One of the most popular ways to invigorate salads is to add a spicy green. Arugula is a peppery green that has long been used in the Mediterranean, where it grows wild. Now it's cultivated in greenhouses, fields and home gardens all over America.
Arugula goes by several names: rocket, roquette, rucola and rugula. The dark green leaves resemble dandelion greens, which, along with watercress, are good substitutes. Arugula is often combined with mellower lettuces in salad mixes. When it's the only green used, its strong personality is best contrasted by sweet fruit and a full-flavored cheese. Scattered over hot pizza (Springtime Pizzas) or grilled meat (Balsamic-Grilled Steaks with Tomatoes), arugula provides a subtly spicy finish. It can also be layered in sandwiches, pureed in soup, whirled into pesto, sautéed with garlic and olive oil, or tossed with hot pasta.
For the most delicate flavor, choose small leaves rather than large ones, which are older. The leaves tend to harbor sand, so wash them thoroughly before use. If you buy a bunch of arugula with roots attached, be sure to use it within 2 days. Bagged washed arugula can be stored unopened in the refrigerator up to 1 week. Before serving, briefly rinse the leaves in water.