Julie Clifford, of Provo’s Clifford Farms, grows one type of arugula for local restaurants and another for “regular” customers at the Downtown Farmers Market. Guess which version has more of a peppery kick to it? The chef’s version, of course. Not to cast aspersions on milder versions of this versatile green, but if you get a chance, try her spicy sylvetta arugula. Clifford says she’s happy to sell it to anyone who would like to give it a go—and, below, I’ve got just the recipe to show it off.
A staple of Italian cooking for centuries, arugula started showing up on American menus and in specialty stores about 20 years ago. Equally good on its own, mixed with other salad greens, folded into fresh-cooked pasta, pureed into pesto or tossed into a soup, arugula is almost like a seasoning itself. Once ridiculed as a precious “foodie” affectation, it’s now as mainstream as sun-dried tomatoes. In fact you can find an entertaining account of its American evolution in David Kamp’s book, The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation.
This summery salad brings arugula, fresh mint and lemon juice together in a veritable chorus of assertive flavors: Whisk together the juice of one lemon (or more to taste), a scant half-cup of olive oil, a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper for the salad dressing. Thinly slice one fennel bulb and place in the bottom of a salad bowl, then pour onethird of the dressing over the fennel. Let the fennel steep in the dressing while you wash and dry four cups of arugula and chop a generous half-cup of fresh mint. Add the arugula and mint to the fennel, toss with the remaining dressing and top with as much thinly-shaved Parmigiano- Reggiano as you like. Enjoy the kick!