Arugula forever, frisée never

March 7, 2012

If you were wondering, as I’m sure you were, “Claire, how were your salads this past weekend?” the answer is, “F-ing awesome, thank you.”

I had company over both Friday and Saturday nights and I decided that for dinner I’d make a lovely pasta accompanied by a fantastic salad. So often the accompanying salad in dinner is a tedious, obligatory affair, a way to delay the exciting arrival of the main event. But recently, I had lunch at Farmhouse, where I  I ordered a patty melt but substituted a salad instead of french fries. I did this reluctantly, since usually those side salads are such a blah affair, but since I no longer possess the insides and metabolism of a college student, I couldn’t in good conscience order a deep-fried cheeseburger and then also eat fries with it.

I was surprised and delighted, however, to discover that the side salad was actually delicious in its own right, thanks to some Craisins and shaved carrots and serrano peppers on top. Thus I was inspired, this weekend, to make my own salads special. My salads consisted of:

mixed greens
shaved carrots
craisins
shaved pecorino or parmesan
pepitas or candied pecans
dressing made of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, shallots, salt and pepper.

And they turned out delightful! No bland “eat your veggies, even though they suck” kind of salad. I highly recommend this recipe. However, I only have one complaint and it’s with the mixed greens situation. It’s this:

Frisée

In the lettuce world, frisée (known as curly, or “jerk” endive), is the bane of my existence. It’s prickly. It’s bitter. It’s difficult and unpleasant to eat. And it takes up a lot of space in a salad where other, less-offensive greens could be residing.

It seems quite unfair to me that of all the mixed greens, arugula is the one that gets the bad rap in the salad world. If you’re a politician and you profess any sort of knowledge or affinity for arugula, you’re an out of touch elite effete. This is patently unfair, though. Arugula is delicious. It’s peppery and tender and healthful and is amazing on sandwiches.

Plain old rusty-looking iceberg lettuce has its time and its place but let’s let arugula become part of the mainstream. If we’re going to alienate one particular green, let it be the one that’s a total pain in the neck, not the innocent arugula, which, incidentally, is sometimes known as “rocket.” I think if we rebranded “rocket” the way the unappetizing-sounding Chinese gooseberry was reborn as the Kiwifruit, arugula would rightfully lose its stigma. Let the stigma pass over to jerk endive, which should rightfully become mocked as the new “freedom fries” of the salad world.

This post came in first place in the unannounced “Most NPR-ey Blog Post” contest, run and judged by me and where mine was the only submission.