Insalata di Arugula -
Great salads can be such simple things. When my mother, Loretta, told me “eat your greens”, I don’t think she intended something quite so interesting, delicious, or complex in flavors. But… she would have like this one: ARUGULA SALAD or INSALATA DI ARUGULA.
This is one of my “default salads”. Can’t tell you how many times this salad makes it to the table for guests or.. just me. It is appropriate for almost any meal, and depending on size can be a meal in itself.
What’s in it? Of course, the first and most important ingredient is arugula – that peppery green, common to Italian cooking. Arugula is a highly nutritious choice for salad as it is rich in Vitamin A, Iron, Magnesium, Calcium and a lot of other good things. Suffice it to say, it’s good for you. It also provides an aromatic and subtle backdrop for other ingredients with vibrant flavors.
In this case, taking center stage with these flavors are oranges, candied baby beets, candied pecans, goat cheese, and Fig Balsamic Vinegar.
The “cutie pie” in all this is Bunapi Mushrooms.
These are tiny Japanese snow white mushrooms that grow together on what looks like a white tuft or powder puff. Their flavor is slightly nutty and stay nice and firm until they pop in mouth.They are very much like Enoki Mushrooms but ever so slightly larger. They are not bursting with flavor, but you know they are there – and besides I just like them! They are fun to eat in their tininess and blend well with everything. (If you can’t find them, Enoki Mushrooms are a nice visual substitute, and yes, if you must—use sliced white button mushrooms..sigh.
The candied baby beets are sold ready to eat in many grocers and in several flavors – my favorite being honey ginger. If you can’t find them, roasting your own is a great alternative, and I give instructions below.
Ah, the candied pecans – easy and addictive. You’ll want to make extra and just keep them around for lots of reasons, not the least of which is munching!
The Fig Balsamic (I use Lucini) is sweeter than regular balsamic and has a distinctive sweet figgy flavor. If you use regular Balsamic, reduce it by cooking it down a little first in a pan. This will help it to caramelize a little, become more concentrated and make it sweeter and more special.
What makes it so special? It is the combination of ingredients that culminate in a minor “happy explosion” in your mouth. It makes you WANT to keep eating it. (Not at all a bad thing, really!) This is the salad that renders the plates empty when they return to the kitchen. It’s all good, baby!
(Insalata di Arugula)
Makes: 6-8 small salads or 1 large
Prep: 20 minutes (including making pecans)
1 Box Cleaned Baby Arugula (About 5 oz) – I like organic.
1 Package Candied Baby Beets (or make your own – see below)
Small orange sections (or canned drained mandarins)
1 1/2 C. Candied Pecans (See below)
1 Package Bunapi Mushrooms (or Enokis or sliced white button mushrooms)
A few tiny yellow tomatoes or red ones ( can be grape tomatoes, heirloom, whatever) sliced in half for each plate
4 oz. Goat Cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fig Balsamic Vinegar (Lucini is a good brand – or any good balsamic if you can’t find fig)
Make your Candied Pecans. You can make them ahead and store them in a sealed container.
Toss the following ingredients together and spread on foil on a pan or cookie sheet
1 c. Pecan Halves
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
Pinch Cayenne Pepper
1/4 Tsp. Salt
Bake at 350 degrees for about 5-6 minutes or until lightly toasted and sugar melts.
For the beets – If you can’t find Candied or Sweet Baby Beets – you can roast your own easily by peeling a a couple of fresh beets and setting them in a foil pouch. Drizzle with olive oil, brown sugar and a little balsamic vinegar. Seal up the pouch and bake at 400 degrees about 60 minutes. Leave the package sealed for about 15 minutes after. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use. If you find prepackaged baby beets that are unseasoned, you can sweeten them by following the same procedure as I just described – but roast them for only about 20 minutes. You can always add a little fresh ginger to your roasting packages.
To build your salad: On each plate, begin with your arugula, and add the beets, oranges, pecans, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Follow with the Goat Cheese. Then drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a little of the Fig Balsamic Vinegar or the regular Balsamic.
PARLA COME MANGI!
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