We spent the long weekend at a cabin in the mountains near Mt Hood in Oregon, a 3 - 4-hour drive south of Seattle. The woods, lacking modern conveniences, grocery stores, the spa etc., we packed our own food and prepared meals. We cooked meals that would 'stick to your ribs' as my father-in-law would put it - chili, pasta, soy chorizo and scrambled egg burritos with avocado. The first day on the hill was cold and snowy. We stopped for lunch, I ordered a hot chocolate and the waiter insisted on bringing me a Baileys and peppermint Schnapps concoction with a hint of chocolate. Needless to say, I was no longer cold. I thought it necessary to balance things out, so I ordered a salad with couscous and veggies, and it was delicious. One step up from the usual vegetarian black bean chili or veggie burger, which seems to frequent the menu. It is worth noting that even in the most remote parts of Oregon, where the road access in the winter is somewhat challenging, the vegetables were still local, sustainable, and organic, likely harvested by free-range chickens. The beer was local, craft and hoppy, and that's how you know you are in the Pacific Northwest. Yakima Valley, just east of Seattle, is one of the most fertile hops growing regions in the world, accounting for 77% of the total hop crop in the United States, with Oregon and Idaho producing the rest. This probably has something to do with our obsession with hoppy beers. Personally, I could care less about hops.
Now arugula, this is something that I can get behind. Arugula, so peppery and crisp, where were you hiding when I was growing up? So many years of my life eating sub par salads, lacking that je ne sais quoi. Pale iceberg lettuce, bitter radicchio, and spring mix, you are dead to me. Since my introduction to arugula, the way I eat has changed substantially. I now use it as a garnish on most everything I eat. Salads, sandwiches, eggs, quiche, pasta. The list goes on. Nest week I'm thinking about trying a arugula almond pesto. Luckily Mr. H is also coveting this delicate herb. It would be a shame if he didn't share the same enthusiasm as I do.
This arugula salad is my new favorite dish, inspired by my previous obsession with the tuna baguette, just a little something I picked up from my stay in Paris. It's basically the tuna baguette fillings, minus the tuna and bread, although adding a bit of tuna sounds pretty good right now. Almonds and arugula are an amazing combination, and I can't believe I haven't figured this out already. The pepperiness from the arugula, earthiness from the almonds, saltiness from the olives, and juiciness from the tomatoes. The olive oil creates a nice flavor and mouthfeel. The touch of citrus is special, but not necessary. A nice refreshing change from the stick-to-your-ribs meals. Thank you globalization, for bringing me arugula.
ARUGULA AND OLIVE SALAD WITH ROASTED ALMONDS AND TOMATOES
serves 4 as a side
notes: the salad can also be used as a topping for tuna baguette.
4 cups arugula
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 cup vine or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup dry roasted almonds, salted or unsalted
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste
In a large bowl, toss the arugula, olives, tomatoes, and almonds.
Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt. Serve.