I'm not sure if I believe in "love at first sight". At least not in the romantic sense. I do however strongly believe in "love at first taste" and have been lucky to experience many of such loves. There was sushi, and dark chocolate, and brie. But this time, I'm talking about arugula.
I first tried arugula back in the day when I was still living in Dallas. I was assisting Chris LaLonde's cooking class at a local Sur La Table. Chris is a local Dallas culinary instructor at El Centro College, and also owns a restaurant. He was one of the people responsible for my eventual journey to the culinary school (prior to attending the Culinary Institute of America full time, I was a part time student at El Centro for two years).
I can't remember the theme of the class or every recipe we prepared that night - this was at least 5-6 years ago. What I do remember is Chris's tomato sauce with arugula. I tasted the greens on their own first, plain and undressed. The peppery, slightly bitter flavor was nothing like I have tasted before. Later on, stirred in with the tomato sauce, arugula slightly wilted and mellowed but remained noticeable, as if it was screaming out: "I'm here! I'm not spinach, notice me!" And so I did. That was the day my love affair with arugula has begun and it has been going strong ever since.
I love arugula with citrus - usually with oranges and mustard vinegrette. It's also terrific with grapefruit and avocado and jicama. For this salad, I paired arugula together with radicchio, another quite bitter ingredient. To offset the bitterness, I added candied walnuts and a sweet Pink Lady apple. I hope you will give this a try.
And if by some chance Chris is reading this - thank you!
Arugula and Radicchio Salad with Blue Cheese and Candied Walnuts
1 head radicchio, halves, cored and cut into 1 inch strips
5 ounces arugula
1/2 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Pink Lady apple, cored and sliced into strips
1. Combine radicchio and arugula in a bowl. Set aside.
2. In a small sauté pan, melt butter and sugar over medium heat. Add walnuts and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove to a parchment lined baking sheet and cool.
3. Whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Toss arugula and radicchio with walnuts, dressing and apples.