Recipe: How to Make an Italian Arugula (Rocket) Mushroom Lemon Parmesan Salad
Arugula Mushroom Parmesan Salad
Italian Arugula (Rocket, Rucola, Rughetta) Salad
My Italian recipe is for a simple, elegant salad made with bright green arugula, (or rocket, rucola or rughetta), white Champignon mushrooms and creamy colored Parmesan cheese, dressed with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon and a pinch of salt. It's a particular combination of strong tastes and smart colors yet it is versatile - and lends itself to more than a few tasty dishes through most of the year:
- Salad brunch-type meal, particularly in early summer when the arugula plants begin to grow
- Side salad dish for hot or cold roasts in Fall
- Stuffing for inside a wrap or 'Piadina' (unleavened flat bread')
- Pizza topping ideas (without the lemon!)
Facts about the Arugula Plant
ERUCA VESICARIA SATVIA comes from the mustard family, and is related to radishes and watercress, hence its bitter taste.
It grows wild in much the same way wild asparagus, nettles and chicory grow wild and wasn't cultivated until the 20th century.
Arugula, or, rocket, roquette, rucola or rughetta became a gourmet food after 1980's when it was introduced into markets in the UK and USA.
It is a native Mediterranean plant. The ancient Romans mixed the seeds with olive oil and considered it an aphrodisiac.
Italians have a Seasonal Culinary Calender
What makes Italian cooking delicious is that at its core it is purely simple. Local specialties are served freshly, in season - when the produce is at its best; when the vitamins and minerals and taste fizzle with newness, when they are their most bounteous.
As ripened fruits, salads and vegetables are picked and sold in the markets, so the people of Italy fuss about how they should best be eaten - gradually developing great and famous meals, every season, every year - through centuries.
The dish (or the cheese, conserve, dried food etc.) that an Italian housewife made last August or November, say, will be made again in the same way this August or November, because produce ripens then. By now, they have their recipes down.
We bottle tomatoes and make pesto in August. We make sausages and new wine and olive oil in November. Over Easter the baker shops sell fruit and spice loaves made with dried summer figs - and so on. Every month has a calender of culinary jobs to do, so we're on top of the freshest foods (cooked just the way Nonna made them).
Piadena with Arugula SaladClick thumbnail to view full-size
Arugula or Rughetta is Delicious in Salads in Summer and Fall
There are many recipes for arugula, but here in Tuscany, it's used mostly in our salads, as a side salad to roast meats, in a piadena (unleavened flat bread), or as a pizza topping. Here we call it rughetta. Older women call it erbetta, which means 'wild grass' - you can't fool them:
- Arugula grows easily from spring through the summer in Italy (and again in the fall); the taste of its leaves becoming more peppery as the sun shines on them. It's a strongly contrasting salad growing through the season of sweeter-tasting vegetables (such as tomatoes, sweet peppers, courgette, salads, egg plant). Arugula is a 'tart' break for discerning taste buds.
- Woodsy, white Champignon mushrooms (grown in local greenhouses) have a delicate earthiness and rubbery consistency that sisters-up to the best side of arugula.
- Parmesan's deep nutty flavor (if it is the real Parmigiano Reggiano) is sweet and rich - and the cream of it on the palette combines the other flavors as a good cheese always does!
- A juicy soft squeezed lemon off the tree (or from the supermarket) cuts the cream, brings the taste back to sharp and peppery.
- Extra virgin olive oil will roll it all round your mouth and bring out all the flovors as well as impart it's own earth-like ooze taste.
- Salt heightens all the flavors and helps your digestion.
If arugula was a musical instrument, it's the castanets. It's got a 'crack, crack' sound to be reckoned with in the drowsy, cello-like abundance of heavy, laden summer. If it was in a desert, it would be the cardamom, because you really have to deal with that pungent kick. If it was in a crowd of people, it would be the kid on his bike you have to move out of the way for.
In a salad, it's a part of a threesome, but it's the one with the stiletto heels.
In Italy it is given an intruders welcome - since the older generation know it's really only 'erbetta'. They like it as a newcomer these days. Newer restaurants might serve it proudly. The young love it. It is very, very cool.
And today no decent market garden is without it.
- 125 g arugula, (young leaves)
- 140 g Champignon mushrooms, finely sliced
- 150 g Parmesan Reggiano, shredded
- 1 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- pinch salt
- Wash and spin dry tender green leaves of arugula. Set aside.
- Wipe fresh Champignon mushrooms with a damp cloth and finely slice. Set aside.
- Flake the cheese off the Parmesan with a vegetable peeler. Set aside.
- Squeeze a ripe lemon. Set aside the juice.
- In a pretty salad bowl or serving dish assemble: the arugula, top over with mushrooms and top over again with Parmesan cheese flakes.
- Pour over the extra virgin olive oil and mix the salad deftly with your hands (to keep salad leaves crisp).
- Pour lemon juice and add salt to taste. Lightly toss.
Arugula Mushroom and Parmesan Salad
|Serving size: 2 portions|
|Calories from Fat||9|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 1 g||2%|
|Carbohydrates 4 g||1%|
|Sugar 2 g|
|Fiber 2 g||8%|
|Protein 108 g||216%|
|Cholesterol 255 mg||85%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin or Mineral
Pizza Topping Ideas
You will need 200 grams of mozzarella.
The salad is great on white pizza or as a filling for a piadena.
Just don't add the lemon juice.
For Pizza topping, simply:
- Add 200 grams of chopped mozzarella to the pizza bread
- Heat in a 180° oven for 8 minutes (or not!)
- Top with Arugula, Mushroom and Parmesan Salad
To fill a Piadena
- Heat your 'piadena' (flat bread) in a griddle on top of the cooker (or for a few minutes in a 180° oven)
- Add chopped mozzarella,
- Before rolling it up - the Salad
- Roll and stick a toothpick in to keep it together.
© 2012 Penelope Hart
More by this Author
A fresh Tuscan cherry tomato sauce for spaghetti is best with garlic. And onion is better in the sauce for fettuccine - if you want to make genuine Italian pasta!
A hearty, healthy recipe for cauliflower leaves which tastes delicious braised the Italian way in a tomato sauce ('in umido'). It's a tasty vegetarian meal, a saucy side dish with grilled meats and sausage and nice...
More than 220 versions of The Little Drummer Boy have been released around the world since it was first composed in 1928. After some some show biz hanky-panky in the 1940's-50's 'Carol of the Drum' (original title)...