Garden Arugula Salad - july 2, 2013
This July, as usual, we finished up the arugula growing in our garden. It is always gone by mid-summer. Arugula is a remarkably easy crop to grow - as long as it doesn't get too hot or too dry. I try to start it at the beginning of each new year, out in the garden under a cold frame. A cold frame is like a miniature greenhouse and is great for starting plants early, when the weather is still too cold for seeds to sprout on their own.
You may already know that this is my favorite salad of all time, it changed the way I feel about arugula, pine nuts and lemons. A few years after my arugula revelation I discovered directions from Alice Waters' In the Green Kitchen for washing lettuce and dressing a salad. This, too, made a real difference. Now I incorporate these techniques into every salad I make, arugula and otherwise. Together, they helped me get rid of some preconceived notions I'd held on to about salad.
One of those is that salad dressing needs to be complicated to taste delicious: it doesn't. Lemon juice is a perfect acid to pair with just about any type of oil, able to perform a kind of magic exclusive to this small, yellow fruit. It can marry some remarkably simple ingredients into a whole that is much larger than the sum of its parts: in this case a slightly spicy bowl of freshness with just enough nut and zip to be exciting.
Another is that home grown salad should look the same as grocery store salad: it shouldn't. Fresh picked salad can be much more delicate than older, hardier greens often found at the store. It bruises easily and must be handled with care. When the stem ends are cut off, a milky white liquid beads up. That is what truly fresh salad does.
And then there is the idea that salad is a boring replacement for something better. You may think "Oh, it's nothing but a bowl of salad." But I insist that a good salad holds a mysterious power, not unlike the one candy has for children, it makes me happy and ready to take on the world.
Have a good week and eat up!
Arugula Salad: (adapted from the Eatwell Farm Newsletter)
1 bunch arugula leaves, thick stems removed
2-3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-ish Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 cup toasted pine nuts
1/8 cup parmesan shavings (I use a vegetable peeler)
Up to a day ahead, wash the arugula. Pat it dry and roll it in a towel. Let the whole bundle chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour, then gently dump the greens into a bowl, cover and return to the fridge.
To toast the pine nuts, heat a dry skillet (cast iron works best) over high heat, when the pan is hot turn the heat to medium. Put in the nuts and toss them or mix with a wooden spoon until they begin to smell toasty. Pay very close attention, you don't want them to burn. When toasted, move them to a cool bowl right away.
When you are just about ready to eat, put the arugula leaves in a big bowl. Sprinkle the lemon juice and olive oil on top, start with about half of each quantity, add salt and pepper, toss and taste frequently. Stop when it is delicious. Once you've got the hang of it you'll be able to squeeze juice right from a lemon half on top of the greens and drizzle olive oil from a cruet - no measuring needed.
Sprinkle the pine nuts and parmesan on top. Serve and eat!