The Mystery of Arugula

Am I the only one that stands in front of fresh greens and gets all starry eyed and such?

Standing in front of all those brightly colored bags of greens at Trader Joe’s I was suddenly possessed by the need to obtain arugula.  I had no idea what I was going to do with it but in my world of romaine, spinach and occasionally kale, arugula seemed like just the perfect thing to shake it up around here.  The boy stared at the bag with a combined air of incredulity and mystification.  I could almost hear the thoughts rolling through his mind, “She is going to make me eat this.  I know she is going to make me eat this.  And it is going to have something like roasted beats and goat cheese on it.  Or worse:  tofu.  Not the tofu.  I hate tofu.”

Aside:  I have never once made the boy eat tofu.  Sure, I have occasionally been known to slip in a meatless product into a meal so I could cheat and not make two separate dishes but never once have I served him tofu.  Not even in pad thai which actually calls for tofu.

Of course, as he was thinking about the possibility I might actually force tofu upon him, I tossed two packages of extra firm sprouted tofu into the cart just to throw him off.  Oh the horror of it all.

As I restocked the fridge with all my Trader Joe-errific goodies, I again pondered the arugula.  I even had a moment of buyer’s remorse.  Then I kicked myself for not picking up some goat cheese and a beet because that would be the most amazing salad, particularly with a side of my homemade french bread (which I am getting quite good at making, I might add!).

This was Saturday.  Fast forward to Tuesday when I once again found myself contemplating the future of the luscious green goodness of arugula.  I still had no idea what to do with it and for some reason had no inclination to run to the store and pick up some goat cheese.  The grocery store two blocks from the house actually carries a very nice and creamy variety of the stuff.  I couldn’t be bothered by that.  Since I had finally made the boy red beans and rice as promised on Monday and had plans on enjoying some warm tofu with spicy garlic sauce after my run on Tuesday (he had plenty of leftovers from Monday he was hoarding for himself), I decided that Wednesday I would crack open the arugula.  Because I like to have a plan, I spent a few minutes Tuesday afternoon poking around my go to recipe sites like Pinterest (yes, I know you can find more than recipes there but this is seriously my new go to for all things food), Food Network and of course the good old standby of Google.

Pinterest surprisingly yielded no palatable recipes beyond ironically the goat cheese salad option.  Of course, I didn’t try very hard.  I skipped Food Network because the search was taking too long.  (As you can tell, I was quite impatient on Tuesday).  Finally I turned to Google.  Google’s search amuses me because as you type in what you are searching for, it puts up a list of similar searches.  This is an actual search I did.  It makes me giggle every time.

Your girlfriend probably hates you because you look stuff up like this on Google. Duh.

But when I searched for arugula without goat cheese I got this:

Apparently, arugula and goat cheese go together like peas and carrots.

It seemed that I was destined to make the 90 second drive to the store to pick up a tube of goat cheese and call it good until I had the presence of mind to ask Chef if he had an idea.  Actually, the only reason I thought of it is because the poor man had the misfortune of wandering into my office to ask ME a question.

Let me pause to explain:  Since I live in Nevada it will be absolutely surprising you that I work in the gaming industry.  Where there is gaming there is food and beverage.  This means that I have my own personal chef to beg recipes off of.  He still remembers when I almost burned down the house baking frozen taquitos.  He also finds it amusing that I keep requesting tofu in the cafeteria.

So I inquired about my options for arugula and after he was done chuckling over the fact that I had been inspired to obtain a bag of bright and beautiful arugula but had absolutely no idea what to do with it (beyond the goat cheese salad thing), he suggested mixing it with pasta and some other form of cheese since I really didn’t want to go get goat cheese (which he also swore would be perfect with pasta).  This prompted the following search:

You know all those spam emails you get about making increasing your rankings in Google search?  This is why.  See that top recipe?  That’s what I went with:  Pasta with Arugula and Tomatoes from Serious Eats.  And not because of the picture.  There were far better pictures on other blogs and recipe sites but this recipe met my requirements:

1.    Uses fresh ingredients.
2.    Requires minimal cooking skills.
3.    Uses items already in my house (because I have been adamant about not running to store really quick all week)
4.    Should take less than 30 minutes.

At long last I found a use for my arugula.  Even better, in using the arugula, I would get to try a new recipe which is always a lot of fun.  And scary.

If you are the boy it is really scary.  There are actually three steps to a recipe making it onto my Pinterest board I like to call “Things I Eat.”

Step 1:    The recipe is evaluated to ensure it meets the above requirements.  If a recipe meets said requirements, it has the privilege of moving onto Step 2.

Step 2:  The recipe is evaluated for its nutritional value.  Simply put, I run it through a calorie calculator to determine if it is worth the effort.  And if it is, it gets to move on to Step 3.

Step 3:  The recipe must not terrify the boy.  It is okay to make him nervous or uncomfortable, but if I am going to go through and make the effort to make it, he had better be okay at least trying it.  The exception here is of course anything where tofu is the star of the dish.  When I want to eat an entire block of tofu, the boy can make his own dinner or consume leftovers from a three step fully approved recipe.

So this is how the arugula and pasta recipe measured up:

Here is how the boy approval process went via text message:

Me:  Are you brave?  I have something new in mind for dinner.

The Boy:  What do you mean by brave?  No tofu!

Me:  Pasta with tomato and arugula.

The Boy:  What is arugula?

Me:  Look in the fridge.  It is in the bag that says arugula.

The Boy:  Does it have cheese?

Me:  Ingredients:  pasta, tomato, garlic, arugula and parmesan.

The Boy:  Sounds good.

By good he means, “Sounds like it won’t kill me.  I guess I can try it but be fair warned.  I might not like it.  Thank god it doesn’t contain tofu.”

And thus, the recipe was pinned.

Making this dish took less time than it probably took you to read this post (that’s probably not true) or at least certainly less time than it took me to write it (and make pretty charts to go with it).  Time is always at a premium around here.  I have forecasts to calculate, dogs to train, miles to run and of course a blog to write.  I put the recipe into production after struggling through three miserable miles with a popping right hip (that’s a new one!) on the treadmill at the gym.  Needless to say I was tired, cranky and hungry.  Very hungry.  I needed dinner done and done in a hurry.

Are you ready for this?  It took exactly 22 minutes from start to finish.  Please sound Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.”

I am not a professional food blogger.  I am a barely passable cook.  I will save you all the dirty details except to say that this was an incredibly simple recipe to put together.  Directions should go a little like this:  Drain pasta, combine ingredients, serve.

Okay.  It is a little more involved than that, but not much.  While the pasta is boiling, sauté the garlic, crushed pepper and tomatoes in olive oil until tomatoes are soft.  When pasta has six minutes left, add arugula to the boiling water.  Drain pasta.  Return to pot.  Add tomato mixture and parmesan cheese.  Mix well and serve.  (If you actually read the original recipe, I took liberties here by combining the parmesan in the mix as opposed to sprinkling it over the finished product.)

I have to apologize for the stunning lack of quality and creativity in this photo. A) I had to use the point and shoot dealy instead of my DSLR since none of the six batteries for it were charged B) I was starving and in a hurry.

Once again proving that good food doesn’t have to be complicated, the resulting dish was absolutely delicious.  The tomatoes were bright and almost a touch sweet which combined beautifully with the arugula’s earthy flavor.  It had just a little heat and the parmesan pulled it all together very nicely.  The portion size was very generous, which was perfect considering that I was about ready to roast up a terrier for an evening snack when I got home from the gym (I suspect Isabella is quite tender and juicy by now).

I was pleasantly surprised when the boy commented that it reminded him of our favorite contemporary Italian join here in town.  I was even more surprised (and absolutely ecstatic) when he said he would eat this any time.  Frankly, I would eat it any time and by any time I mean for lunch today and probably again next week when we have everyone over for dinner because it was that easy and that tasty.

The mystery of the arugula has been solved.  Let’s recap, shall we?

  • Arugula is very pretty and will convince you to toss it into the cart even if you don’t know what to do with it.
  • Google search can be very amusing.
  • The boy hates tofu.
  • Pinterest is my friend.
  • I like charts and graphs.
  • I suck at food photography.
  • Arugula need not be served only with goat cheese in salad form.
  • Arugula in pasta is good.  Very good.
  • You can find this delicious recipe at Serious Eats by clicking here.

I totally should start a food blog, don’t you think?  Yeah.  I didn’t think so either.