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Adaptable arugula

From versatility to taste, leafy green stands tall

Arugula is moving beyond the salad bowl and showing up all over the place – in sandwiches, pastas, pestos, soups and sauces.   

Although a leafy green, arugula – also called rocket – is not in the lettuce family. It’s actually a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower, making it one of the most nutrient-rich leafy greens available. 

Its bite can take newbies off guard. Peppery, pungent, complex and a little nutty, arugula’s robust flavor is startling, often invoking a strong reaction.

People either love it or hate it. I happen to love it, not only for its remarkable flavor, but for its versatility.

There are many ways to use this adaptable leafy green – if we think outside the bowl.  

One way is to make arugula pesto by substituting arugula for basil, resulting in a bright peppery twist on the familiar. Arugula pesto is great on sandwiches, or tossed with pasta, or mixed with potatoes for a new spin on potato salad.

Swap arugula out for spinach in dishes such as quiche, frittata or spanakopita.

Add it to soups or smoothies, or simply sauté it with garlic and olive oil.

This easy recipe for Arugula Chimichurri Sauce, served with grilled beef tri-tip, is another tasty use for arugula. Chimichurri is a lively Argentinean sauce served with grilled meats, traditionally made with parsley or cilantro. Using arugula gives it a little pizzazz. 

Not only is arugula versatile and delicious, it is really good for you.  

In a recent article in the New York Times, “Breeding the Nutrition Out of our Food,” Jo Robinson writes, “Unwittingly, we have been stripping phytonutrients from our diet since we stopped foraging for wild plants some 10,000 years ago and became farmers.”

Robinson gives a compelling example of this: “Wild dandelions, once a springtime treat for Native Americans, have seven times more phytonutrients than spinach, which we consider a ‘superfood.’ A purple potato native to Peru has 28 times more cancer-fighting anthocyanins than common russet potatoes.” 

This stripping-down happens as we domesticate produce and try to make it more palatable – less bitter and more sweet. Robinson goes on to write that arugula is one of the few vegetables that remains very similar to its wild ancestor.

This nutritious vegetable can be found locally. Urban Eden Farm grows arugula, May through September, within Spokane city limits. 

The name Urban Eden aptly describes the plot of land situated next to Latah Creek, a five-minute drive from downtown.  Jim Schrock and Tarawyn Waters started the farm two years ago, taking over a carrot farm with a vision for the future.

“We would like to make our farm a place for families to visit, to know where their food is coming from, and see how it’s grown,” Waters said.

Urban Eden uses organic methods. On Wednesday evenings from 4 to 6 p.m. they sell seasonal produce directly from their farm stand, located on 21st Avenue and Cherry Street in Vinegar Flats. You can also sign up to have a box of produce picked each week for you.

Arugula is also available at most farmers markets and grocery stores. 

Grilled Beef Tri Tip with Arugula Chimichurri and Grilled Corn Salad

Beef Tri Tip Loin:

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon cracked pepper

1 teaspoon smoked paprika 

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

One 2- to 2 1/2–pound tri tip loin (trimmed of fat)

Arugula Chimichurri:

2 cups packed arugula

4  cloves garlic

1/2 a serrano or jalapeño chili

1/3 cup olive oil

1/8 cup sherry vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Cracked pepper

Grilled Corn Salad:

2 ears corn, grilled

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes

1/8 cup chopped cilantro

1/8 cup chopped scallion

Olive oil, for drizzling

1/2 lime, for drizzing

1 to 2 tablespoons chimichurri sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix kosher salt, cracked pepper, smoked paprika and granulated garlic in a small bowl and rub into meat. Bring meat to room temp 30 minutes to 1 hour. 

Preheat grill.

Make Arugula Chimichurri Sauce: In a food processor, pulse the arugula, garlic and chili 10 to 15 times until all ingredients are uniformly and finely chopped. 

Place in a medium bowl. 

Add oil, sherry vinegar and salt and cracked pepper. 

Mix, and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes or until beef is done grilling.

Grill beef on medium heat, until desired doneness, or until internal temperature reaches 125 degrees at thickest part, about 10-15 minutes on each side.

Let meat rest 10-15 minutes before slicing. Slice across the grain. Either drizzle the arugula chimichurri over top, or serve on the side. 

While beef is grilling, make Corn Salad.

Remove husks from corn, and using a kitchen towel, wipe off any stray silk. 

Grill the naked corn directly over medium high heat, just until grill marks appear, a few minutes on each side.

Remove and let cool. Cut kernels off the cob and place in a medium bowl. 

Cut cherry tomatoes in half, and place in the bowl. 

Add chopped cilantro and scallions. Drizzle with olive oil, and squeeze of lime. For extra flavor, add a tablespoon or two of the Arugula Chimichurri. 

Mix and taste for salt and pepper.

Serve in a bowl along with beef and Arugula Chimichurri.

Find more details about arugula chimichurri, pictures of the cooking process and more on Fountaine’s blog,


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