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GOOD COOKING

Put a Rocket in Your Recipe

June 03, 1993|ABBY MANDEL

Once relatively unknown in this country, arugula--also called rocket, roquette and rucola --can now be found in all sorts of dishes. It's tossed in soups, sauteed with vegetables, scattered over pastas, folded in sandwiches and tucked under the skin of spit-roasted chicken, as well as being mixed into salads. The lively, peppery flavor, long popular in France and Italy, may take some getting used to, but the taste for it is worth acquiring.

Arugula is sold in small bunches with the roots intact at many specialty produce markets. The leaves should be a bold green color, fresh-looking and not at all flimsy to the touch. Grit clings to the leaves, so allow a few minutes for washing (which you should postpone until just before using). Pat the leaves dry with paper towels.

Arugula is easy to grow but quite perishable, which makes it expensive in stores. Refrigerate it, unwashed, in an airtight plastic food bag, for no more than two days, because the leaves quickly yellow and become limp.

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Here, arugula is used as a contrasting flavor to the sweet scallops, citrus vinaigrette and fresh basil. This is an easy last-minute dish, once the sauce is made. The scallops cook in less than two minutes; just toss the greens in the remaining vinaigrette and the salad is ready.

WARM SCALLOP AND ARUGULA SALAD, CITRUS VINAIGRETTE 1 large shallot, minced 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 2 teaspoons grated orange zest 1/2 cup safflower oil 1/2 cup orange juice 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 5 tablespoons red wine vinegar Salt Freshly ground pepper 20 sea scallops, about 1 pound 4 ounces total 12 to 16 cups arugula leaves, stems removed, and mixed lettuces such as frisee (chicory), radicchio, hearts of Romaine, torn into small pieces and chilled 1/4 cup loosely packed julienned basil leaves

Combine shallot, mustard, orange zest, oil, orange juice, lemon juice, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste in jar. Shake well to combine. Refrigerate until chilled. Can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated.

Heat 1/2 cup vinaigrette in 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, tip skillet so bottom is coated and add scallops in single layer. Once scallops are seared, about 1 minute, use tongs to turn. Cook until just firm, about 1 more minute. Do not overcook. Remove from heat.

Put greens in large bowl. Toss with 1/2 cup chilled vinaigrette. Arrange greens on 4 chilled dinner plates. Add 5 scallops to each salad. Drizzle evenly with remaining vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about: 403 calories; 513 mg sodium; 167 mg cholesterol; 29 grams fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 26 grams protein; 0.08 gram fiber.

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This light, refreshing salad can be made several hours ahead; toss in the arugula just before serving. Together with cold roasted chicken, sliced rare lamb or chilled poached fish, it makes an ideal summer meal. Remember, a pasta salad maintains its flavor better when the pasta is chilled before tossing with the other ingredients. Only the shell of the tomato is used because of its firm texture; use the rest of the tomato in soups or sauces.

ORZO SALAD WITH DICED TOMATOES, OLIVES AND ARUGULA 1/2 pound orzo pasta, cooked al dente, rinsed, drained, tossed with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, chilled 4 large ripe but firm tomatoes, shell only, cut into 1/3-inch dice 2 medium red onions, cut into 1/3-inch dice 20 Nicoise olives, pitted and cut in half 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt Red pepper flakes 20 arugula leaves, stems trimmed, torn into smaller pieces

Toss orzo, tomatoes, onions, olives, vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper flakes to taste together in small bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste. Refrigerate until chilled or for as long as 8 hours.

Just before serving, toss in arugula, adjust seasonings to taste and drain off excess liquid. Serve chilled. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about: 415 calories; 300 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 15 grams fat; 55 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 1.34 grams fiber.

Note : Orzo can be refrigerated overnight or frozen up to 1 month in airtight plastic food bag.

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The rye flour sweetens the dough in this thin-crust pizza, making it a perfect foil for the assertiveness of the Pecorino Romano cheese, cracked pepper and arugula. The arugula leaves are placed on the pizza after it's fully baked, then lightly brushed with garlic oil and popped back into the oven for just a minute.

THIN-CRUSTED PIZZA WITH ARUGULA, CRACKED PEPPER AND PECORINO ROMANO 1 package active dry yeast 1 teaspoon honey 1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees) 2 3/4 cups bread flour 1/2 cup rye flour Salt Olive oil 2 large cloves garlic, minced 1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese Coarsely cracked black pepper 14 arugula leaves, stemmed

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