Tuesday, January 18, 2011

And now, may I present....Arugula!

Arugula: My seemingly stalwart obsession.

Heavy Metal. The Muppets. Rotten movies. Vans sneakers. Hoodies with obscure doom metal or skateboard logos on them. Olive drab baggy shorts. My wife to be She-Ra. Tater-tots and pastrami.

You'd think that the above mentioned would be my daily dose of dedication and even obsession. And, to be honest, they are. It's true. Those things are with me most everyday. Especially She-Ra. I can go a day or two without tater-tots.

But let's say for, oh, the past year or so, maybe, one thing has been a staple in both our refrigerator and on most shopping lists, something that most people don't either A) care about or B) really know about. It's not anything complicated, upscale or even hard to come by. In fact, it's waiting for you right now at you local chain grocery store.

I'm talking about arugula here. 

That's right. Call them “rocket greens” or “pepper leaf”, due to it's slightly tangy and peppery flavor, but know this dear Homeskillet reader: Arugula literally goes good with anything.


I have used it in tacos, on casseroles and omelets, in sandwiches, burgers, salads and pasta. The stuff, with it's not-too-soft-not-too-crunchy approach seems to make a lot of my favorite dishes just pop with that extra punch of leafy greens and spice.

Now, I'm totally sure you are quite aware of arugula and have eaten it on several occasions. So I hope you're not all “Dude, Mark, what gives? This blog sucks!” All I wanna do here is share some of my experiences and my seemingly wont go away routine in using arugula. The stuff is just awesome...or so my tastebuds seem to think.

OK. Let's get down to brass tacks here. Now, for my day job, I'm a pizza chef at a local busy bar/restaurant. It's a fun gig and gives me lots of room to experiment and get inspired. Not that I could serve this dish up to customers, but it is one that I took home and found to be quite tasty.

1 cup tomato sauce
1, 12 inch, pre-baked pizza crust (try to get it as thin as you can, Boboli is just too doughy)
2 chicken apple sausages
2 cups real mozzarella cheese
½ cup sun dried tomatoes
½ cup organic artichoke hearts
Some garlic
Pinch of parmesean cheese (the parm/romano shake mix works well too)
And, of course, 2 cups of de-stemmed arugula

First, pre heat your oven to 350 degrees. Next, combine the tomato sauce, as much mined garlic as you like, along with a bit of parmesean in a bowl or whatever and set aside. Cut up the sausages into pepperoni sized bits but make them kinda thick. Brown them, just get them brown now, none of that over cooked business because, most likely, they're already pre-cooked and let 'em cool down a bit on some paper towels to let the excess grease soak out.

Spread the pizza sauce on the dough. Add the mozzarella. Then add the artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes and the sausage. Place it in the oven for about, oh, 15 to 20 minutes, or at least until the cheese is nice and bubbly. When its done, top that bad boy with the arugula and, blammo!, pure, but simple and easy to make, awesomeness.

Here's another really fun way to use arugula. Trust me, it works...

High quality, bakery fresh sourdough bread
A juicy organic hothouse tomato
An egg
The arugula

Toast that bread. Sizzle up that bacon. Fry the egg in the (but not all of) bacon grease, sunny side up is the way I like it. Take one piece of bread, add the arugula, then top that with a tomato slice, add the egg and top that with the bacon. For real.

I guess you can add some mayo or whatever, as long as it's something like the Kraft reduced fat mayo with olive oil which is, oddly enough, the healthiest option on the shelves right now. Go figure.

One day, bored and left alone, with a veggie drawer full of fresh arugula and a pantry full of crap, I decided to make one of my favorite “so not good for you but oh so utilitarian and yummy” things, which is pesto. Now, you can add pine nuts but, to be honest with you, I never cared much for pine nuts with my pesto. It's just a bunch of lil' nuts getting in the way of my pesto. I'm all like, “Hey nuts! Get out of my mouth! What do you...”

Wait. That sounded wrong.

Anyway, this is what I did:

4 cups of fresh arugula
A tablespoon or 2 of garlic
1 cup good quality olive oil
½ cup of parmesean
Salt and pepper to taste

I've tried the blanching of arugula (boiling it for like a few seconds then tossing it into an ice bath) but it just didn't make much sense. I just threw everything into my prep machine and hit “Maim” and after a few seconds of a bright green tornado on my kitchen counter, wa-binga!, some badass pesto man. And you can totally use this on anything: pasta, pizza, sandwiches, eggs, crostinis (add some pancetta and tomato to that crostini while you're at it)...whatever. It's a spicier version of the standard basil pesto fare. 

Plus, She-Ra has a great appetizer using arugula. Just slice a granny smith apple and cut it into planks. Place arugula on the apple slice and top it with fresh smoked salmon. Totally simple but de-fxxking-lish.

So there you have it. Some thoughts and ideas on my ever so constant craving for arugula. And this is just the beginning.

Don't even get me started on endive... 

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