increase semen production," Wright writes.
But back to the drawing board. Young Gansie over at Endless Simmer inspired me with her own version of arugula pesto, and then I hit the right note with a blurby ad hoc recipe for spaghetti con rucola e ricotta in "Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini" by Elizabeth Schneider. One of my favorite things about Schneider's tome is her "Pros Propose" section tucked at the end of each vegetable chapter, which includes annotated recipes from chefs and cookbook writers; this one, scribbled below, comes from Brit chef duo Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, of The River CafÃ© in London.
The verdict: This one is a keeper. I solved my arugula dilemma, using nearly every leaf in my pile and I discovered a lovely new way to slurp spaghetti. I love how the arugula pesto works with the ricotta - the result is creamy but not heavy, sporting lots of brilliant green color and plenty of peppery, rocket notes. Plus, the entire job takes less than an hour. Be sure to make enough for next-day lunch leftovers, ya hear?
But still I want to hear from you: What would you have done in my rocket shoes? Share your tricks in the comments area below.
Today is chat day; Join me at noon ET for What's Cooking.
Spaghetti con Rucola e Ricotta
Notes from "Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini" by Elizabeth Schneider
Approximately 2 bunches of arugula, thoroughly washed and spun dry
3-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1-3 tablespoons olive oil
Heat of chiles: 1/2 fresh red chile of choice, seeded, or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Note: This yields about 1 cup pesto, which is enough for one pound of spaghetti.
Sauce and pasta:
1/2 pound-1 pound spaghetti
4 ounces ricotta cheese, lightly beaten
Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated, for garnish
Chop arugula and reserve half.
In a large skillet, heat garlic in olive oil for 15 seconds. Add half of the arugula, toss with tongs to coat, cover and allow to wilt about two minutes.
Transfer wilted arugula to the bowl of a food processor and puree. Add half of the reserved arugula and blend to combine. Add chile, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust accordingly. Add oil gradually so that pesto is somewhere between sauce and chutney.
When pasta is cooked, drain and reserve a few ounces of pasta water. Place pasta in skillet (with a little oil to lubricate) and begin adding pesto, gradually. (You will probably have some leftover pesto.) Use tongs to help coat pasta, over low heat. Fold in ricotta and remaining chopped arugula. Season as needed and serve with Parmigiano.
Optional: A handful of halved grape tomatoes. Luscious!
By Kim ODonnel |
March 25, 2008; 7:56 AM ET
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