Arugula is one of the dozens of brassicas we grow. Some folks call it rocket for its fiery taste. Personally, I think arugula is best in the spring and the fall, when the flavor is more balanced and it’s a little sweeter. In any case, the greens are full of flavor and therefore often mixed with other greens to tone them down, especially if eaten raw.
Arugula is especially popular all around the Mediterranean, which is where this plant originated. It’s eaten on pizzas and pastas and even made into a digestive liqueur in Italy. It’s used commonly in salads and omelets in Greece. It is recommended for newlywed couples in Saudi Arabia, possibly because of its ancient reputation for stirring the libido. In Egypt, arugula is eaten with fava beans for breakfast, and seafood for dinner while those in Turkey make it into a sauce with olive oil and lemon juice to eat with fish. In Slovenia, it is mixed with potatoes or soups, or served with cheese burek, a kind of pastry.
As a brassica, arugula has some amazing health benefits. It’s an excellent source of fiber, Vitamins A, C, and K, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. In addition, arugula contains protein, thiamin, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, zinc, copper and pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5), which raises good cholesterol while lowering bad. Arugula scores over 600 on the ANDI, or Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, which puts it in the top 10 nutrient-dense foods available!
Additionally, arugula’s flavonoids prevent cholesterol from getting stuck in your arteries, lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow, lowers inflammation and improves blood vessel function. Generally, arugula is great for the heart and circulatory system to name just a few health benefits.
Arugula pairs well with roasted and cured meats, cheese, cream, fruit (pears, apples, berries, citrus, etc), fruity vinegars, mustard, nuts, mushrooms, winter squash and more! It can be used in salads, on sandwiches, included in pasta dishes and much more. However you use it, arugula is one fall vegetable you don’t want to miss out on.
Arugula Pesto & Apples
Recipe by Andrea Yoder
Yield: 1 ½ cups
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts
3 cups lightly packed arugula (approximately ½ of a bunch)
2 oz or ½ cup shredded Parmesan
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & black pepper, to taste
1. Place the garlic cloves and pumpkin seeds or pine nuts in a food processor. Process briefly, then add the arugula, shredded Parmesan cheese and a few pinches of salt and black pepper. Turn the processor on again and, while it’s running, pour the olive oil through the feed tube in a thin, steady stream. Once all of the oil is incorporated, process until it is a moderately thick paste. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides as needed to make sure all the ingredients are well-incorporated.
2. Taste the pesto and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate until you are ready to use. For best flavor and consistency, bring to room temperature before using. You can store the pesto in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or put it into smaller quantities and freeze it for later use.
Arugula pesto can be very pungent if you eat it on its own, but when combined with other foods it becomes very balanced and a complementary ingredient. In addition to using it on a pizza, as is highlighted in this newsletter, you can use arugula pesto in a lot of other ways. Here are a few ideas to get you started. 1) Stir a spoonful into scrambled eggs or a frittata. 2) Use arugula pesto as a spread on a hot roast beef sandwich along with garlic mayonnaise, sliced roast beef and melted mozzarella cheese. 3) Spice up your morning bagel by spreading the pesto on top of cream cheese on your bagel. Top it off with fresh tomato slices. 4) Make a baked potato and top it off with sour cream, bacon bits and a few dollops of arugula pesto. 5) Make an omelet or a crepe with stone ground mustard, arugula pesto, slices of ham and gouda cheese.
Pizza with Arugula Pesto, Roasted Butternut Squash & Apples
Recipe by Andrea Yoder
Yield:1 (8-9 inch) pizza
Pizza dough for an 8 to 10 inch pizza
2-3 cups butternut squash, peeled & cut into ½-inch cubes
1 Tbsp sunflower or olive oil
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
3-4 Tbsp arugula pesto (or to taste)
1 medium apple, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3-4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
1. Preheat the oven to 375-400°F. First, roast the squash. Put the squash cubes in a medium mixing bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss to lightly coat the squash, then add the cinnamon and salt. Stir to combine. Spread the squash in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Place in the oven and roast for about 20-30 minutes. Stir the squash and then return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes or until it is tender and golden on the outside. Remove from the oven and set aside. Note, this step may be done in advance.
2. Prepare the pizza dough. Press or roll it out into an 8-9 inch round, or larger if you like a thinner crust. Place the dough on a pizza stone or baking pan. Parbake the crust in the oven for about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven.
3. Evenly spread arugula pesto on the warm pizza crust, making sure you spread it all the way to the edges. Next, lay out the apple slices on top of the pesto. Sprinkle thinly sliced onion on top of the apples. Spread the roasted butternut squash on top of the onion and finish off the pizza by spreading shredded mozzarella over the entire pizza.
4. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown and the crust is baked to your liking.