Blanching Is The Key To Tempering The Bitterness Of Arugula

Arugula in metal colander
Arugula in metal colander - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

Much like anchovies and blue cheese, arugula divides opinion — the bitter, peppery flavor of this classic salad leaf is delicious to some, but anathema to others. But what if we told you that the key to tempering some of that nutty bitterness is a speedy blanch in boiling water? A quick dip mellows out the pungent character of these spicy greens so you can toss them into a salad, blitz them into a feisty pesto, or saute them in fruity olive oil with abandon.

Also known as rocket, arugula is a herb of the mustard family that commonly features in leafy green salads because of its pretty-shaped leaves and distinctive radish-like taste. It has an astringent flavor when eaten raw because it's packed with mustard oils that are inherently bitter. Moreover, the older the leaves, the stronger their peppery taste, particularly if they have been freshly picked.

Cooking arugula in soups and casseroles, or sauteing it to make the classic Italian beef dish Straccetti, dampens down its pungency but also softens its texture. A speedy, flash-cook in boiling water (followed by a refresh in cold water) however, tames the pepperiness of the arugula while retaining some of its bite. This means you can still use the greens as salad leaves or as a delicate topping on a fragrant pizza.

Read more: 30 Healthy Snack Ideas That Won't Ruin Your Diet

Iced Water Stops The Arugula From Overcooking

Fig and arugula pizza
Fig and arugula pizza - Kajakiki/Getty Images

Blanching your arugula is as easy as putting the leaves into a pot of boiling water for about 20 seconds or so before removing them with a slotted spoon (you can also place them in a colander first and plunge the whole thing in the water to make it easier to remove them). To ensure that the arugula stops cooking immediately, place the drained leaves in a bowl of iced water. This move will keep the greens as crisp as possible after they've been blanched, preventing them from continuing to cook in their residual heat and wilting like overcooked spinach.

Once the leaves have cooled in the iced water, remove them and place them on a paper towel. Put another sheet of paper towel on top so any moisture on the surface of the leaves is absorbed from both sides.

Finally, dress your arugula in your favorite vinaigrette, along with walnuts, feta, and figs to make a scrumptious salad; or add some of the leaves to your next hoagie for a touch of inviting greenery without the bitter edge. You could even freeze your blanched and dried arugula for later — simply place them in a bag and remove excess air before freezing. That way you can use them in an array of mouthwatering arugula recipes at your leisure. Why not add them to wraps or use them as a peppery pizza topping?

Read the original article on Tasting Table