10 Reasons Why I Always Have a Bag of Arugula in the Refrigerator

Ingredient Spotlight

Once a somewhat exotic ingredient, arugula has become mainstream. You can find a bag of pre-washed arugula in most supermarkets these days, as well as heaped into large baskets at the farmers market. Arugula is an easy to grow salad green, making it a good home garden and window box garden choice. Its peppery taste adds extra oomph to everything from salads to soup. Read on for how a handful of arugula can wake up your everyday dishes.

I buy my arugula at the farmers' market and keep it in a produce bag in my refrigerator where it can last up to a week. On occasion, I do buy the pre-washed stuff in the plastic bag from Trader Joe's but I find the market arugula has more pep and character. Pre-washed arugula lasts a long time, too, sometimes over a week, but truth be told, it's rare for me to keep it around that long.

All arugula is not alike. I find the commercial brands a little milder and less interesting than those found in the market. There is also something called wild arugula (Diplotaxis muralis), which is botanically different from arugula (Eruca sativa). Regular arugula can get bitter and unpleasant when mature while wild arugula is stronger, with a more pronounced pepperiness.

The great thing about arugula is that it needs very little cooking, making it a fun and spontaneous addition to many favorite dishes. In fact, I find that overcooking arugula makes it a little too slimy and diminishes its flavor some, so I always add it last, often just before serving. Here are just a few ways that I use arugula in my kitchen.

Salads. On its own or mixed in with other greens, arugula makes a great salad. It can stand up to a stronger vinaigrette but is often paired with a sweeter balsamic, which balances well with its peppery notes. Its leaves are soft and chewy and pleasant in the mouth.

On pizza. If you want to jazz up a store-bought pizza, dress some arugula lightly in a lemony vinaigrette and mound onto your pizza. It's also great on your homemade pizza, of course.

Toss into soups. If you'd like a little green in your soup, toss in a few handfuls of arugula just after you take it off the flame. You don't want to cook the arugula, just wilt it in the broth.

Toss into pasta. Like with soups, a toss a handful of arugula into your pasta while dressing it with sauce. Or add it to the sauce, but only in the final moments of cooking.

With eggs. Sauté some arugula in butter or olive oil with a touch of garlic. When the arugula has wilted (it should only take a minute) add beaten eggs and cook until done. Arugula also makes a nice bed to serve sunny side up eggs on. Just toss it with a little vinaigrette but not too much as the egg yolk will create a nice sauce.

Sandwiches. Arugula makes a more interesting substitute for lettuce in sandwiches and is a classic green for hot sandwiches such as panini.

Grains. Arugula pairs well with hearty grains and small pastas such as farro, couscous, wild rice, and whole wheat couscous.

Roasted Vegetables. Toss warm, just out of the oven roasted vegetables with arugula before serving. Especially delicious are roasted squash, potatoes, beets, and carrots.

Pesto. A delicious substitute for the classic basil, arugula pesto is a good way to use up a surplus of arugula.

Lasagna. Use arugula instead of spinach or a combination of arugula and spinach as one of your lasagna layers. In fact, try using arugula as a spinach substitute in general when you want the tenderness of spinach but with a little more bite.

What's your favorite use for arugula in the kitchen?

Related:
Ingredient Spotlight: Wild Arugula
Top 5: Uses for Arugula Besides Salad

(Image: Planner/Shutterstock)

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