Arugula, Mesclun, and Other Green and Leafy Wonders

My husband has promised never to take
me to live in a land where they don't have arugula.

Luckily this miraculous peppery green leaf is available in many places in and around Geneva and I'm discovering new sources all the time. Enlightened self interest dictates that I should share those sources with you. The greater the demand, the more abundant the supply.

Arugula, also called Rocket or Rocket Cress in English, Rucola in Italian and Roquette in French, has been known to man since Roman times. It burst onto the U.S. culinary scene in a big way during the mid 1980s, and became (sadly) the brunt of many anti-Yuppie jokes. Happily signs are that Arugula is now being accorded a seriousness in keeping with its regal taste.

Arugula is also one of the standard ingredients of the Provencal salad mixture known as "Mesclun." Most market stands feature something called Mesclun, but each mix is different, because each farmer composes a unique version based on his own preferred palette of greens. One of the nicest mixes is available at the Rive market from the Vuarniers, who specialize in herbs and greens, and display their produce elegantly on low wooden tables (see the source list below).

The Vuarniers, and many others, include a few branches of the delicate fernlike herb Chevril (French -cerfeuil) in their Mesclun mix. This delightful herb, part of the "fines herbes" cluster, can also be bought separately .

Local Roquette Sources

Placette, Migros and Coop all now sell Roquette -- a great improvement over the days when we first arrived in Geneva. Even the online grocery Le-Shop sells a good quality of arugula and will deliver it to your door!

The Rive Market until 12:30 P.M. on Wednesday and Saturday. Arugula is avaible from the "Famille Benoit" stand on the corner of Rue Petit-Senn. The Benoits also carry Watercress (french - Cresson), a close relative of Arugula, which is hard to find in Geneva.

In addition, The Benoits are at the Plainpalais Market on Tuesday and Friday morning.

At the Rive Market, pay a visit to the Vuarnier's stand at the top of the market. They grow a beautiful tender Mesclun, a real melody of tastes. You can also find such delicacies as zucchini flowers here.

A great source for Mesclun in Morges is the small stand just to the left of the entrance to Placette, where you can buy "baby mesclun" composed of teeny-tiny little flavor packed leaves. This is a salad worth traveling to Morges for. But it must be eaten within two days of purchase.


From the Geneva Notebook

Arugula with Lemon and Olive Oil - This is a perfect dish for summer. Combine a very good quality olive oil with freshly squeezed lemon, whisk the two together in a large salad bowl with an egg whisk. Toss in the arugula, coat, and sprinkle with freshly grated parmagiano reggiano (use the real thing for best results). If you like a bit of a garlicky kick, place a crushed garlic clove in the oil for a few minutes. Then remove it before you add the lemon.

Arugula with Balsamic Vinegar - For this slightly sweeter salad, combine grapeseed oil (huile de pepins) and balsamic vinegar (I use the brand Aceto Balsamico di Modena del Duca available at Placette) to taste and add a teaspoon of sugar. Whisk together in salad bowl. Toss in the arugula, coat, cover with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

As an Accent to Entrecote - Chop the arugula, toss it in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and serve over sliced beef strips. This is a classic Italian way to use "rucola."

In Sandwiches : Slice open a french loaf, dribble on a little good olive oil, add arugula, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes, or try arugula with Parma Ham and Parmesan cheese.

Warm Salad of Baby Mesclun with Duck and Dates - Spread the mesclun on a large flat platter, cover it with strips of smoked duck breast (available prepackaged in Placette) and pieces of sweet dried dates. In a small sauce pan heat balsamic vinegar, grapeseed oil (huile de pepins) and a teaspoon of sugar until just warm. Taste. Pour over salad and serve.