"Break it a little bit, and crush it with your finger," Pasquale says. "It's got its own definite aroma - something like an herb."
At home, wrap arugula in damp paper towels, tuck it in a plastic bag, then store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Or keep baby arugula in its plastic container for just a few days.
When prepping it for a meal, discard any leaves that aren't crisp and green. Trim off the stems, then dunk the leaves in a large bowl of cold water. Swish the leaves around to rid them of any grit, Philadelphia chef Aliza Green writes in Field Guide to Produce: How to Identify, Select, and Prepare Virtually Every Fruit and Vegetable at the Market (Quirk Books, $14.95). Gently spread the leaves out on paper towels to dry.
Decide how to eat it.
In southern Europe, arugula grows wild and is treated "like regular lettuce," says Pasquale, who is Italian. "I eat it straight with olive oil and red wine vinegar."
He also eats it in pasta al verde, a mixture of hot pasta with olive oil, butter, chopped arugula and parsley, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
At this time of year, the intensity of locally grown arugula may need to be tempered. In a sandwich, layer it with peaches and basil (for sweetness), goat cheese (for tangy flavor and creamy texture), and prosciutto (for salty meatiness).
For a salad, dress it with lemon vinaigrette, then top it with slices of chicken and a reduction of balsamic vinegar and sweet cherries. Crostini with brie cheese adds crunch and creaminess.
Or toss handfuls of it on pizza with fennel-flavored sausage.
Want even more ideas? Look at the recommendations in The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg (Little, Brown & Co., $35).
They list combinations such as "arugula + cucumber + feta cheese + mint." Or "bacon + arugula + egg + pork belly."
Equipped with these ingredients, you choose whether to eat these combinations as a salad, sandwich, or other dish. Or, just experiment putting together your own flavor combinations.
Makes 4 servings
For the balsamic-cherry
1 cup pitted sweet cherries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the dressing:
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground
For the salad:
6 heaping cups of arugula
11/2-2 cooked chicken breasts, sliced
About 8 ounces brie cheese
8 crostini (see note)
1. Combine cherries, balsamic vinegar, salt, and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes, until the cherries are softened and vinegar is syrupy and sweet. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss the salad greens with about 3/4 cup of the dressing. (Reserve the rest to pass at the table.)
3. Divide the dressed arugula among four plates. Top with slices of chicken. Drizzle some of the balsamic-cherry reduction on top of each salad. Spread brie on crostini, place 2 crostini on each salad, and serve.
- From Joan Obra, the Fresno Bee
Note: To make crostini, brush baguette slices with olive oil and bake in a 350-degree oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Per serving: 927 calories, 44 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams sugar, 69 grams fat, 129 milligrams cholesterol, 1,751 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.
Peach, Prosciutto, and Arugula Sandwiches
Makes 1-2 servings
2 ciabatta dinner rolls, split
1/2 large peach, sliced thinly
Fresh basil leaves
1. Spread goat cheese on each of the cut sides of the toasted rolls. (You'll end up with goat cheese on four pieces of bread.) Sprinkle a little salt on top of the goat cheese. Layer peach slices on the bottom halves of the rolls, on top of the goat cheese. Layer a mixture of about 3 parts arugula and 1 part basil leaves on top of the peaches. Feel free to pile on the greens. Top the greens with prosciutto slices. Close up the sandwiches and eat immediately.
- Courtesy of the Sacramento Bee
Note: Exact measurements aren't important for this mini sandwich. The idea is to mix the tangy, salty, sweet, peppery, and meaty flavors to your liking. The peach you use can be white or yellow. Just make sure it is ripe and very sweet.
Per serving (based on 2): 318 calories, 17 grams protein, 34 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams sugar, 13 grams fat, 35 milligrams cholesterol, 1,233 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.