“I’m just a dandelion,” sang the Cowardly Lion, though he was neither an edible bitter green nor, when push came to shove, cowardly. For years I had operated on the misinformation that dandelions were the same as arugula. They do bear some resemblance to one another. Both are edible and have a slightly bitter, peppery taste. However, folklore notwithstanding, they do not even belong to the same family. Let’s keep dandelions for wishing on and more tender arugula to spice up our dishes.
Arugula, watercress and mustard greens are all far-flung members of the mustard family and are thought to have originated throughout Western and Central Asia and even up into the Indian Himalayas. Sometimes called rocket, it is common around the Mediterranean from Morocco and Portugal to Syria, Lebanon and Turkey. Americans have offered it a home and it has happily taken root here as well.
Early and modern Italians have a well-developed taste for arugula for its sharp, zesty flavor. It has a long-established following especially in France. Italy and France have long been touted for their world class cuisines, both with a true appreciation of the concept of green salad. It’s a safe bet that they’re on to something here. An old Roman saying alleges that it takes four people to make a salad:
A wise one to season it;
A miser to measure the vinegar;
A spendthrift to measure the oil; and
A lunatic to toss it.
With such wisdom at their beck and call, one could wonder how the Roman Empire fell. Maybe they stopped eating their greens. All of these greens are at their biting best before they’ve become world weary. Then again, who isn’t?
Though the obvious first choice for using spring greens is in a salad, the versatility of arugula knows few boundaries. As with so many bright young greens a light hand is always a plus. The market’s website provides many recipes. Take a browse through it for some fresh ideas http://www.litchfieldfarmersmarket.org/. The arugula options include Arugula Strawberry and Feta Salad with Ginger Berry Dressing, Arugula Risotto and Arugula,Tomatoes, and Sweet Ricotta. Today we are offering Capellini with Arugula. Use one of these bright ways to bring spring to the table.