I cannot believe that I’m more than halfway through my dietetic internship! With the finish line approaching quickly, I’m a ball of emotions. It doesn’t help that THE question everyone is dying to know is, “what do you want to do when you graduate?” I am hopelessly indecisive (so I have been told), and there are too many things I’m interested in. However, one thing I am certain of is my passion for healthy cooking and introducing people to healthy, wholesome foods that they would normally shy away from.
Although it’s already been 5 weeks (what?!?) since my rotation at the American Botanical Council, the time spent there is anything but a distant memory. I recall vividly the one gorgeous afternoon when I gave a presentation to the staff on the history and health benefits of Arugula. It is definitely one of the more underutilized green vegetables out there, and the fact that the majority of the audience had never tasted it before excited me. Perhaps they will think of me whenever they encounter arugula? 😉 Wishful thinking…
I most certainly believe in “practice makes perfect.” With giving presentations, however, even after much practice over the course of my grad program, I’m nowhere near perfection. If only I could calm my nerves… My fingers still get clammy, and words fly out of my mouth faster than I have time to process them.
Much to my surprise, on this day, I had never felt more at ease standing in front of an audience with freshly picked arugula in my hand. Perhaps it was the tranquil setting in which I could free my mind from trying to impress my professors and fellow classmates and worrying about grades. Couple that with my love for whole foods, I was in my element. And it felt electrifying.
Here are some facts about arugula.
- Nickname: rucola, salad rocket – upon one bite, you’ll understand why. It delivers an explosion of flavor when consumed.
- Flavor: aromatic, peppery, nutty, slightly mustard-like. The longer the leaf, the more peppery the kick.
- The ancient Romans and Egyptians considered it a potent aphrodisiac, and it was used to “restore vigor to the genitalia.” (I love learning about food history!)
- Modern herbalists recommend it to improve digestion.
- It is actually a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes broccoli and brussel sprouts. Therefore, it contains powerful antioxidant and cancer-protective phytochemicals called glucosinolates.
- A great source of vitamins A, C and K, folate, magnesium, calcium, riboflavin, potassium, copper, iron, and zinc.
If you’re pressed for time but want to add nutrients and some extra oomph to your dish, befriend arugula. In fact, the less cooked it is, the better its flavor and the more health-promoting compounds it will retain.
Simply toss it into salads, soups, and pasta; add it to sandwiches instead of lettuce or spinach; make pesto substituting it for the classic basil; and it pairs great with whole grains and cheese.
Along with the presentation, I had the pleasure of cooking and serving everyone this Chipotle Sweet Potato Arugula Salad. More than the presentation itself, I was nervous about how the dish would be received. To my excitement, everyone LOVED it, and I found myself quickly regretting not making extra. I truly love feeding people. This dish is super simple to make! The hardest part is roasting the sweet potatoes. I have a feeling you’re going to enjoy the harmonious symphony of flavors going on in this dish.
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
- 7 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- ½ cup walnuts, chopped
- ½ tsp kosher salt, divided
- 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbs honey
- 1 Tbs adobo sauce
- 1 chipotle pepper, seeded and minced
- ½ tsp cumin
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 (15 oz) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (9 oz) package baby arugula
- crumbled goat cheese
- 1-2 avocados, diced
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Combine sweet potatoes and 1 Tbs olive oil; toss to coat; arrange on a baking pan and bake for 25-30 min or until tender.
- Sprinkle ⅛ tsp salt over nuts, toss, and roast on a baking pan for 10 min or until toasted, stirring once.
- Combine 1 Tbs olive oil, vinegar, honey, adobo, chipotle pepper, and cumin in a bowl, and stir to create dressing.
- Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1 tsp oil to pan. Add garlic and sautée about 1 minute. Add sweet potatoes, ⅜ tsp salt, pepper, and beans; cook until heated through, 3-5 min. Remove from heat and stir in 3 Tbs adobo dressing. Toss to coat.
- Combine remaining dressing and arugula, and toss to coat. Top with bean mixture. Top with nuts, avocado, and cheese.