Arugula salad with mandarins, almonds and goat cheese

Arugula, or rocket as it's sometimes called (from "roquette," the French word for arugula), first appeared on menus at Chez Panisse many decades ago. In my mind, Chez Panisse founder and chef Alice Waters deserves the credit for linking space travel with the peppery green.  Not only for salads, arugula makes excellent pesto, and can be folded into warm preparations or scattered over a hot pizza, owing to the sturdy structure of its leaves, which wilt beautifully without losing their integrity. The arugula pictured below is the true French rocket, but any variety of arugula or other bright, spicy green lettuce such as mizuna, spinach, baby mustard greens or kale will work in this recipe.

Arugula returns to the market in early spring, when some farmers claim the cuttings are brightest and spiciest. Cool temperatures, plenty of rain and soils revitalized after a winter's rest are some of the reasons cited.  At the same time, the season for citrus is winding down.  During this window, you'll find that cracked almonds, goat cheese and the last of the tangerines, mandarin oranges and satsumas, combine to create a flavor profile that complements the first of the arugula beautifully.


 Fresh rocket lettuce bagged and ready for the salad. The plastic is not attractive but it assists with portion control. 

Fresh rocket lettuce bagged and ready for the salad. The plastic is not attractive but it assists with portion control. 

makes 4 servings

 

Ingredients

8 to 12 ounces fresh arugula, well washed and thoroughly dried

2 tangerines, mandarin oranges, satsumas or other favorite seasonal citrus, peeled and segmented

Vinagrette (recipe below)

1/2 cup lightly toasted whole almonds, coarsely crushed

3 ounces mild goat cheese, crumbled 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Procedure

Place the arugula in a bowl. Cut the citrus segments in half lengthwise, and toss them with the vinaigrette. Add the dressed citrus to the arugula, mixing gently to combine the ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the arugula and citrus in a large serving bowl or platter, or divide between individual plates. Garnish the salad(s) with the almonds and goat cheese, and finish with more freshly ground black pepper if desired.

 

Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons sweet vinegar such as Riesling or Muscatel

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice and zest of one mandarin orange

Salt to taste

Whisk the mustard and vinegar together.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking, followed by the orange zest and juice. Season to taste with salt and set aside.