Saucy arugula

Arugula in a salad – and that’s the end of my usual thinking about this peppery-flavored green which is populating my CSA box at the moment. To exit the salad rut,  I decided to use it as a flavoring herb in spaghetti sauce. It’s strong flavor meshed very well with the richness of the sauce – I might even add more next time. Be sure to treat it as you would a fresh herb and stir it in right at the end.

Pasta Sauce with Arugula

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped pancetta

1 pound ground beef

2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons oregano

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste

1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded fresh arugula leaves (no stems)

Cooked pasta (spaghetti, linguini or penne)

Place a large saucepot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion and garlic are soft but not brown. Add the pancetta and continue to cook, stirring, until the pancetta is cooked.

In a separate frying pan, cook the ground beef until cooked through and brown. Drain well.

Add the tomatoes, oregano, bay leaf, salt, cooked ground beef and 1 cup water to the onion mixture. Stir together and taste to see if it needs more salt. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Turn off the heat and stir in the arugula. Serve over cooked pasta.

Serves 4-6



Love thy neighbor

My neighbor has been raving about a cookbook for some time. However, it’s not one of mine. It’s “The New Southern Garden Cookbook” by Chapel Hill’s Sheri Castle (UNC Press, 2011). My neighbor has other fine qualities, so I have chosen to overlook his lack of tact.

It’s difficult to blame him, and we are into the time of year that this book is really useful, because it offers many ways with Southern vegetables. For example, I had a load of chard from my CSA box. Sauteed greens with some garlic is great, but I wanted something different. The Greens section of the book offered many tempting options. I went with Greek Shrimp with Spinach, Feta and Orzo – with some modifications, starting with the chard for the spinach. I omitted the Parmesan cheese and used only half of the feta called for, a nod to The Hub’s dairy allergy. I could not find orzo in my usual supermarket, but I did find a box of the cutest miniature bow-tie pasta, called farfarlline.

So, this is an adaptable recipe, obviously. It even tastes pretty good reheated the next day (do it gently, so as not to rubberize the shrimp). And it’s hard to argue with my neighbor.

Greek Shrimp with Spinach, Feta and Orzo

From “The New Southern Garden Cookbook” by Sheri Castle

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

12 ounces uncooked orzo

4 cups lightly packed baby spinach or stemmed and shredded chard

1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese, divided

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

2 pounds extra-large (21-25 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 teaspoons oregano

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a glass or ceramic 9×13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the oil. cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain well in a colander and return to the same pot. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the oil, the spinach, 1/2 cup of the feta and the Parmesan. Spread the orzo mixture in the bottom of the prepared baking dish an dcover with foil to keep warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook only until they start to turn opaque, about 1 minute. The shrimp will finish cooking in the oven. Arrange the shrimp over the orzo.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet. Add the garlic and cook until you can smell the aroma, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, wine, oregano and red pepper flakes. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces to the consistency of pasta sauce, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and orzo.

Bake until the shrimp are opaque, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of feta cheese and serve hot.

Makes 6-8 servings.


Food news roundup

Oatmeal and sardines? Ick. Well, that combination would make me lose weight, and apparently it helped author and Food Network star Alton Brown lose 50 pounds. He’ll be at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh on Oct. 14, and there’s a Q&A with Brown in today’s News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.).

The book club I belong to (we call ourselves the MOB, which stands for “Minds On Books”)  is meeting tonight, and I know the hostess is thinking about one thing right now: The snacks. We’re not alone, according to a piece in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. Quote of the week: “We’re not so much a book club as a drinking club with a reading problem,” jokes Stephen Celestini, a member of an all-male book club, The Well-Formed Heads (from a line in Walker Percy’s “The Moviegoer”). Read the entire article here. It’s also in the N&O.

Using the same two pastas for every kind of sauce is like owning only two pairs of shoes: It works, but it doesn’t show off your outfits to their best advantage, and it’s no fun. The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal talks about a new book that instructs us on matching the right sauce to the right pasta shape. Read more here.

You know you’re still part of the South when you write an article on biscuits and have so much response that you have to do a follow-up. That’s in the Salisbury (N.C.) Post here, tales of biscuit love.

A chef canning his own fruits and vegetables? That’s what chef Sean Brock has to do to stick to his pledge to use only Southern-sourced ingredients at his soon-to-open restaurant, Husk, in Charleston, S.C. Find out more about this intriguing idea in the Charleston Post and Courier, here.

If anyone can make a Chinese-Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas work, it’s renowned chef Jose Andres. Guacamole with fried wontons, anyone? Read about it in The New York Times, here.